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Friday, July 31, 2015

Day 48: Shoshone Falls to Bridgeport, California (7/22/15)

I stopped at Shoshone Falls on my way out of Twin Falls. I was already feeling lukewarm on painting since I got a bit of a late start enjoying my Hotel Life, and I knew I had a big drive to just outside Yosemite (about 8 hours). I got to the falls and decided sketch instead of paint. These falls are called the "Niagara of the West" and I can see why since they sweep around, kind of like Niagara Falls. I was sad not to see more water going over the falls (new friend Angela had warned me about this), and I think it is because of the dam and because of construction. There was a sign that talked about some work to make more water flow? I don't know. It isn't surrounded by so much commercial development like Niagara, but the dam has definitely altered the waterflow. The Milner dam was built in 1905 for irrigation, after Moran painted both his pieces of the falls. Quite differerent than the majestic waterfall in the oil painting especially. The dam and canal system are on the National Register of Historic Places...but it didn't seem that great to an artist wanting to paint the falls.

So I left feeling happy I stopped and happy I didn't try to paint. And, excited for YOSEMITE! Saw some great sky views and a rainbow on my way out to California. Up early tomorrow to get a campsite at Yosemite! Can't believe I'm starting the last leg of my trip.

What the falls used to look like (pre-dam I believe).
Thomas Moran watercolor of Shoshone Falls.
Shoshone Falls on the Snake River oil painting by Thomas Moran.
Snake River
Shoshone Falls
Shoshone Falls, Snake a River, and the dam
Dam construction...see what I did there?
Unique formations around the falls and Snake River.
Driving through Nevada...
...the rain made a lovely rainbow...
...beautiful sun on the clouds...
...and a stunning sunset.




Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Day 47: Tetons to Twin Falls, Idaho (7/21/15)

Not much to report about today - woke up in the beatiful Teton Canyon campground in the Targhee National Forest. Probably the most scenic campsite of the trip, but definitely the creepiest to drive to at night down a long gravel road. I left for Twin Falls, Idaho where Shoshone Falls (the Niargara Falls of the West, I've heard) are located. Thomas Moran painted the falls, and it's on my way to Yosemite, so I decided to stop here. I ~treated~ myself to a night in a Super 8 and I was very excited to take a shower (it had been a few days at vault toilet campsites) and do laundry (they have laundry at the hotel, score!) and wash my dishes. I decided after I got here to relax a bit today and paint the falls tomorrow, then continue on as far as I can to Yosemite. I was way too excited to pull into town and see Target, Old Navy, Barnes and Noble...etc, etc. I feel like this world (like when I saw Terminator) is the "other" and the outdoors/park world is the "normal." (If that makes sense). So today I was excited to see "civilization" but tomorrow I will be just as happy to go spend a day at a waterfall.

Beautiful campsite this morning.
Goodbye Tetons!


Day 46: Norris & Midway Geyser Basins and The Three Tetons (7/20/15)

Today was my last morning in Yellowstone! I woke up and the feeding frenzy for a campsite in Norris was on. Within minutes of me breaking down my tent (up for appearances sake only) a family staked their claim on my campsite. I left and knew I wanted to camp at Teton Canyon where there are a few walk in I was weighing getting their early to get a site with wanting to see a few more things in Yellowstone before I left. Yellowstone won because YOYO. (You Only Yellowstone Once) (My motto for the day) (but really I hope I come back someday with Dan).

So I went to Norris Geyser Basin and I was not sorry that I went. These hot springs and thermal features and mud pots keep getting stranger and more beautiful. I only toured the short loop...but the "porcelain pools" are aptly named for their light blue milky smooth color and "texture" (if water can have a texture). Just really stunning. You look out across this basin and there are the beautiful blues I described and different puffs of smoke and steam blowing in the wind and some hearty pines scattered nearby, becoming more dense in the distance. There are some dead white/gray trees too that contrast with the green pines. It is such an unusual sight to behold and I really just stand there in awe and wonder, not really needing or wanting to know how or why, but marveling that it just is.

I did a sketch here because it was a nice scene with mountains and trees in the background behind Crackling Lake. I have been contemplating why I haven't been more compelled to paint these geysers and hydrothermal features...I think it's because with many there isn't much of a "scene" involved. With the boardwalks limiting, it is difficult to get a good angle for a compositionally compelling artwork, since it's not that interesting just to look down at a pool of water (even if the colors are fascinating). Maybe I am just making excuses. I also feel like these features beg to be depicted with watercolors. Moran was such a skilled watercolorist, I didn't even appreciate until this trip, after trying to do some myself. Part of me wishes I had painted one of the hot pools with my oil paint, other than Old Faithful. But because of Moran, I tried something new and different than I would have otherwise. Maybe I'll take a watercolor class and hone my quick, portable painted sketch skills (because it really is nice how much lighter and portable my watercolor travel set is).

After talking with a ranger at Norris, I decided to make one more stop at Midway Geyser Basin before I left to see Excelsior Geyser, which Moran painted. (YOYO). It was packed. Although I woke up feeling *much* better this morning, I felt a little queasy at Midway. So I decided not to sketch and to snap some photos a la William Henry Jackson and walk around. Again, Moran brought me to a beautiful spot I seriously thought about skipping. The geyser crater was like something out of the Land Before Time. (They should really make one with a hot springs/geysers theme...). I thought Little Foot and the gang would come out at any second. Anyway it is a spectacular blue and really looks like a meteor came down and smashed the crater into the ground. Beyond the crater is Grand Prismatic Spring which is the most spectacularly colored features I saw in Yellowstone. It's like a living rainbow. Most of the colors are created by bacteria that thrive off the super hot conditions. Again, biology baffles me.

I made my way to the Tetons after this final stop on my YOYO tour. Much to my regret I didn't get a selfie with the Yellowstone park sign. There was no safe way to get to it when I drove out the West exit. I made my way back to the Tetons and thankfully secured a spot at Teton Canyon campground. This is a national forest campground and the campground hosts were...interesting. Nice enough but as a national forest suggests it's a bit more secluded and off the beaten path (about 8 miles on a gravel road). After this stop I made my way to Jackson to meet a fellow Sycamore High School grad and marching band alum! I hadn't seen or really talked to Kathryn since high school but she sent me a Facebook message (isn't social media wonderful sometimes) that she's living in Jackson. So I was like we need to meet up when I'm back by the Tetons! We had awesome Thai food which was a welcome variety to my chicken noodle soup diet of the past week and grabbed ice cream at Haagen Daas afterwards. I told her about my trip and my upcoming nuptials, and she told me about living in Alaska for a summer (seriously straight off an Alaska Discovery show), working in Jackson, and her plans for grad school in the fall at IUPUI. We also each had some funny stories from college of other students getting too intoxicated.

After this lovely reunion Dan and I fought in the Battle of the Cell Phone Service and is spotty out here even if it says you have five bars and full data. I went up to the overlook I considered painting at when I was here last at Grand Targhee Resort. It was a beautiful view and the setting sun illuminated the mountains. Again...I saw what Moran saw. I saw the glow he captured in his paintings of the Tetons, and more specifically these three Tetons. The light changed rapidly as it does when the sun it setting, but I found it most magical right before it stopped lighting the mountains. It was this pinkish hue and cast a purple glow on the rest of the mountains. Definitely worth the trip back.

So, reflecting on my time in Yellowstone and following Thomas Moran. There are many books and materials I wanted to read and reference on this leg of the trip. I was thinking about trying to read more and incorporate the information into the remaining blog posts...but I need to cut my losses and keep moving forward. I don't want to be reading about Moran when I want to be reading John Muir. I just decided to be okay with it. I'll have things to read and keep me inspired when I'm home in my studio, and I want to focus on being present and processing my experiences day to day for the rest of my trip. Anyway...Moran. In his oil paintings I feel like he is a master sky painter, especially wispy cirrus (?) clouds. That being said I regret doing zero cloud or sky studies while I was in Yellowstone. I tried plein air watercolor for the first time because of Moran's work...I was challenged to paint a visually complex canyon, which resulted in two of my best paintings from the trip. I saw geysers and hydrothermal features, and although I didn't paint as many as I wanted to, I saw and experienced them through the eyes of an artist. Their color is unusual and remarkable. I realized how much I love mountains by spending time away from mountains. Yellowstone is "strange and mysterious" and not quite the Artist Mecca I thought it would be (excluding the canyon). Perhaps I will go back someday with watercolor skills and no illness and feel differently about making art there. I am happy, too, that Moran brought me to the Idaho side of the Tetons. Although not as spectacular as the Jackson Hole side, they were worth visiting and especially worth seeing as the sun set. Moran was also a lifelong artist and traveler of the west. He painted much more than the Tetons and Yellowstone, places I actively look forward to visiting and painting myself. Behind Moran, same with all these artists, was a loving and supportive spouse, and I am ever thankful to the people who make what I'm doing possible. Thank you, Moran, for challenging me in Yellowstone.

Norris Geyser Basin, Porcelain Basin.
Ledge Geyser
The most incredible blue! I can't believe this color exists here in nature.
So mysterious and beautiful...
The mystery continues...runoff from Pinwheel and Whirligig Geysers.
Crackling Lake
A little mud pot.
I think those are the Gallatin Mountains in the background.
Loved the view with the hot lake and mountains.
Porcelain Basin
Porcelain Basin
Midway Geyser Basin
Excelsior Geyser Crater
Aka the Land Before Time
I know the water is scalding hot...but doesn't it look inviting? Like a giant hot tub?
Grand Prismatic Spring
Very prismatic - the whole rainbow almost.
Much prisma!
It got even more colorful...those bacteria mats, at it again.
Alright nature, I'm impressed.
Ahh, back to the Tetons. Definitely the light Moran saw.
Beautiful colors on the clouds.
Life is good.
So happy I came back...The Three Tetons at sunset.
Thank you, Thomas Moran... <3



Day 45: Hot Hot Hot (springs) (7/19/15)

I woke up and realized this is my last full day in Yellowstone. I felt uneasy about this at first, like there was still so much left to do, but as the day went on I felt more comfortable and ready to move on. Today I wanted to tour the "hot" features where Moran painted so many watercolors. I started off at the Lower Geyser basin or "Fountain Paint Pot." One of the first things you see is this gorgeous orange and rust colored field called a Bacterial Mat. The color is from cyanobacteria (again crazy that the vibrant color is from living organisms!). Silex Spring is a beautiful hot spring beyond the bacterial mat. So compelling in fact that I almost didn't notice the BISON sitting behind me. He was just chillin...I can see why people think these animals are slow and docile. They really are not...I read in a visitor center about four attacks this summer due to people being careless and getting too close to the animals. Sure enough while I was there an idiot put his backpack right next to the bison's face which prompted it to quickly stand up and walk away. He lamented the fact that he'd almost got the coolest shot super close to his face...dude you should be happy you weren't bucked ten feet in the air!!! Anyway before this incident I sketched Mr. Bison because he was being a perfect model.

After I turned around and sketched Silex Spring, trying out an ink pen and watercolor technique. It worked okay. A little better than just the watercolor. Maybe I am making excuses but like I've said before, these boardwalks are just so crowded that I can't imagine setting up my oil paints here. If I could do Yellowstone all over again, without a cold, I would have gotten up super early to get to some of these locations before the crowds rushed in. I continued on to Clepsydra Geyser which is surrounded by a great view. It is one of the first times I felt like I was seeing the whole scene of a Thomas Moran watercolor. You can see trees in the distance and the geyser is placed in a scene, instead of walking on a boardwalk, seeing the geyser, walking to the next thing, etc. I took notes because it is the kind of geyser scene I'd want to paint. A note about the dead pines here - they are called "Bobby Socks" trees because the white solidified portions of the dead tree resemble the upper cuff of bobby socks from the 1940s and 1950s.

Next I drove Firehole Lake Drive which was quite peaceful and not crowded after the hoards of tourists at a Fountain Paint Pot. No RVs allowed either so I think it cut down on some traffic. I don't think I would ever want an RV, but I'd be on board with a real camper van. They make them so the top comes up and some have kitchens too (I've seen a lot for rent). With a family, I think good old fashioned camping is awesome. Anyway...lots of great sights to be seen on this drive, as you will see in the pictures. I didn't stop to sketch or paint because I wanted to get back to the Old Faithful area to paint two geysers I know Thomas Moran painted.

So back to Castle Geyser I went, and walked along many other hot springs and geysers on my way to Grotto Geyser. Castle Geyser had lovely colored light and shadows as the sun set. Grotto Geyser was churning and bubbling and making a sound that made me think of Ursula from The Little Mermaid. It just looks grotto-like too, more so than in Moran's painting. Moran's paintings of both geysers are both more developed than mine but I tried my best with watercolor/cold/limited time. Back to the Tetons tomorrow!

Two lonely Bobby Socks trees.
Bacteria Mat
Insanely vibrant rusty red!
Mr. Bison, relaxing at the hot springs.
He sat so nicely...I had to sketch him.
Silex Spring
Watercolor and pen sketch of Silex Spring.
New relaxing position for Mr. the background you can see the idiot tourist who got way to close, causing Mr. Bison to get up and leave.
Fountain Paint Pot, bubbling away.
Earth or Mars?
Red Spouter fumarole.
Leather Pool.
Jet Geyser
Clepsydra Geyser
Clepsydra Geyser
Sketch of Clepsydra Geyser with Porcupine Hills and Gallatin Range in the distance.
Bobby Socks trees.
Dead trees selfie!
Firehole Spring on the Firehole Lake Drive.
Firehole Spring
My ride or die.
Surprise Pool.
Great Fountain Geyser.
It's a huge geyser!
White Dome Geyser.
Largest hot spring in this area, Firehole Lake. It averages 158 degrees!
Firehole Lake
Finished a sketch back at Castle Geyser.
Moran's watercolor of Castle Geyser on top, and Jackson's photograph of the same spot.
Color image of Moran's "Castle Geyser."
Sawmill Geyser.
Beauty Pool
Grotto Geyser...straight out of the Ursula scene from the Little Mermaid.
My travel watercolor set...the brush barrel holds water. It's a fantastic invention for on the go painting.
Grotto Geyser...just after sunset.
"The Grotto Geyser" by Thomas Moran.