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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Day 58 & 59: Merced to Yosemite (8/1/15, 8/2/15)

Day 58 consisted of grocery shopping, driving to a small town outside Yosemite, and seeing Mission Impossible. Day 59 was more exciting because we got to YOSEMITE! And we got a campsite at Tamarack Flat, a really beautiful spot next to a granite boulder/hill thing. Next we decided to explore the valley and visit some of the museums and visitor center I'd been waiting to go see with them. A gallery in one museum even had Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt paintings! We ventured on to the Upper and Lower Falls, which still have water, but less than when I started my painting last week. We found a bench and sat for a while and watched the falls...very peaceful. Funny how you can get tired slow-walking through museums all day.

Later that night we went to a program at the park theater (I told you arts are alive here - there's a program every night of the week) called "Ranger Shelton Johnson: Through the Eyes of a Buffalo Soldier." I recognized his picture from the National Parks documentary by Ken Burns. So I wanted to see him! He's basically a celebrity! I maybe should have paid more attention to the subject after his name because the history of the Buffalo Soldier wasn't high on my agenda for this trip. He gave a vivid performance but parts seemed like he was taking an hour and a half to tell a story that could be told in about fifteen minutes.

So, in honor of the documentary that inspired us seeing this show, I want to give a little background on Yosemite that I wasn't able to do with Yellowstone. Yosemite was originally set aside at a state park under the care and control of California, and I believe the third national park after the idea caught on. In the mid and late 1800s, travel to Yosemite required a two day trip from San Fransisco, then a "grueling" 2-3 day trek in the mountains by foot or horseback. Frederick Law Olmsted wrote that Yosemite was "the greatest glory of nature...the union of the deepest sublimity with the deepest beauty." Theodore Roosevelt spent several nights in the park with John Muir, rejecting a lavish banquet and feast that had been planned for him, opting to sleep outdoors. There is also a long history of native peoples who lived and worked in the valley, well known for their elaborate and intricate basket weaving. Again, many different perspectives at play in the history of the park (only briefly touching on a fraction of them). I feel blessed to be here on my own journey.

Tamarack Flat campsite. Recently paved road three miles down to the campsite was a bonus.
Awesome mural in the visitors center.
Me and Muir, again.
Thomas Moran painting of Bridalveil Fall.
Dark and moody Bierstadt painting of the valley at night.
Upper and Lower Falls.
Aww, mom and dad!
Taking it easy at a bench with a view of the falls.
What is that rope/string on the Arrow?
Serenaded by Ranger Shelton Johnson.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Day 57: Parent Pick Up and Muir Woods (7/31/15)

My parents flight was delayed due to mechanical issues, so I had a little more time than originally planned at Angela and Donnie's house today. Which meant I had time to vacuum my car with a shop vac (Angela laughed at how excited I got to see there shop vac when I arrived on Wednesday) and go to a car wash. I also visited Angela and Donnie's daughter Kylie at Starbucks, and she gave me some lemonade refreshers. Am I a lucky lady or what?! Angela gave me so much advice on where to go and hike in Yosemite. She loves Yosemite and hikes Half Dome almost every year. Even during my short time in Yosemite, I share her passion for the park and already know I'll have to come back. I said goodbye to Angela this afternoon, which was bittersweet because she has been so kind to me and I really feel like I've made a life long friend.

The drive to the airport was a little crazy but I successfully retrieved my new travel companions! We wanted to see Muir Woods today before we head back towards Yosemite. Driving through San Fansisco was INSANE. Definitely the craziest driving I've had to do on this trip. We went over the Golden Gate Bridge and it was very foggy so we couldn't see too much of it. Muir Woods was lovely and I'll let the photos speak for themselves. This whole trip I've been playing it very ~fast and loose~ as it is only myself I've had to worry about and I haven't had any real deadlines other than picking them up today. I think it took them a second to adjust to the play it by ear, go with the flow, it's okay if we don't know where we are staying tonight mentality. But we got there! I am adjusting too. We drove out of the city as far as we could that night and found a hotel near Merced. More travel tomorrow and the next few days to Yosemite! Happy to have my mom and dad with me!!

Oh, and I finished my first Moleskine notebook! I've never journaled so much before and I've loved it. Onto a new one. ALSO - even though there was no time or place to get a good picture of the Pacific trip has OFFICIALLY been cross country, ocean to ocean! #blessed

The funniest part of this photo is not my dazed expression, but the fact that my mom took multiple pictures of random vans thinking it was me.
Golden Gate Bridge, covered in fog.
San Fransisco!
Muir Woods
Coming to covers of People Magazine: artist Emily Boutilier and her father Glenn seen vacationing at Muir Woods.
Yay mom and dad!
It would be a lie to say I haven't been tempted...but I would never ever!!
Hey John, I <3 you.
Whoa, I don't have to ask strangers to take my picture!
Mom with a giant redwood.
Gorgeous light on the trees...just have to look up up up to see it.
More great sunlight...
This is the best tree-lover's monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world. (John Muir)
Founders Grove
Many sprouts of the same tree.
All part of the same tree
Kerplunk tree
Zig zag branch
IN one of the redwoods! Thank you photographer mom!



Day 56: John Muir's House in Martinez, CA (7/30/15)

Oh my goodness! I am grateful for so many things staying at Angela and Donnie's house in Martinez, California. I took a hot shower that did not require me to wear flip flops. I used a real towel. I did two loads of laundry in a non-coin operated washer and dryer. I slept in an incredibly comfortable bed. It was a wonderful return to ~civilization~.

Angela, because she is fantastic, took the day off work to show me around Martinez. Our first stop was John Muir's house, which is a national historic site. The orchard is still in tact, more or less, and there was fruit on the trees even though the grass is brown. The house is flanked with large palm trees, which was fun because it really felt like I was in California even though I have been for a week or so. I am a doofus and forgot to put my memory card back in my these photos are from my phone or online. John Muir and his wife and family moved into this house after his wife's father died. The house passed on to several owners before being donated to the park service, so the furnishings are period pieces and not original to the house. What fascinated me was seeing an Albert Bierstadt print, a Thomas Moran print, and a Frederic Church print. Three of my four Admired Artists were also admired by John Muir. It was interesting to see how printmaking made copies of famous paintings readily available in homes across the country. There were several landscape paintings by artist William Blake...I hadn't heard of him before but the paintings were good. I guess he painted more abstractly later in his career and Muir didn't like it. Angela and I got a mini-tour of the house by a very knowledgable historian/volunteer. We went upstairs and saw Muir's "scribble den" where the literary magic happened. As effortless as his words seem, he wrote and rewrote draft after draft of all his essays and books, and papers always littered the floor of the room. Angela and I rang the bell above the attic which totally scared me because I didn't think it would be so loud.

When we finished in the house, we went into the orchard and I ate a peach from one of the many peach trees. It was amazing...eating a peach from John Muir's orchard. All because I happened to be on the same hike as Angela and Donnie on the Fourth of July! Next we went to a frame shop to frame the two paintings she bought. We found an awesome thin black frame with gold trim on the inside. Very elegant and perfectly enhanced both paintings. The framer at the store gave me an *awesome* suggestion for a television series called "Landscapes Through Time with David Dunlop," where he does something very similar to what I'm doing with a variety of artists. I can't wait to check out the series and already saw there's an episode on Frederic Church. Ah! I was so meant to come to Martinez! After our frame shop stop, Angela took me out to lunch at an amazing Thai restaurant.

It is crazy how big our country is. We would talk about different restaurants or stores and go "do you have those here? Do you have those there?" California is very eco-friendly. The local high school runs exclusively off power from solar panels, and many houses have solar panels too. To get your license renewed your car has to pass an emissions test. Just a different mentality than other parts of the country I think. There are lots of brown lawns due to the drought. They very rarely get snow here so summer is their "brown grass" month, where Cincinnati has brown grass all winter (most of the time).

For dinner, Donnie made amazing cheeseburgers with bacon and fruit salad. I haven't eaten much red meat this summer and it was so good. Angela and I stayed up and watched HGTV...probably should have worked more on my blog but it was really nice to relax and enjoy my brief return to civilization. I really, truly cannot say thank you enough to Anglea and Donnie for their hospitality. They immediately treated me like a longtime friend, going above and beyond to accommodate me. (Did I mention Angela cleaned my camelback and I washed all my dishes in an actual dishwasher?!) I am so appreciative. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Big tall palm trees in front of John Muir's House.
Me and Angela! Best host and new friend ever!!
Photo from NPS of the orchard. Different fruit trees were all over. You're allowed to take and eat peaches from the peach trees. The peach tasted amazing!
John Muir in the orchard, back in the day. He planted a giant sequoia here too. It's pretty incredible that it grew in this climate.
Great photo of Muir in his true home.
Muir's scribble den where he wrote many beautiful essays and books. His daughter was alive and saw the room when they first opened the site and said it had to be messier.
Another photo of the house.



Day 55: Hetchy Hetchy Valley & Dam (7/29/15)

I packed up camp this morning and drove to Hetch Hetchy before heading to Martinez. It was a long road to that passed a few campsites and resorts along the way. Much longer to get there than I thought. Somewhere near the dam I realized I didn't have the map showing the valley view hike a ranger recommended. I saw a ranger station symbol near a backpacking parking lot and pulled over. Then things got weird. I walked up to the ranger station and the ranger walked out and asked if I needed something. I asked for a map and he said meet me at my car. Strange...why not in the ranger station right there? THEN, as I was walking out of the ranger station parking area, three SUV/truck cars pulled up and several men with ear radio things came quickly out of the cars. One man went into the station. They all seems to be switching cars and getting out and i just kept walking to the ranger's car. There was another SUV parked outside the parking lot. I asked the two men (both with ear radios) what was going on and they assured me everything was fine. I got a map from the ranger's car after he met me there, and went back to my car. I read the map and realized the hike I wanted to do started back at the entrance station. I decided to drive back and just head out. It was already mid afternoon and the national park secret service caravan weirded me out. I followed their seven car caravan out of the park and drove on to Martinez (in 108 degree heat - yikes!)

I was not too sad about skipping Hetch Hetchy for painting. Bierstadt painted here before the dam was built and the valley looked completely different. John Muir was adamantly against the construction of Hetch-Hetchy dam. He wrote an empassioned essay called "Hetch Hetchy Valley" in defense of its continued preservation. (Tyler - you NEED to read this essay!!!) He describes the valley as "a wonderfully exact counterpart of the Merced Yosemite, not only in its sublime rocks and waterfalls but in the gardens, groves, and meadows of its flowery park-like floor." He talks about the waterfalls, the tall mountain rocks, and paints a compelling picture of "Hetch Hetchy on a sunny day in June, standing waist deep in grass and flowers, while great pines sway dreamily with scarcely perceptible motion." What a dream. Later he describes a waterfall as "air, water, and sunlight woven into stuff that spirits might wear." Muir is truly an artist with his words, and like I've said before, personifies nature in a way for us to connect with the landscape in an even more meaningful way. The dam, to him, was a "grossly destructive commercial scheme" in "one of the greatest of all our natural resources for the uplifting joy and peace and health of the people." And then, possibly one of the best Muir quotes, is tucked in a paragraph of this essay:

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places in play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike. This natural beauty-hunger is made our magnificent National parks...Nature's sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world.

This idea of nature, of valuing and protecting it for its aesthetic beauty and incalculable benefits, is in line with the Hudson River School attitude towards nature. These artists furthered the perception of the American landscape as intrinsically beautiful. Muir ends his essay saying we might was well "dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man."

So, a painting of Hetch Hetchy could have been a neat comparison between how the valley looked then and today...but it wasn't meant to be. This non-painting is for you, John Muir!

Forgot to post this picture yesterday of this squirrel, legs splayed, enjoying a snack on the sidewalk.
Hetch-Hetchy Valley by Bierstadt
Hetch-Hetchy Valley by Bierstadt


Day 54: Upper and Lower Falls (7/28/15)

I took it easy this morning and set off for a shower this morning in the valley. Then I made my way to the Yosemite Art Center to book a watercolor class with my mom next week when my parents join me. There is so much arts programming here! The arts are alive! I think they should have these kinds of art programs every national park. I read somewhere that there is an artist residency in Yosemite but it's been on hold because the house or cabin the artists stayed in sold or something. Seriously, I'll camp!!!

I walked across the Ahwahnee Meadow in search of a Yosemite Falls view. I saw an artist painting with water colors on the way out! Haven't really seen any artists this whole trip. Like I said, the arts are alive in this park. I could see the falls from the busy bike path along the meadow but it was right in the sun. I kept walking, crossed the Sentinal Bridge, and found a tucked away path that led right along the river. It was perfect. Tucked away in the shade, the Merced River flowing in front of me as I worked, and an amazing view of the falls. It was quiet and peaceful, minus a couple families floating by on rafts. You'll notice in the picture of the falls that there's a sharp shadow line...the afternoon sun changes quickly and that shadow kept creeping over as I worked. I'll have to come back another afternoon to finish the painting. The water over the falls could be gone when I come back - so it was important to capture what water is flowing.

The most important thing about today is that it's my last full day by myself. Tomorrow I head to Angela and Donnie's house in Martinez, California for two nights, and then I pick up my parents from the airport in San Francisco! It is pretty surreal. I think every person, at some point in their lives, should take a vacation or trip alone. I have grown in so many ways and truly enjoyed the time by myself. I feel strong, independent, and self sufficient. I have been given the opportunity to test my skills on many levels; with each success my confidence has grown, with each failure and struggle a chance to learn (and learn to quickly forgive myself, being my own best friend on this trip). I had to be decisive and responsible. I discovered the kindness of strangers, some strangers that became lifelong friends, and realized I was rarely alone as I met new people every day. I have friends in art and nature who will keep my company my entire life. "Travel far enough," said David Mitchell, "you meet yourself." Lastly...this quote by artist Nicolas Uribe sums up what I have strived for daily on this trip, and will strive for in my lifelong pursuit of art:

Be moved by what you see, let the way you reflect or react upon your observations be your one and only guide. If you let your life be your story, you will realize you are a fascinating human being. Just be constantly mindful, be respectful of what you feel, be courageous, commit to what you believe in, accept who you are, never compromise and never ever let go.

Half Dome! Never enough photos.
Ahwahnee meadow view of the valley (I think that's the name of the meadow).
Whoa!!! The whole valley must have been filled up. Insane!
Beautiful afternoon on the Merced River painting the Upper and Lower Falls.
Light shifted too back another afternoon to finish.
A stunning spot to spend an afternoon...
Another view of Half Dome in the late afternoon.
Cathedral Rock?
View of the valley from Tioga Road, right before the three tunnels.
Because my hearty van deserves a shout out.
Never did the world make a queen of a girl who hides in houses and dreams without traveling. Roman Payne