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Friday, August 7, 2015

Day 52: Ellery Lake (7/26/15)

I started the morning at Olmsted Point on my way out of the park to paint the Sierra Nevada range (well, a small piece of it). It is named for Frederick Law Olmsted and his son, who both played a role in Yosemite's history as a national park. The air was foggy and/or smokey, and I could barely see Half Dome from the lookout. Everything was blurred out and looked very light blue. I wonder if a fire is nearby. I can really feel that I'm in the high sierras. Vegetation is sparse and hearty (hardy?). There were many glacial erratics, which I learned are solitary boulders that either toppled down slopes onto a glacier or were plucked by a glacier from the bedrock below. Ice carried and deposited these rocks far from their original location. I may have mentioned this before but it looks like a giant gathered a bunch of pebbles in his hand and released them, scattering them randomly about the mountain slope. So you can take your pick between science and my giant story.

Each park had revealed more and more that I want to know, and Yosemite has presented more trees, plants, and mountains to learn. Today I had a lofty and ambiguous goal of painting the "Sierra Nevada range." A ranger recommended painting at Ellery Lake outside the Tioga Road entrance to the park. I stopped at Ellery campground on my way and filled up my water bottles (score). I continued on to Ellery Lake where there is a dam or something along one of the lake edges. There was a great platform to set up all my supplies but it was CRAZY WINDY. Behind me, well basically surrounding me were more great views of the mountains. Minus the incessant wind, it was a super day of painting. I drove back to my campsite and passed through Tuolumne Meadows, then stopped at Olmsted Point again to watch the sun set. It is beautiful on the mountains, changing their color minute by minute. First it is a warm orange light with very blue shadows, then the light gradually turns more pink and the blue shadows become purple as they creep up the mountain. Eventually the entire mountain is cast in cool shadows. The moon glows brighter and brighter as the sun sets in the cloudless sky. Maybe it's the elevation...the moon seems bigger here.

Half Dome is the most distinct mountain face I've seen. It literally appears to be half a dome, with a Curved top and sheer side. Along the ridge are other curved mountains which is such a unique shape for a mountain peak. My map says the granite mountains solidified five miles underground and the above rock eroded away, leaving the granite beneath exposed. I will have to find a visual for this to really get it... #science.

Tonight I read more about Albert Bierstadt's time in Yosemite Valley. I really have been neglecting this reading and it's good to put these paintings I reference in better context. In 1863, Bierstadt traveled west for the second time with author Fitz Hugh Ludlow. I haven't read this far yet to see exactly how it plays out...but Bierstadt ends up marrying Ludlow's wife Rosalie (scandal!!!!). I know you readers will be waiting with baited breath to see how this dramatic love triangle plays out. They stopped in Colorado and a few other places on their way to Yosemite (I believe by horse and covered wagon) and one description says Bierstadt "worked industriously during our stay, making many sketches in pencil and studies in oil - these latter in order to get the colors and shade." It also talks about Bierstadt catching eighteen trout with his bare hands! A man of many skills. Ludlow and Bierstadt went to San Fransisco then Yosemite, and two of Bierstatds painter friends joined them during their stay in the valley. They pitched camp in a meadow on the Merced River, and called it Camp Rosalie (hmmmm foreshadowing their shared love of one woman?!) Ludlum wrote:

Sitting in their divine workshop, by a little after sunrise, our artists began labor in that only method which can ever make a true painter or a living landscape, color studies on the spot; and though I am not here to speak of their results, I will assert that during their seven weeks' camp in the Valley they learned more and gained greater material for future triumphs than they had gotten in all their lives before at the feet of the greatest masters...

I too am learning a great deal during my time here, but am also learning from the "greatest masters" of the Hudson River School. My time here alone is coming to a close, and despite the hassle, I will miss the late night drives to my campsite listening to The National and Eddie Vedder. "Wind in my hair, I feel part of everywhere..." "Leave it to me as I find a way to be / Consider me a satellite forever orbiting..." "And so it goes..."

Olmsted Point
Very hazy view of Half Dome
Glacial erratics at Olmsted Point.
Trail to overlook at Olmsted Point.
There must be a wildfire nearby.
You can barely see Half Dome!
The high Sierras are stunning.
The heartiest of trees grow here.
Loving every second in this park!
The unique bands formed in the granite are so interesting.
Glacial erratics.
No haze or smoke could really dampen this view.
View behind me as I painted today.
Ellery Lake.
Ellery Lake and the Sierra Nevada Range.
Sierra Nevada Mountains by Albert Bierstadt
Sierra Nevada by Albert Bierstadt (might be a different title, not sue how reliable this website is...)
Scene in the Sierra Nevada by Albert Bierstadt
The Sierra Nevadas by Albert Bierstadt
Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains by Bierstadt. This is by far the most spectacular of the Sierra Nevada paintings. The skies have been cloudless since I've been here so it's hard to tell if the clouds are invented for dramatic effect, or if storms rolling in are that incredible.
Contrast between warm and cool.
Coming back in the Tioga Road entrance of the park. I could stop and take pictures this time without the pressure of finding a campsite.
Along Tioga Road. Dana Meadows, I think.
I'll be back for you, JMT.
Mountains over Tenaya Lake.
Setting sun over Tenaya Lake.
Much different view tonight at Olmsted Point Overlook.
Setting sun on Half Dome.
Peaceful and serene sunset.
Super Zoom on the face of Half Dome.
Not to brag...but this is the coolest photo of the moon ever. I was very proud of my little camera. Good job buddy!




  1. Another great blog and wonderful painting!
    Wow! What a moon shot! Ha!
    Love, mom

  2. The west is truly Big Sky Country. You did a fantastic job of capturing the magisty of those stark mountains. Emily, you have great skill and talent - keep up the wonderful work! Q

  3. Your writing has gotten better and better. I love this collection of photos, and as always, you have such great awareness for how history, personal experience, and imagery are all blending together in this trip. Emily, I am so excited and so jazzed for you! This is so inspiring!!!