Monday, October 3, 2011

Caribou Lake to Cascade River State Park. 11.5 miles-Day 1, August 24

"Blustery" 8" x 10"
For some reason I started off on this section of trail not feeling very enthusiastic about the hike. I'm not sure why. Possibly the routine was getting boring: pack up, hike in, paint, eat, sleep, paint, hike out, home.  But as soon as I got to the East side of Agnes Lake (about a mile in from the trail head) I felt the excitement of the trail coming back. It was a new section that held the promise of some good vistas.  The day started off sunny and really windy.  Lured by the possibility of long views along the ridge of the Sawtooth Mountains, I passed up an interesting beaver pond but made a note on my map that it would be a cool spot to visit again with paint and brush.

I reached the ridge line and was hoping for that glorious vista with the perfect spot to set up my pochade box (roomy and protected from the elements). But this is wilderness, not a highway turn out, and while I was aware I was hoofing along the lip of an expansive forest the clear view I was looking for hadn't materialize. I thought maybe a painting of dense foreground trees with the hint of distant lands would be ok but I knew there had to be at least a meager overlook somewhere.  It wasn't till I was almost to Spruce Creek that the woods opened up a bit.  It was about one o'clock and the clouds had rolled in when I settled on a little outcrop with an semi-obstructed view.  The tiny birch tree in front of me was getting whipped pretty good by the wind and I decided that it would make a good testimonial of the day. Its spitted rain a bit but not enough that it interfered with the paint.

After painting, I hiked the short trail to Spruce Creek camp, set up my tent and ate dinner. By 4 o'clock the sky started to break and I went back up to the same spot to paint the clouds rolling through. It was one of those situations where  I could have painted a new painting every 15 minutes because the light effect changed that fast. I'll have to carry extra painting panels in the future because I could have used them all in this one evening. As it was, I stayed with the first light effect and saved the other two panels for the next day of the trip.
This view is from the same location as
"Blustery" looking just right of the tiny birch

Friday, August 5, 2011

Back Blog

"The Tombolo" 8 x 10
Well, I've been off the trail sense July 4th. Primarily due to prior obligations: the Grand Marais Arts Festival and the Door County Plein Air Festival were back to back to back weekends.  But I've got some back log blogging to do, so lets get caught up.

Kadunce River to Judge C.R. Magney State Park to my house.
10 1/2 miles
     I've been keeping my hiking around the Grand Marais area only because it is convenient to find someone who can either pick me up at the end of my jaunt or discharge me at the beginning of the section. I chose this section because I could literally hike home, my house being only a half mile from Judge Magney State Park.  My good friends Amy and David agreed to drive my truck back to my house (and if you are not familiar with my truck and its age this is asking a lot). They lived to tell the tale.

"Lake Walk, Evening" 8 x 10
THE LAKE WALK.  This section has a beautiful stretch where you are hiking directly on the Lake Superior shoreline. It also holds one of my favorite painting locations: the tombolo. The tombolo is a deposition landform in which an island is attached to the mainland by a narrow piece of land such as a spit or bar. Once attached, the island is then known as a tied island.  This particular landmass, no matter what angle I look at it, has such an interesting shape that I keep returning to paint it.  Its especially strong when its in silhouette or has a raking light on it.  In winter it has wonderful sheets of ice that form carrying beautiful aquamarine colors.  It has also become an interesting measuring stick for lake levels with low water levels allowing easy, dry access to the top of the tombolo while higher water levels require some rolling up of the pant legs.

TECH NOTES.  I'm trying to keep my pack as light as possible to avoid hernia's, blown knees and a strained back, so before the first outing I weighed everything.  My pack, empty, weighs 6 pounds; sleeping bag: 2.5lbs; sleeping pad: 2lbs; sketch book: 14.5 oz; pencil: .5oz.; pochade box-empty: 2lbs.(early landscape painters would often paint rough, quick sketches, a pochade, on location as reference for larger studio paintings. My pochade box holds an 8" x 10" panel). 8" x 10" panel: 4 oz.; #2-#12 Raphael 359 paint brush: .5 oz. each; paint (most of the tubes I had were about half full but varied) 1 oz. to 2.5 oz.; 100ml of a 200ml tube of flake white: 12.5 oz.; 10 business cards: virtually weightless. I'll carry more.

My initial palette included black, white, cadmium yellow light, cad. yellow, cad. red, alizarin crimson, manganese blue and ultramarine blue. I've sense added cad. orange and cobalt blue with the rational that the convenience of these extra colors out weighed (no pun intended) the extra 3oz. of weight added to the pack.
Choosing Brushes and a Trail Section

Friday, June 17, 2011

Artistic Trails: Painting the Superior Hiking Trail

"Boney's Meadow" 8" x 10"
      For a long time I've been hemming and hawing about putting together some sort of painting project. Something to get me out of the rut of driving to a spot, pulling over and doing a painting.  I wanted it to be different and not located in one place. I thought about doing a trip around Lake Superior, partially inspired by a couple who walked around the entire lake last summer.  Or maybe I'd paint a series of the Gunflint Trail in northern, MN. I also had been harboring, for a long time actually, a crazy idea of  backpacking along the Superior Hiking Trail and doing paintings along the way. The Superior Hiking Trail is a 277 mile trail that travels along the north shore of Lake Superior from Duluth, Minnesota to the Canadian border.
      This spring I decided to start that trek. It would be unique in that, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever hiked AND painted the whole trail before. It would get me out of the rut I had been in. I would be able to  do some camping and it would get me into shape.  All goals I had been wanting to accomplish.
     Initially I thought I'd through-hike the trail (through-hiking is starting at one end of the trail and hiking until you reach the other end)  with paints in tow picking up supplies, dropping off paintings, picking up new canvas' along the way. A trip I figured would take about a month or so.  But timing is everything and the timing wasn't right for a through-hike type trek. It would have probably required quitting my job, which I couldn't afford to do. Plus, there is no way I would have been in good enough shape to do a through hike without burning out. So I'd have to section hike the trail on my days off. I was kinda disappointed by that idea because it would have been way more macho and romantic to do the whole trail at once and in a short time have a pile of paintings. But after having done around 30 miles so far this spring, I've been able to capture the transition of the seasons. That is something appealing that I hadn't fully considered while contemplating a through hike. So now, instead of a bunch of paintings of one season on the trail, I'll have, most likely, canvas' capturing the trail from spring to summer into fall and through winter. That fires me up!
     So that's it. One man, one backpack, one pochade box, one tent, one sleeping bag, 277 miles, some oatmeal and hopefully some good paintings to boot (no hiking footwear pun intended).