Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bryce Canyon

From the top:
- Bryce Point
- Closeup of a hoodoo (this one is called "the Hunter")
- A raven at Agua Canyon
- A castle descending into Fairyland Canyon
- Boat Mesa, the Chinese Wall, and a thunderstorm (!)
- My setup at Fairyland
- Finally done!
- Fairyland Hoodoos, oil on linen panel, 8" x 10"

These pictures are a little out of sequence, as I hiked the 8 mile Fairyland Loop Trail after I finished the painting.

What an amazing place Bryce Canyon is! There are a dozen turnoff points along the main road into the park, and they are easily accessible, not to mention totally different from one another. At its highest, the rim is 9500 feet at Rainbow Point. The canyon is also known as "The Pink Cliffs" and is the highest "step" in the Escalante Grand Staircase. From Yovimpa Point in the park, one can look out to the White, Vermillion and Gray cliffs, stepping down ultimately to the Grand Canyon. It is a vast and varied landscape.

The crazy spires in all sorts of colors and shapes are called hoodoos. Some are shaped like statuary, others are more like giant rock crystals. Everywhere you turn you see something new and interesting. It's best if you hike down into the canyon to see the real scale of things, though. I chose the first turnoff, Fairyland Canyon (about a mile off the main park road) for both my hike and my painting.

I must admit, the painting kicked my butt somewhat, as the colors were so intense and varied. It was a bit difficult to not only get ahold of the new and crazy shapes, but also the saturation and hue shifts, not to mention getting atmospheric perspective into all of it. I went away half done on the first day, and went back to the campground where Mom and I set up our "car camp." She had been over at Sunrise Point looking around. She saw I was frustrated, so she suggested staying an extra day to finish. Fortunately, the conditions the next day were exactly the same, and I finished up at 2 PM. I was happy, as this was a tough subject!

After a quick bite, and getting my stuff stowed, I hiked down into Fairyland Canyon. It was wonderful and strange and breathtaking. The latter was doubly true, as I decided on a whim to do the whole loop trail. There's an elevation loss/gain of 2300 feet. At altitude, it was a bit tougher than it seemed. In my picture of Boat Mesa (above), you can see the thunderhead coming over. No sooner did I snap that photo when lightning struck the mesa. As you can see in the picture, I was pretty exposed. I wrapped up the camera and slid down into a gully, and camped beneath a hoodoo cave. It was time for a snack, anyway. I got my rain jacket on, and when the rain started slowly, I pushed on, only to find that it started snowing! Huge, chunky slush flakes noisily hit my jacket. I had to laugh - this was really strange! Then is shifted back to a light and steady rain which I knew would abate, as I could see clearing in the distance. When I crested the rim at Sunset Point, I had to hike 2 miles back along the rim to get to Fairyland Point where I had parked. This section was easy and bucolic. The best part of this end of the trail was when I descended a bit into a field and this gorgeous aroma hit me. It was the rain evaporating off the sagegrass. What a wonderful smell! I won't forget that for a long time.

So, it was back to camp after 2 days in Bryce, and we feasted on freeze dried dinners, Wasatch Brewing Company beers, and a celebratory Camaguey cigar I had brought with me from home. I was ready for the next drive down the Escalante to Capitol Reef! To be continued....


Martha Miller said...

Wow, it's like another planet!!
This painting is so Beautiful - I'm glad your Mom was there to cheer you on!

Rob S. said...

Thank you so much, Martha! It was the biggest plein air challenge to date for me. Mom didn't want me brooding, so she was amenable to staying an extra day. That's big for her, as she generally likes to keep moving.

Yes, it is an amazingly strange and wonderful place. I think we Easterners need to see this. I was, and still am, completely blown away.

Jenniferartist said...

Hi Rob,
I love your Hoodoos painting. I camped at Bryce in May which is the best time other than Fall, to visit Bryce and Zion. Loved both. I just loved the energy of both places. It was 32F at 8K above sea level. It is hard to put the camera down long enough to paint. I am painting in Rockport,MA. the week of June 8-14.
Thanks for your comments on my blog.


Rob S. said...

Thanks, Jennifer! Zion is definitely on the list for the next visit. Maybe the San Rafael Desert, too. I agree that it's hard not to take a gazillion photos, but I did go with an exclusive goal to paint. I just made it with the three pieces.