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.