Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Some Fall Color, and a Snake!

Rocky Mountain Maples in Autumn, 6" x 8" Oil on Canvas Panel
A few weeks ago high up in the Wasatch Mountains, over 8000 feet above sea level, I found these Maples bright red-orange against a blue sky. Now there's snow up there and the leaves have all been blown out of the trees.

The next painting was done almost a week ago down here in the Valley. This was painted along a favorite walking trail of mine down by the lake:

Autumn Ranch Cottonwoods, 11" x 14" Oil on Canvas Panel
The next one was painted two days ago not far from the spot where the last painting was done, looking more towards the south:

Maple Mountain in Autumn, 9" x 12" Oil on Panel
This is one of my favorite mountains to paint. The low sun in the colder seasons highlights the different slopes like giant crystalline facets. This is one of my favorite seasons to paint in, too.

While walking yesterday along that same path I was surprised to come across a snake! This kind of snake is common around here and I often see them sunning themselves on the trail. They're harmless, and I tend to chase them off the trail when I see them so they don't get run over by bicycles or pickup trucks that use that trail to access parts of the ranch there. At least I hope fewer of them get run over. The snake was more stretched out when I first saw it, but when I walked up to the snake and leaned down for a closer look, it bunched up into this shape. The sky was overcast and the air a little chilly, and the snake seemed somewhat lethargic. That gave me time to sketch the snake. When I was done with the sketch, I let the snake alone.

Snake Sketch, 6" x 8" Graphite Pencil on Paper
It surprises me to see a snake out in the middle of November, even though I've seen this sort of thing before. 

Around a year ago I was driving down a dirt road in the West Desert when I came over a rise and saw a large gopher snake in the road. Driving around the snake and coming to a stop, I got out and walked up to the snake for a closer look. There had been snow a few days before, and although much of the snow had melted off there were still lots of snow patches around. The day was chilly. At first the snake seemed not to react to my approach, but then slowly started to move. It went into a striking attitude. I wanted to get the snake out of the road so it wouldn't be run over, but it put on a ferocious, if slow, display of striking. I gave up trying to catch the snake with my hands. The snake's strikes were slow, but it was a good sized snake with a good sized mouth full of good sharp teeth, and it really didn't want to be caught. Gopher snakes aren't poisonous, but I didn't want to get bitten, anyway. True to one of the gopher snake's nicknames - "blow snake" - the snake would hiss loudly every time it struck out, except this one was so cold and slow that it's hisses sounded more like croaks. I broke a dead branch off of a fallen juniper tree and used it to safely lift the snake and place it off of the road. Then leaving the cold, grumpy snake in a sunny spot, I headed off to paint.

A few days before yesterday's snake sketch, on another slightly chilly day, I found a Western Chorus Frog on the trail. The little frog didn't move at first, and then slowly began to stir when I carefully picked it up. I was careful to handle the frog only long enough to move it off of the trail. Perhaps the warmth of my hand limbered the little frog up a little, because it was moving more when I set it down. Even then it seemed too lethargic to hop, and could only crawl a little. 

I guess these cold-blooded critters get lured out into the sun's warmth on these short days, and then get caught out when the temperature drops suddenly. Or maybe it's hibernation time and they just don't want to go to bed yet. I can't blame them. I don't want to hibernate, either.

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