Thursday, December 23, 2010

Four Mile Trail (again).

Last summer I hiked up 4 mile trail (see August 10th post to refresh your memory) and found some stunning vistas. Recently, since all of this beautiful snow has descended on the valley, I've decided to go up into the high country again on several trails to see how different they look in their wintery coats.

As with most of the higher trails now, 4 Mile was "closed". That is to say that there was a sign at the trail head saying that it was closed, but, as I hiked up past it to the first "gate", it was wide open. Either the Rangers had forgotten to close the gate, or it wasn't really closed and they forgot to take the closed sign down (that's the story that I'm stickin' with if they try to give me a citation, as one could surely come in from a different trail where there is no sign at all).

[Using my little paint box to do a sketch of Yosemite Valley, looking west. On the right edge of the photo you can see El Capitan, in the centre is the Cathedral Rocks group, and to my left one can see the base of Sentinel Rock, which is casting the shadow in which I sit.]
It was much easier going with the colder temperatures ... although, with my heavy pack and heavier clothes, I was soon quite toasty and had to remove my gloves and open my coat.

I actually made two separate climbs last week ... a few days apart, due to weather. The first hike was a scouting mission. I didn't really have time to try to go all the way up the trail (it's much closer to 5 miles than 4 -- since the trail was changed some time ago). I simply wanted to see if it was possible to get up above the snow line. On that first hike, I found some great snow barriers on the switchbacks about a mile and a half up the mountain. The first one I managed to get through without much problem, but the next one would have required snow shoes at that time. I did have snow shoes with me, but, like I said; it was just a scouting mission and I didn't really want to get too far up. I still needed the daylight to paint -- and, being the middle of December, the light fades quickly.

So, I turned about and went down just a little way and began a painting. I had forgotten some of my supplies and didn't get real far with the painting ... but an okay start.
["Finished" sketch - another of my "green" paintings ... done on recycled materiel which has been primed.]

When I returned there had been some rain and slushy snow in the valley and it had left a thick patina of crusty snow on top of the drifts and avalanches. I was able to traverse across these without too much difficulty. Every eight or ten steps I would crash through up to my knees or higher, but I felt that the snowshoes that I carried would be more cumbersome than helpful - especially on some of the switchbacks, which were very steep and required a little bit of technical climbing.
[Yosemite Falls from the Four Mile Trail. If you look closely, you will see some very interesting colours in the water of the falls. In the winter, when the sun is at these lower angles, it is just right to cause prismatic spectrums -- these "rainbow" effects are breathtaking at times.]

My main goal was to get up to where I could get a good view of Tenya Canyon, North Dome, Cloud's Rest, and Half Dome. It was a real struggle at times, but I managed to make it. By the time I found a good vantage point, however, the trail had become very tricky. The snow was packed along the inside, sloping toward the ledge ... and the drops from the ledge became increasingly steep until it was a sheer drop, down a few thousand feet. Yikes.

[The ever impressive Half Dome -- with Cloud's Rest to the left (north).]

I pushed myself, in spite of my fear of heights, as far as I could. I was even willing to keep going -- but the day was already waining and, from my hike up last summer, I knew that I had another hour and a half to two hours climb (especially going as slowly as I was and struggling up-hill in the snow) ... which wouldn't leave me enough time to hike down before it got dark.
[Standing on the edge ... my stomach up somewhere near my Adam's Apple. Gulp.]

Darkness in Yosemite is as complete as I've ever known darkness to be. No, thanks, I would not like to climb down perilous icy cliffs in the dark.

[Looking north-east up Yosemite Valley. North Dome is in the centre. If you follow it down to the right, Washington Column is at the end of that rock formation. The cabin in which I live is somewhere along the edge of the shadow just below Washington Column. The canyon that extends up and to the left is Tenya Canyon - named after Chief Tenya. Looming above Tenya Canyon is Cloud's Rest ... which terminates against glorious Half Dome.]

So, I turned around and headed back. I did stop to do a little sketching along the way. I felt great about my experience. I had not made it all the way to Glacier Point -- but, then again, I had doubted that it would have been possible -- but, I had some great photos of Half Dome and all of the surrounding areas that I had wanted to see. I'll settle for painting those from photos for now. I may return up the trail to do some painting from up there -- but, next time I go, I hope to bring some company. It's not really all that wise to hike solo into the high country at any time, but, especially in Winter.

[Looking back up at Sentinel Rock and the wilderness in which I had just been adventuring.]

Friday, December 10, 2010

Workin' at the Studio

I've spent the last week at the studio in Marihoozits doing several projects. One of them is a landscape painting that I started back in September. For whatever reason ... I was interrupted and lost the flow, or I lost faith in it, or had issues with it that were frustrating me - I'm not sure ... but I had set it aside and could never seem to get back to it. It was a real struggle this week, too, for me to go back to work on it, but I did get several hours into it and feel much better about the way that it's going. Still, it will be a while before I finish it, as I'll be here in the park for the next week or so. When it's finished I'll post it. Basically, though, it's just a studio version of the oil sketch that I did at, so called, Mirror Lake (which isn't really a lake at all anymore).
I did do some small paintings while I was up there ... a couple of still life things and a portrait of a neighbor's dog. This small "green" painting was done using an onion which I've been carting around with me for several years ... one from my little garden in Medical Lake (the one laying down on the right). It was a small, quick oil exercise, but it made me want to do a larger, more polished piece, which I haven't done for quite some time.

I also did this little oil sketch of Meecah, laying by the wood stove in the kitchen area of the studio. It's not really done yet --I'm going to go back into it. Meecah may sleep 12 hours of the day, but she doesn't seem to want to hold the same pose for very long. I got pictures of her in this pose that I'll have to finish the painting from. This is also one of my "green" pieces (done on prepared cardboard). I'm considering doing a larger one on canvas.

I also started another small still life painting (on actual canvas!) of the little Absinthe bottle and drizzle spoon that I have. Some years ago I did a still life of this same thing which I called "Vincent's Poison". As with the first still life, I had to mix up a batch of "Absinthe" -- not the real stuff, mind you ... it's just water with some watercolour paint mixed in to give it that yellow-greenish look. I was going to put some in the bottle, too, for the sake of the still life, but when I screwed the top off, I could still smell that strong liquorish odor of the potentate beverage! It's been over five years since I consumed that! I was kind of surprised that it still held such a strong sent. I had no sugar cubes to put on the drizzle spoon (they pour the alcohol through the sugar cubes, into the glass), so I cut little cubes of wood and painted them with a white acrylic. When I was about halfway done with this little 8" x 10" work, I decided that the background needed something special. So, I had the idea to position the whole thing as if it were in Vincent's room at the place he and Gogaun shared in France. So ... I've got a little research to do before I finish it up. It shouldn't be too hard to find some of his paintings from that time period on the Internet. So, in a few weeks I'll post a picture of that work when it's done.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

JMT in der Schnee.

On Monday I went for a hike up the John Muir Trail. The hike up to the bridge was a bit treacherous, as there was a lot of ice. The view from the bridge was great; Vernal Fall was flowing even though the Merced River was choked with ice. Just a little way beyond the bridge, the Mist Trail was closed due to the winter weather. I went around the sign, but didn't get very far -- the trail was buried under snow slides. There are a lot of things that I'll take some chances on, but being buried under a few tons of snow doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun to me.
Along the way there were some fabulous views of the back of Half Dome and Liberty Cap.

The Airline industry seemed to be working against me, though. Ever see a plaid sky?

When I got to Clark Point, there was another gate up closing the JMT.
I still had a wonderful view of Nevada Fall from there, though.

It was a strenuous outing, but it felt very rewarding.