Thursday, July 5, 2018

First Hike of Summer 2018

Beginning the Hike
My hike started in the mouth of a canyon where the Rocky Mountains meet Basin and Range. The altitude of the trailhead is around 4700 feet above sea level. It was early afternoon, and the day was warm with mild breezes, and only a few small scattered clouds. Good hikes can be had in a many kinds of weather, but this was particularly good weather for a hike.

A Little Ways up the Trail
This is one of my favorite trails. It's the first mountain canyon I ever hiked in back in 1982 when I first visited this area. The canyon continues to provide good hiking experiences in all seasons. For more pictures of this canyon, you can visit this post from two years ago.

The lower end of the canyon is more desert-like than other parts of the trail. Every once in a while a small lizard or skink would dart across the trail ahead of me.

Looking Back
The character of the canyon changes as the trail gains altitude. Drier below, it becomes greener higher up. There's a noticeable temperature difference between the lower and upper parts of the trail.

Dense Greenery
Around halfway up the canyon rocky mountain maple and box elder trees crowd the trail. The close foliage can give the impression of being in a forest, but the deciduous thickets only line the narrow bottom of the canyon. Occasional views up through the canopy reveal mostly juniper, cliff rose, and towering evergreen trees standing singly or in scattered stands. Huge cliffs and outcrops dominate the canyon sides.

Looking South Toward Corral Mountain
I reach the top of the canyon trail and take the left fork, heading north. The trail winds through stands of maple trees, then aspen groves. The trail also passes through meadows, providing great views of the surrounding mountains. Summer breezes cause the aspen leaves to whisper and shimmer in the sunlight.

Provo Peak
This section of trail rises a thousand feet, from about 7200 feet to 8200 feet above sea level. I see a few deer scattered throughout this area, their red coats standing out against the forest greenery.

Yet Another Rubber Boa
Just below the 8200' pass I come across what looks like a huge earthworm on the dirt trail. It's a kind of snake called a rubber boa. I've yet to find anyone who knows what I'm talking about when I mention to them about rubber boas. Even avid outdoor hikers I know have never seen nor heard of them, yet I come across rubber boas almost regularly on my summer hikes, and in several of the local canyons. I've posted about them before on this blog. On this hike I gently pick up the rubber boa and move it off the trail lest some unobservant hiker come along and carelessly tread on the snake.

Cascade Mountain
At the pass I turn right onto another trail, heading east. Parts of the trail run through open country, providing great views of towering mountains. If majestic is a term that applies to mountains, how can it ever be applied to mortal kings and queens? I don't care how lavish their palaces, how fancy their carriages, or how dazzling their crowns, mere royalty doesn't measure up to the majesty of these mountains! Silly though it might seem, the grand scenery surrounding the trail occasionally caused me to whisper in awe, simply, "Oh, wow!"

This segment of trail travels around the north side of a mountain and passes through large stands of tall evergreen trees. The trees provide cool shade to the forest floor. The understory is only about knee high or so, with abundant white columbine flowers scattered throughout. Red squirrels and woodpeckers are common in these woods.

Provo Peak
The trail crosses a stony ridge at about 8700 feet, and here I stop to eat and rest before heading back. Directly east of this overlook is a mountain which towers to over 11,000 feet in altitude. A gibbous moon rises above the ridge line. The air where I rest is mild, almost cool, and the sunlight feels pleasantly warm on my back.

A Snack Before the Hike Back
Next time I'll bring more food. The packaging on the fig bars I ate tout two servings per package, yet I was still hungry after eating all I had brought. The water bottle was filled with cold water from a spring a mile or so back down the trail, and was so refreshing. After a while it was time to return. A desire to stay tugged at me as I headed back. As I descended the trail, the air grew warmer even as the evening sky became darker. It was almost ten o'clock by the time I reached the trailhead.

Here's another post with pictures from this and another nearby canyon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A View of Timp

18" x 24" Oil on Panel
Took a break from Spanish Fork for a day and went to Heber Valley to paint. This was painted near Midway. The view is looking across ranch land to the back of Mount Timpanogos. 

Painted out of the Big Box today!
It's kind of important for me to know which way the wind is blowing when I go paint along the dirt roads in this area. Then I can set up on the side of the road that gets less dust from passing cars and trucks, so I eat less dust while I work. It's just one of the little challenges of plein air painting.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Spanish Fork Hay Field

9" x 12" Oil on Panel
There's something kind of mesmerizing about a field of fresh cut hay. There's the rhythm of hay rows as they appear to converge at the distant edge of the field. Then there's the contrast between the dark, cool-green of cut hay and the paler, warmer tone of field stubble between the hay rows. I enjoy painting them and feel fortunate when I find a hay field at just the right time. Other things factor into successfully painting a hay field, of course. I think things came together for this little painting.

There were a couple challenges involved in painting this scene. It's the time of year when cottonwood trees are shedding massive amounts of fluffy seeds. Those seeds readily stick to wet oil paint, and that can be a problem. There were a couple big cottonwoods close to where I had set up my paint box. When breezes came along those trees shed seeds in my direction in such abundance that it appeared to be snowing. The cottonwood flurries contained not only individual seeds but also big clumps of seeds that are even worse for a painting. Shielding the paint box and using a wet brush to intercept large clumps of seeds that came too close to the painting worked for the most part. Still a seed or two got onto the painting, but not enough to cause a fuzzy or lumpy painting. Little bits of nature in the paint are always part of the plein air experience, anyway.

A mile or two away a thick column of smoke rose, and began to spread. Shortly after, sirens of emergency vehicles could be heard. The smoke grew and spread, coming between me and the sun, which cast a gray smoky pall over the scene I was painting. Later I learned that a farmer had decided to burn some rubbish in a field. The fire had gotten away from him and burned five acres. Luckily, by that time my painting had progressed to a point where the smoky haze didn't affect it.

My paintings can be seen at these galleries:
In Salt Lake City:
In Logan, Utah:
In Ivins, Utah:

Friday, June 8, 2018

Summer Cottonwood Copse

11" x 14" Oil on Panel
For this painting, it was back to the Spanish Fork River trail. Technically, it's still a couple weeks or so until the official start of summer, but the weather isn't waiting. It was quite warm the day I painted this, and scattered clouds grew into thunderheads over the mountains. That didn't interfere with painting, though, and I was able to make the piece shown above. I'm happy I found this place. Plans are, I'll be spending more time painting in this area.

Fyi, if you ever want to see any of my paintings in person, you can find them at these galleries:

     In Salt Lake City:
     In Logan, Utah:
     In Ivins, Utah:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Early June, Loafer Mountain

16" x 20" Oil on Panel
It's the first week in June, and I think it's about time I took out the easel and painted something larger than my pochade boxes allow for. And where better to paint bigger than a place I found just last week, the Spanish Fork River Trail. Parts of the trail follow the tree-lined Spanish Fork River. Other sections detour through open farmland, offering wide open views. Much of the trail is lined with willow, cottonwood and box elder trees. Here and there patches of wild rose are in bloom, as are batches of brilliant blue flax. Flowering Russian olive trees add a pleasant aroma the breezes along the trail.

After parking at one of the trail heads, I walked a mile or so to where I wanted to paint. On this day my chosen spot was on a section of trail that skirted alfalfa and hay fields, providing a wonderful view of Loafer Mountain in the Wasatch Range. After five or six hours of standing and painting out under the early June sun, I returned home with the painting shown at the top of this post.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Field and Trees on a Late Spring Day

9" x 12" Oil on Panel
Some days I just drive until I find something to paint, park on the side of the road, set up a pochade box, and go to work. These trees caught my attention last Thursday.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Cottonwoods along a Bank

9" x 12" Oil on Panel
This was painted yesterday. It's a painting of cottonwood and willow trees southwest of town, looking toward the Lake Mountains. It's a warm day in the middle of May, and clouds were building - but not too much. It was a fine day for plein air painting!