Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ghost Tree

Desolation Valley trail towards Lake Genevieve (near Lake Tahoe, Ca) takes you directly under this tree. It's a ghost tree now, likely killed by lightening or beetles. The base of this tree has been gouged out on one side by someone or something, leaving only half a trunk to support the knarled mass. The tree has begun to list to one side in the direction of the trail. I hurry past when I hike this trail, sometimes peering up as it crouches towards me. I wonder what or who will wage the final blow to this old ghost, and if anyone should be passing underneath on that fateful day.

Nevada desert

From afar, the desert just beyond Mono Lake appears dry and deceptively lifeless, but hike into the brushlands a ways and observe the tell tale signs of creatures in the sand --the curving path of a sidewinder, prints of rabbits, coyote droppings dotting the dunes. I did not see a living thing when I poked around one morning, but I sensed life dwelling within and under the dense sagebrush, observing my presence, waiting and watching...

Moon over Ishi wilderness

On a friday evening heading to Mt Lassen for some car camping, I wove up and down and through the hills of the Ishi wilderness as the sun set and clouds gathered for a storm. Every turn offered open views of a lengthening sweep of cloud that darkened the road ahead. With one hand tight on the steering wheel, I looped my other above the roof of the car and pointed my cell phone camera in the general direction of the storm. I snapped several before the camera began to shake too dangerously in my hand from the force of the wind. When I entered Lassen Forest, the skies let loose and hail the size of moth balls chunked against my car. I pulled to the side of the road behind a trail of headlights, other wary drivers sitting out the storm, and enjoyed the spectacle of a road turning from black to white before my eyes.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Trip to Duck Lake in Mammoth

Rocky outcropping above Deer Creek

Mammoth Ridge and the last of the snow.

Hike the Duck Pass Trail through grassy meadows, past wildflowers growing next to snow tufts, and over loose rocks, and you'll get views of mountain craigs and Alpine lakes that rival that of Tuolumne Meadows. This hike is pretty solidly uphill but the hiker is awarded one pristine mountain lake after another --Arrowhead, Skelton, Barney --they just got more stunning the higher we climbed. Towards the end of the day, I sat on a ledge to draw the craggy Mammoth Ridge when I discovered the downside to hiking the Sierras in late spring -massive swarms of mosquitoes, the kind that can bite down for a half second, evade your swat yet still manage to leave a welt. To avoid being eaten alive, I gave myself fifteen minutes to sketch the densely rocky scene. I chose my favorite quick drawing tool -Papermate Sharpwriter #2. The retractable part at the tip makes it possible to expand the lead with one hand while swatting mosquitos with the other.
I mixed water from my canteen with a bit of Dr Martins waterproof black ink (that for once had not exploded from the change in pressure) to create the shadows. Back at my studio I tried to give more emphasis to the patches of snow by outlining it and the rocks. Perhaps it looks a bit more caroonlike, but I like the way the snow crawls along the mountainside like creeping clouds.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Lakeland Chamber of Commerce

Tuesday’s drive to town-- the Lakeland Safeway Cowboy through a rainy windshield.

In the middle of our second night at the Fort, drops of rain spattered our tent and forced me running outside to rescue the last roll of toilet paper before it soaked through. This morning we drove into town Lakeland and circled looking for a dry and warm place to wait out this storm. We found the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, where the nice ladies offered high speed, coffee and all the local literature our table could hold. Best of all, this has turned out to be a lively place to meet some interesting towns folk. First Deborah the cowgirl who left us with an offer visit her historic home just north of where we're camping on the famous Applegate Immigrant trail (looking forward to that). Next was a guy that manages the hang gliding festival here. He explained thermals, landing, and just about everything one would need to know to get started hanging from a kite. A Humane Society Volunteer tried to convince Melissa to adopt a very cute pitbull mix (I’m still working on her). People trickling in and out constantly. Not what I expected of a chamber of commerce. The sun seems to be breaking through now. Heading out now to the Lakeland Museum. This town keeps growing on me.

Fort Benjamin Wade

We are now on the Oregon/California border within a good days drive of home. Camped last night and the night before on Larry's land, within the very esteemed gates of 'Fort Benjamin Wade'. How we ended up here is a fluke, or as I told Larry, by serendipitous luck. On a tip from a teenage gas station attendant, headed to Lilly Lake to look for an obscure campground not even on the map. Six miles up a winding rock dirt strewn road that turned from mud to snow covered (we almost got stuck in a bank or two) we conceded defeat and made the eight point back the way we came. Half way back down, we came across a guy on a three wheel ATV surrounded by barking dogs. If there was anywhere to camp, I figured this guy would be able to tell us. We explained the situation and next thing we know we are following the ATV to a frontier village type structure of ten-foot timbers with a towering gate and a sign made of tiny cut timber lettering announcing the 'Fort'. Inside the gates was nothing more then a tall abandoned chimney, beautful woods and a wild rushing stream. Sharing wine and appetizers next to a blazing fire, Larry explained how he had gone from working in the family wireless empire to managing this 600 plus undeveloped parcel at the foot of Crane Mountain. His current project was to preserve a meadow in memorium to his recently deceased son-- a big job ahead to finish in time for a large family reunion/dedication ceremony in July. After a glass or two I found myself asking if he was hiring. ‘Surrre’ replied Larry, and explained his terms. I was a little delirious by this point but heard something to do with clearing and fencing in exchange for a place to stay and some cash. It was an offer deserving consideration.