Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Escalante, Another Demo, and Alien Beings

Last week was Everett Ruess Days and the annual plein air painting competition in Escalante, Utah. After attending the opening of the show at Fremont Indian State Park, I drove to Torrey and camped for a couple nights in a tent at an RV park. Like last year, the picture I entered into the show was painted in the Capitol Reef area. On Monday I set up in the parking area for the Chimney Rock hiking trail. Here are some photos of that painting in-process.

Canvas toned and initial drawing.
Messing with lights and darks.

Adding Color
Finished painting. Chimney Rock, 16" x 20" Oil on Canvas Panel.

Just as last year, I handed out business cards and talked to people from all over the world. I enjoy talking to people who stop for a short visit while I'm painting. Some painters don't. If you see a painter and they're wearing earphones, they probably don't want to be bothered.

The next day, I painted near Torrey. This is the painting I entered into the main show:

Torrey Breaks, 16" x 20" Oil on Canvas Panel.

Monday night I camped at a spot north of town near the Great Western Trail. After driving a couple miles up an ATV trail, through a couple mud holes and across a stream, I came to a washout that even the ATVs wouldn't tackle. Their go-around looked too adventurous for my 4Runner, so I pulled off the trail and camped there. Walking over for a closer look at the washout, I thought, "This will take a piece of heavy equipment to fix." I had no idea how soon that would happen.

This kind of camp has advantages and disadvantages. On the minus side, there's no wi-fi or showers. On the plus side, it's free and it's wild. This spot came with an additional challenge, though. I thought since it was late Monday, and there was a washout making the trail difficult, no one would likely come by. So I began to settle down for a peaceful night in the pinion pines beneath red rock formations. 

But shortly after sunset, an ATV came by and stopped at the washout. Then along came a backhoe followed by a pickup pulling a flatbed trailer. The backhoe commenced scooping dirt out of a bank not far from my camp and filling in the washout. That accomplished, they parked the backhoe not 50 feet from my camp and both the ATV and the pickup headed up the freshly repaired trail. They had to see that I was camped close by, but they never seemed to acknowledge I was there. A while later, the ATV and the pickup returned, followed by another ATV. They didn't stop at the backhoe, but continued on past. Later, an ATV with two people came back up the trail and stopped at the backhoe. One of them got in the backhoe and fired it up while the other person continued on up the trail on the ATV. The backhoe operator drove the piece of heavy equipment back down the trail. Later that night the ATV came tooling back down the trail. 

So much for a peaceful night. There was no more traffic for the rest of the evening, but I lay awake awhile wondering if anything else was going to come motoring by and maybe even start digging again.

The next night I camped further up into the trees, and nobody came by the entire night. Except for the construction crew and all the unexpected traffic on the first night, it was a nice place to camp. Two old campfire rings nearby indicated other people thought the spot was a good one, too. There was other evidence this was a choice spot for camping, even to ancient people. Wandering around my camp one morning, I discovered a lot of lithic flakes. These were shards of sharp obsidian and flint knapped off of stone tools or weapons by Indians long ago. I examined a few of the lithic flakes, putting them back when I was done with them.

Lithic Flakes
Closeup of Lithic Flakes
I'll bet ancient Indians didn't have to worry about backhoes in the middle of the night!

Wednesday I went to Escalante and participated in the paint out at Slot Canyon Inn. For the rest of the week my camp was at Escalante Outfitters. I did a few more small paintings that week, at Devil's Garden and Hell's Backbone, then attended a small town church service on Sunday.

Thursday at Devil's Garden, an F-16 fighter jet came roaring by, just a couple hundred feet or so off the ground. A while later a C-130 flew overhead just as low. I set my camera aside while I painted to be ready to snap a picture should another war bird fly by. No other war planes came by. Instead, a sudden dust storm blew down the little canyon I was in and my camera was caked with desert sand! After blowing and dusting the camera off as best I could, I turned it on. I got a "Lens Error" message and the camera wouldn't work. If I can get photos of the other paintings I did I'll show them in a later post.

Now for the alien beings! The first night at Escalante Outfitters I was out under the pavilion in the campground working on my computer when this little guy came wandering by:

Only it wasn't so little. The thing was at least two inches long and it's ugliness made it look even bigger! It trundled back and forth across the concrete floor of the pavilion the whole time I was there. Or there were several of them taking turns crossing the pavilion floor - I don't know. This is one of the most bizarre looking creatures I have ever seen and it looked like it was from another planet! 

Turns out, it's not an alien creature from outer space after all, but a Jerusalem cricket (Stenopelmatus spp.) It (or they - I don't know) seemed to behave itself, so I decided not to call out the army on this one!

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