This showed up on my facebook feed as something I’d like to share from the past. Two years ago our kids skinned up to 10,000 feet on Mt. Rainier where there is a climbers high camp called Muir. In good weather it is a fairly casual day of backcountry skiing…assuming you are in top notch shape.
But Mt. Rainier has a bad habit of making it’s own weather, which means you can be traveling to or from Muir and bad things can happen. For example clouds can roll in from nowhere and you are suddenly in a white out with zero visibility. Or the winds can come up and turn the snow to ice…at which point you will wish desperately for crampons and an ice ax. There are also large cravasses if you ski too far to left or right…so map and compass navigation skills can be a life saver. In a worse case scenario you may have to dig a snow cave and spend a night waiting out a sudden storm…though one can usually see those coming on the weather forecast. If that happens, you’d better have a thick puffy coat in your pack.
When I posted this photo I had been working, but Sue sent me a text saying they were overdue by a couple hours. Ideally you get back from Muir before dusk. But she said Clint’s blue car was still sitting their in the parking lot. You can see it on the right. That got me worried and I started auto refreshing the web cam. As you can tell from the comments, we raised a couple kids who like adventures. I guess this is payback from when we used to make my mom nervous when Sue and I were climbing mountains…in the winter…miles and miles from the car.
Lisa and I tried to get to Muir a couple months ago but turned back when we hit a white out at 8500 feet. I hope to do it this year…assuming our politicians ever re-open the government.
Like many artists, I began drawing and painting as a child. In high school I found I could capture a fairly good likeness of my friends in pencil. My parents supplied me with watercolor and oil paints to encourage my early efforts.
Life got in the way for 15 years and I stopped painting while I focused on my day job. But when my son was born I drew his portrait in pencil and it re-awakened my inner artist.
Since then I have established a reputation as a landscape painter, winning a number of awards and honors in Puget Sound area juried art shows. I am primarily self taught. Most of my learning has been trial and error although studying art books in the library, and touring local museums and galleries has given me many ideas.
I believe the struggle to paint from life lends honesty and character to my work. I love to capture the play of light and shadow over my subject in monotone. I then use the versatility of pastel and or oils to go beyond form into vibrant, complementary colors, creating paintings that, in the words of my collectors,”jump off the walls.”
Many of my artist friends find that the studio is the place to create art. Perhaps it is my love of the outdoors or just the chaos of my garage/studio, but I have found that I do my best work on location. I have stood painting for hours in very unfavorable locations, such as on the shoulder of the road above a high cliff on the Oregon coast highway in 20 knots of wind, or in a meadow up at Mt. Rainier in sweltering heat and clouds of mosquitoes.
Two weeks ago I hiked 7 miles up into the high alpine meadows (Sahale Arm) with 50 pounds of painting gear. I shivered under a space blanket all night under the stars. In the morning I painted the morning alpenglow on the North Cascades.
Painting on location in the city has turned out to be easier than I feared. An artist working on the sidewalk is so unusual most people walk by as if I were invisible, which suits me just fine.
Due to the relative shortness of our time on earth many of us want to savor what little beauty we find amongst the asphalt. This urge to slow down and provide time for reflection is what drives artists and photographers alike.
I have often thought of my painting backpack full of paints and a lightweight easel as a 300 year old camera with a 4 hour exposure time, and a six year learning curve. When I am out painting on location, hikers and tourists, often wearing cameras, will occasionally stop and admire my work.
They photograph my painting like it’s some kind of rare magic trick. They often lament their inability to draw. I never know what to say. Drawing can, and should, be taught like reading and writing, but the ability to paint collectable art is harder to explain…it may be a gift.
I sometimes go for long periods without selling any paintings at all…like years…which is why it’s important to have a day job. But I never stop painting. I stack them up in attic. Painting is an itch I have to scratch.
We finally got around to revisiting Toleak Point, but this time with my painting gear. We’d been there 6 years earlier, but all I had was my camera and I’d regretted not bringing paints. Photos from our previous hike 6 years ago.
When we arrived at the trailhead Saturday night there was no possibility of parking. Cars were parked in every square inch of the lot. Cars were double and triple parked behind other cars, blocking the early arrivals in place. We’d planned to sleep at the trailhead and hike out in the morning. Instead we drove a couple miles West and slept in a pullout. I was glad to have the pickup bed to sleep in. In the morning there was a couple bad parking spots open and we were able to jockey our way into a very tight parallel parking slot.
Toleak is getting far too popular. Do not go on the weekend. We talked to a guy who arrived Friday at noon and only two spots were open even that early in the weekend. It’s weird because the place isn’t really that pretty. I mean it’s very nice, but Shi Shi and Rialto or Ruby are just as pretty. Maybe it’s the remoteness that draws the crowd. When we hiked out on Tuesday there were 40 open spots…if you don’t mind double parking along the road, with cars backing out toward you broadside.
Weather was perfect Sunday as we hiked South but I arrived too tired to paint. Hiking 7 miles with a heavy pack is not something we do regularly. We woke up to fog but I could see this 100 foot high tower capped by a nesting bald eagle so that was what got painted.
We took a siesta, dipping into our meager food supplies, and then I walked South, hoping the fog over the main rocks would lift. It didn’t, so I painted this little twenty foot tall tower right at the tip of Toleak Point. After dinner I tried to paint the Giants Graveyard 4 miles distant but that proved to be too difficult and I erased it. It would have been my third painting of the day anyway.
My homemade backpack isn’t happy carrying 50 pounds, though really 50 pounds won’t feel good with any backpack. I felt like a mule with a Grand Canyon tourist on my back. I had skipped the sleeping bag to save weight. I slept in my thin puffy ($40 on sale at Big 5) and my Feathered friends down vest. I also had on thin nylon pants over long johns.
The first night I put my legs in my backpack for warmth. That was not warm enough and it wasn’t a great night sleep. The second night (Monday) I opened up the 3 ounce space blanket I’ve been carrying around for a decade and it was amazing. I felt as warm as if I’d been sleeping in a summer weight bag. I have to bring the two puffies anyway for standing around and painting in the ocean breezes, so it was awesome to sleep warm with just the mylar space blanket.
Bivying without proper sleeping gear is something I’ve been doing since my alpine climbing days. Mountain climbers have the same problem painters have: the gear is so heavy you have to cut corners on the normal gear that keeps backpackers comfortable.
Things I could leave behind:
All of my colors except Transparent Oxide Brown and Red (TOB & TOR).
12 x 16 boards. I worked on 9 x 12’s, which seemed big enough
Large brushes…work on small boards, need small brushes
Grizzly bear spray…didn’t see anything larger than a bald eagle
Two headlamps, one light per party would be enough
extra water bottle…plenty of streams
Things we should have brought:
More food! We were hungry all the time. An extra dehydrated dinner would have been awesome
Windscreen for MSR stove, slower cooking time wasn’t worth the savings in weight
Bigger bear box for more food…and or add in the white bear proof bag
Trail mix-granola. It would be lighter than the packaging for all the expensive energy bars we brought.
Shoulder strap spreader pads…or I need to sew better pack straps
The hiking books advise you to stop at the ranger station in Port Angeles to get permits. We were shocked to read that it’s $8 per person per night to camp out there. What they don’t tell you is that you can also pick up a permit at the trailhead, fill it out, and mail it in with your check. And as it happened, we saw no rangers Sunday through Tuesday checking peoples tents or backpacks for permits.
It’s sad that our parks have to charge so much for simply allowing us to enjoy the beauty. I know they have to maintain the trails, signs, ropes outhouses and parking lots, and that’s expensive. But for cash strapped people trying to have some cheap fun by walking the coast…it’s a shock. A party of two pays $16 a night…for backpacking!
Here is the pit toilet at Toleak…not a lot of money went into this 4 star facility: