Friday, May 23, 2008

Capitol Reef

Whoa, a LOT of pictures, sorry! Well, it's not just Capitol Reef, but the approach:
- The Gulch, from the beginning of the Burr Trail (a 4x4 road which is the southern approach to Capitol Reef and the Waterpocket Fold, stepping down through the Escalante Grand Staircase)
- The Henry Mountains, 11,000 footers standing alone out there in the Escalante)
- Compressed sandstone hills down in the Waterpocket Fold, near the Bitter Creek Divide (That's Mom's truck out in front. I took this with the phone while driving some pretty sketchy washboard)
- Rainbow from the Rim Rock Inn in Torrey, just north of the park. A thunderstorm followed us, and dumped snow at about 10,000 feet. The Henrys were white the next morning.
- Beginning of the Grand Wash Gorge. See those little holes on the bottom right? They're the entrance to old uranium mines, circa 1860. The cliff wall here is 1500 feet to the top, about 6700 feet above sea level.
- The open section of the Grand Wash Trail. There's a guy way back there in the middle of it, but he's too small to see, I think. I should post a high res closeup at some point, because he waved to me.
- The top of the cliffs from 2 pictures up. That's my foot. And that's 1500 feet straight down. That big boulder to the right is the size of a house, if you need more scale.
- Cassidy Arch from the Cassidy trail. Another mile to get there.
- Cassidy Arch. The bush to the left is only a foot shorter than me.
- Happy to be there, but there's no one to take my picture but me!
- My setup at the Reef.
- Finished! What a change in light!
- Capitol Reef, oil on linen panel, 6"x8"

It took most of the day just to get there, what with taking the Burr Trail and all. And, as I said, a storm was following the whole time - we were just ahead of it. Even though we could have taken a faster, paved route, I'm glad we went on the Trail, as I saw some fantastic ans sudden changes in geological forms all along the route. There were some pretty steep switchbacks down into the Waterpocket Fold, which provided for a serious 4x4 experience. The Blazer did fine, since I didn't plunge to my death or anything.

Once in the park, I scouted around for a painting site, while sightseeing at the same time. The big public campground was actually full (which seemed odd later on, for the following day I encountered NO ONE on the Cassidy Arch Trail), so we headed north out of the park to find the cheap but serviceable Rim Rock Inn, which had pretty awesome views of the Reef. That cold line of storms finally came across the Boulder Mountain escarpment to the west, so an inn was a fine way to go, I thought.

The next morning, I got an early start, and decided to mix it up by hiking first and painting afterward. Mom was taking her sweet time, so she told me to meet back at the visitor's center at 5:30 PM. I set my sights on Cassidy Arch, named for the outlaw Butch Cassidy, who holed up in the impregnable Reef from time to time with his gang. The trail itself starts along with the Grand Wash Gorge trail, but veers off and ascends pretty steeply for almost a mile. It was tough, but I enjoyed the workout, as the views got ever more spectacular as I ascended. I saw that I was making good time, so I veered off to find the cliffs one sees as you drive into the wash. I eventually found the dropoff, as you see above. I then backtracked to the Arch, and it's amazing how it comes up suddenly - a big hole in the slickrock. You could fly a good sized plane into it from the front. After hanging around the top for a bit, I literally ran down the trail, which was a fun reward after having slogged up in the dry heat. I had a lunch of jerky and cheese at the trailhead, and drove back out to the Scenic Road to a turnoff I had earmarked for my painting site.

Well, the view was great, but unlike the previous day, the wind had shifted and was now blowing down the Reef from the north at a good, steady 20 miles an hour, with at least 30 MPH gusts - right in my face. Great. I gathered some beefy boulders and fortified my tripod. It wouldn't budge, so I felt pretty confident. However, I was literally pushed away from the painting countless times, and I was covered in pink dust, a real desert rat. Fortunately, the painting wasn't exposed, so it fared well. I came away after 3 hours with a decent study. A full and fun day, to be sure!

I met up with Mom, and we drove a much more direct rout back to Beaver. Again, the landscape, the rolling sagegrass hills, the mountians, and even the cattle towns charmed me with their distinct beauty. The 2 1/2 hour trek passed in an instant.

Once back at Mom's house, I relaxed with a few drinks, sat on the porch, and looked at the mountains in the last light of that day. I had one full day of reorganizing and ease before the next big early morning drive back to Vegas and then the long flight home.

The trip was definitely a success. I got 3 good paintings out of it, I hiked alpine, canyon and slickrock, and I finally understood why everyone who has been to the monuments of the West urged me to see it for myself. I urge you, too, if you've never been. Imagine never having seen the ocean, and then suddenly you're at Acadia National Park. It's that dramatic. I don't think I could ever live there, but I am aching to go back, for it is now a part of me since I painted there. It really did affect me, I can't deny it. I think this is an excellent thing.

Thanks for reading. More news from the studio, and plein air in Maine - soon!


Martha Miller said...

Spectacular!!! What an amazing place!

You worked hard for those paintings!! (sing this to the tune, She works hard for the money...)

Your painting is so rich - the colors and texture are quite beautiful!

Rob S. said...

Again ,thank you, Martha. I appreciate your recognizing the effort.

It is hard work in some interesting conditions, but wow, did I love it. Would that I could make a viable career out of this! That's a big dream right there.

Martha Miller said...

Have you considered applying for a grant?
Or, do you know about Connie Hayes' "Borrowed Views" project?