Once again, this year I had the opportunity to go to Yosemite National Park in July for twelve days (see here for my 2016 trip stories and sketches). Four nights, five days of wilderness backpacking followed by seven days six nights of volunteering for Yosemite Conservancy. Below are the images from my backpacking trip.
I used a small, handmade sketchbook using landscape shaped scraps of watercolor paper, painted cardboard box covers, and nylon yarn as binding. My tools were a Pigma Micron 01 pen, a Pigma Sensei 06 pen, Aquash large and medium size water brushes, and my own mini palettes of Daniel Smith watercolors (sixteen total colors). The last three pages I finished coloring when I got to Yosemite Valley on the afternoon of Day Five. The rest I completed on site, in the backcountry. All except the rout map were painted from memory or en plein air, not from photographs.
I also returned to an old favorite format: 6-inch by 6-inch squares, which I brought on my 2014 trip to Yosemite while I was completing work for the 50|50 show, a 50-day process of creating fifty works, all measuring six inches by six inches. I love the small square format, and Fluid Watercolor paper from Global Art Materials, Inc., comes in a great portable block that fits in my front pack in the backcountry. I love the Fluid “Easy Block” because it’s easy to remove finished paintings in the field (a key feature for backcountry sketching). Also, the paper is acid-free and archival, meaning the finished pieces are ready to be mounted or framed.
Stay tuned for images from my Yosemite Valley week…to be posted after I get back from Gettysburg!
Day 9: Made in the Shade
Wednesday is the volunteers’ day off. In years past, we have spent our Wednesdays doing such ambitious hikes as Mount Dana, Mount Hoffmann, and Four Mile Trail. But two years ago, knowing we had a backpacking trip ahead of us, tacked onto the end of the work week, we decided to take it easy. One of the other volunteers lent us his inflatable raft. We took the shuttle bus all the way to Happy Isles, and found a spot to put in near Sugar Pine bridge. The water was so low we were sitting on rocks for much of the time, but we did manage to make our way all the way to our home base, just past Sentinel Beach.
This year, having already worked hard on our backpacking trip, and with the exceptional heat (today’s high forecast to be 103), we have a very unambitious agenda. We get on our bikes and see if we can catch the ranger program at 9:30. Turns out it is cancelled. We head just beyond the Yosemite Museum to the Yosemite Cemetery. I never knew there was a cemetery until Ranger Karen mentioned yesterday that the only sequoia trees in the Valley are the ones planted around the tombstone of Galen Clark, Yosemite’s first park ranger. Continue reading
Day 6: Do It For The Cheeseburgers!
“Do it for the cheeseburgers!” is our mantra for the last day’s hike from Indian Ridge to our car on Tioga Road. We have adapted it from our biking mantra for the 40-mile round trip ride from our home in Half Moon Bay to Duarte’s in Pescadero, where we “Do it for the pie!”. Olallieberry pie, to be exact. A la mode. After the artichoke-green chili soup and warm sourdough bread with butter.
Having a goal in mind helps on the steep uphill climbs. When the idea of “conquering” a hill is just not enough to get the legs going, doing it for the pie sometimes will.
In this case, it is the thought of a cheeseburger from the Tuolumne Meadows grill, another twenty miles or so down Tioga Road from where our car is parked.
But first, there is the climb. Continue reading
Day 5: Dream Campsite on Indian Ridge
Our packs are getting lighter, I think. The ratio of food to garbage in our bear canisters has finally reached the tipping point of more garbage than food. These are the signs that we are nearing the end of our trip.
Our final night is spent on Indian Ridge, overlooking North Dome, with views stretching from Clouds Rest to Half Dome and all the way down the Valley to Eagle Rock and Three Brothers.
We score the campsite I had spotted on our first night, when we headed down to the creek for water. It is the most luxurious space of all the sites so far. Perched at the apex of the ridge, there are two Ponderosa pines positioned perfectly for sitting and enjoying the outstretched views of Half Dome and Clouds Rest. Two clusters of low madrone bushes provide some privacy from both the trail to North Dome and the rest of the ridge descending down toward the Valley. Three separate living spaces are defined by the borders of the madrones, the rocks, and the trees.
The wildlife show here consists of alpine chipmunks, which crisscross the trail and hop from one rock to the next, then disappear in the madrone bushes. Continue reading
Day 4: Sherpa Steps to El Capitan
The nosebleeds started three years ago, on our backpacking trip from Tenaya Lake to Clouds Rest to Little Yosemite Valley. That was another case of trying to go light by carrying less water, and sleeping at a high altitude. Ever since then, Randy has brought a kit of supplies with him to deal with sudden nosebleeds in the wilderness. I pass the time by theorizing about the causes and possible remedies – not of the symptom of having nosebleeds, but of the determining factors.
I contemplate the mystery of how the blood vessel constricting effects of the pseudoephedrine in Claritin-D could paradoxically promote bleeding. I wonder if the drying effect of the antihistamine in Claritin is too much in the already dry alpine air. I blame coffee, wine, and not enough electrolytes. I wonder if he should have done a sinus rinse using water taken from the creek. I even imagine how it would be possible, on future trips, to bring distilled water to do sinus rinses in the backcountry.
These are the things that go through my head as his nose is bleeding in the middle of the night. I also note, with some mixture of horror and pride at the accuracy of my self-assessment, that this is the kind of parent I would be, if I were to become one — an analyzer, a fixer of things. I am not a natural when it comes to providing pure comfort and soothing presence. My mind is usually too busy understanding “why”. Any abilities I now have in the area of healing and calming presence I have acquired from many days, weeks, and months of attending workshops and retreats and practice. Continue reading
Day 3: Arriving at Yosemite Creek
Before there is “arriving”, there is “getting there”. On North Dome, I am feeling unmotivated to get out the skillet and and do dishes in the morning. So we go with a very light breakfast. Perhaps too light. It is a granola with milk and blueberries dehydrated meal from Backpackers’ Pantry. Delicious and satisfying, but probably low on protein.
We leave North Dome at around 8am. I already know where the first creek is, so the day’s agenda is a matter of passing that creek, then Lehamite Creek, then cresting the ridge at Yosemite Point, and making the descent to Yosemite Creek, followed by a short ascent to our hidden campsite just above Yosemite Falls. Continue reading
Day 2: Entering Wilderness (AFTER Seeing A Bear!)
I wake up early, mainly because I am cold. I didn’t think to bring my beanie or gloves (because July!), but I am wishing for them in the morning. I pull on some wool socks and slip on my Chacos instead of putting bare feet into flip flops. As I am tooling around camp, I notice a round, peach-colored glow from behind the trees. It is the moon set. And it is full. Could it be that we accidentally scheduled our backpacking trip for North Dome on the night of the Full Moon?
Yes. Yes we did. Continue reading
I just returned from an epic 12-day journey, my longest continuous stay so far, in Yosemite National Park. First night (a Tuesday in July) at Crane Flat Campground — lucky to get the one open campsite reservation online. Next five days/four nights in the backcountry. Entering at Porcupine Creek trailhead, camping on North Dome, then top of Yosemite Falls with a day hike to El Capitan, then back to Indian Ridge (near North Dome) for the final night. The final seven days were spent in Yosemite Valley Yellow Pines campground as volunteers with Yosemite Conservancy. This was our fifth year of service as volunteers with YC, and my first time as Assistant Cook, helping with preparation of hot breakfasts and dinners for the work crew of twelve volunteers all week long. I loved it!
I have just finished gathering and photographing/scanning all of the art images I created during my twelve days. A total of forty-six images, each with a mini story that will allow me to retrace my steps, one day at a time, and share each episode with you, in twelve, bite-sized portions. Each post will go up at 10:00am Pacific Time. At the end of the twelve days of posting, I will post the entire body of work on the front page of this website, as one project.
In the meantime, sit back and take a walk with me through one of our nation’s finest treasures. Continue reading