Archive for hiking

Beautiful Bighorn Canyon NRA

Posted in Art, Artist Residency, Drawing, flora and fauna, historic sites, Inspiring People, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, National Parks, Personal History, Soul Food, Wanderings, wild creatures, Woodblock Printing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2016 by WanderArtist

One awesome benefit of being awarded artist residencies in national parks is discovering and falling in love with new places! This recently happened to us at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Montana/Wyoming. We stayed at historic Ewing-Snell Ranch about twenty miles north of the Park Visitor Center in Lovell, WY. There are numerous visually and historically interesting structures at Bighorn, with Ewing-Snell being the one continually inhabited until most recently. Many of the ranch buildings have been lovingly restored over the last 30 years. Until this past autumn Ewing-Snell was the only one still used as a residence by the park service and it was provided to us as part of the artist residency. Sadly, the ranch burned to the ground on December 9, 2015. We feel very fortunate to have stayed at this wonderfully restored historic building, and we are extremely sad that it is gone.

With my parents, who were visiting from Lincoln, Nebraska, we had the amazing experience of watching the supermoon eclipse from the porch of Ewing-Snell Ranch. Since no street lights were visible in any direction we enjoyed a clear and open view of the moon as it put on an amazing show, rising heavenward over the vast expanse of park land. It is truly a memory we will cherish for the rest of our lives. In light of the burning to the ground of the ranch merely weeks later, we had only an inkling of how truly lucky we were to be there at that moment in time.

Ewing-Snell porch

Ewing-Snell porch

Over the course of our two week stay at Bighorn I worked on a woodblock print representing one perspective of the park. It was not an easy place to narrow down to merely one image simple enough for a woodblock print… So many interesting cabins, canyons, horses, bighorn sheep, mountains and vast panoramic vistas! We visited all of the historic ranches, and saw many of the wild horses that live in the canyon and the Pryor Mountains that flank the western edge of the park… we wandered up into the Bighorn Mountains on the eastern edge of the park where we witnessed the ranchers herding their livestock down the mountain from summer grazing on Forest Service lands. We also had the humbling experience of spending several hours transfixed by the amazingly tangible energy at an ancient power spot called Medicine Wheel. Bighorn Canyon and its surrounding area is a very magical and humbling place. Stay tuned for a future posting about this amazing place.

Lockhart Ranch and its owner, Caroline Lockhart, held my attention early in our visit. Lockhart was probably the talk of the town (small as it was) when she bought land and began ranching in the Dryhead region (now part of Bighorn Canyon NRA). One of the quotes from this city slicker and author/newspaper owner about living there was “My job is writing books and the last thing I had in mind when I came to the Dryhead was filing on land or engaging in the cattle business, and certainly not locating in a country where a fresh track in the main-travelled road is an event.” Though likely scandalous to some she never married, and she surely enjoyed being the person in charge – of her ranch and of her own destiny.

Lockhart apparently never planned to own a ranch but bought L/♥ (her brand) in 1926 when the owner defaulted on a loan she had made to him. The ranch was then just 160 acres but she expanded it to over 6,000 by 1952 when she finally decided to make Cody, Wyoming her permanent home. She raised cattle, kept a lover at times, wrote books and made an excellent living on the ranch. Truly an inspiration for the liberated woman!

As part of my Find Your Park Through Art weekend at Bighorn Canyon a handful of artists joined together to offer workshops and to hike, paint, photograph and draw together in some of the interesting sites in the park. I met some lifelong friends while working together to create a fun and informative weekend for participants. Painter Stephanie Rose led a workshop at Ewing-Snell on plein air painting, and Photographer Marilyn Feather led a sunrise trip to photograph the canyon with other participants. Both were full of energy, freely dispensing tips and sharing knowledge of their subjects, and were truly a pleasure to work with. Marilyn even shared Ewing-Snell with us for about four nights, dodging the local black bear and enjoying the comforts of a wonderfully remote home base.

I led a group into Hillsboro Ranch to draw, photograph and paint on the final morning of the Find Your Park Through Art weekend. Although my Bighorn woodblock print depicts a building at Lockhart Ranch, Hillsboro wound up being a favorite place, mainly for the variety of interesting structures, but also because of the stories of mountain lions seen in the canyon. When our group arrived at the ranch we soon discovered a domestic cat that had somehow made its way to this remote spot and was very happy for our attention. When we left Hillsboro that day one of the group members, realizing that the kitty could easily end up as a cougar snack, decided to adopt her and a few of us happily took turns carrying her out to the trailhead. We were all relieved to get her away from the wild creatures! Blackpaw now leads a happy life with as much food and love as any cat could hope for!

After our day at Hillsboro we returned to Ewing-Snell where I did a demonstration of woodblock printing for an inquisitive group. As I said, we fell in love with Bighorn Canyon and the surrounding mountains, and we hope to return and explore for a longer time in the future. I only regret that we will not be able to stay at Ewing-Snell Ranch again. This blog post is dedicated to the park staff who spent many hours lovingly restoring all of the buildings at Bighorn. We all appreciate your efforts and expertise, and we too were very sad to learn of the demise of this special historic gem.

Layout Creek Avian Escort

Posted in Artist Residency, flora and fauna, Living Simply, National Parks, Personal History, Soul Food, Wanderings with tags , , , , , , , on October 3, 2015 by WanderArtist

A 46 second video of a recent hike… listen for the bird and see if you can tell what it is! He was mostly grey, with light circles around the eyes, some striping on the wings and tail, a lighter underside… about 6 inches tall.

Enjoy!


Find Your Park Through Art !!

Posted in Art, Artist Residency, Drawing, flora and fauna, historic sites, Ideas, National Parks, Personal History, Wanderings, Woodblock Printing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2015 by WanderArtist

Find your park through art poster

The Ancient Art of Horseshoe Canyon

Posted in American Indian, historic sites, National Parks, petroglyphs, pictographs, Soul Food, Southwestern US, Wanderings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2015 by WanderArtist

Canyonlands National Park in Utah is an amazing destination for people who enjoy solitude, desert environments, hiking, camping, mountain biking, archeology and more. The park is composed of four distinct zones – Island in the Sky, the Maze, the Needles, and the series of rivers that divide these districts – including the Colorado River. It is a huge expanse of land – 527 square miles – and it simply cannot be covered in one day, in one week, or even in one month.  Canyonlands gets an average of 440,000 visitors each year, yet many of the people who pass through the park never see what I consider to be one the most fascinating and inspiring places in the entire world. It’s a site called the Great Gallery, located deep in the very remote Horseshoe Canyon, that I had dreamed of seeing for a long time before first taking the opportunity to visit some 20 years ago. This isolated canyon can be found in the Maze District and receives only about 3% of the parks annual visitors. It’s a great place to “get away from it all.” In fact, Wikipedia calls it “one of the most remote and inaccessible areas of the United States”.

Visiting the Great Gallery takes determination and time. It’s not really close to anywhere! Moab, Utah, the nearest town of significant size, is about 3 hours away. After nearly 2 hours of paved road, the final leg of the trip begins on a very rough dirt road dotted with steep dips and potholes the size of a small car! The “graded” dirt road is 30 miles long, and if you take it late in the season (i.e. months after the last time it was graded) you might think it’s not maintained at all. The washboard surface will rattle one’s teeth! It can be navigated in a car – carefully, slowly… but a high clearance vehicle is better. If you’re patient enough, and don’t mind risking a broken axle, you might even drive in pulling your Airstream trailer (more on this later).

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As I mentioned, the first time I visited Horseshoe Canyon was 20 years ago. We drove in with a large group, camped on the canyon rim, and hiked down to the Great Gallery the next morning. The descent down into the canyon is 780 vertical feet, following along old mineral exploration roads over slick rock and sandy trails, which provide very little shade. The Great Gallery itself is a 3.5 mile hike from the canyon rim, meandering upstream along the wash. The hike is challenging in that most of the way along the canyon floor one is walking in soft sand, which can sap one’s energy after only a few miles. Upon returning down the canyon from the rock art sites you have to then scale up that 780 foot canyon wall! It is certainly a long day but well worth the effort and exhaustion.

a cairn along the trail

During that first visit I finally arrived at the Great Gallery very excited to see rock art I had studied in school years before but, until that time, had only seen photos of… When I arrived at the site I was shocked to discover that, by chance, I happened to know the steward who was on duty down in the remote canyon!  The ranger, Craig Root, owned a ski school where I had worked the winter before my visit. Needless to say, after greeting him and discussing at length the gallery of amazing work, we invited him to join us for dinner at the canyon rim later that night. His was a lonely post and I think he enjoyed our company and antics that evening.

Craig below a portion of the Great Gallery in the 1990s

In the autumn of 2014 we visited this ancient site again. We arrived at the canyon rim before sunset, prepared our gear for the hike, had some dinner and tried to get some rest before our long next day. We felt a tad lonely as we sat in the deep silence with just a few birds (one of which was the relatively rare Loggerhead Shrike) and a couple of parked vehicles, one of which, to our great surprise, was a relatively new medium-sized Airstream trailer! It belonged to the volunteer currently stationed at the Great Gallery, and it was his last day there – the busiest part of the season had drawn to a close. We spoke to him for a short time when he came back out of the canyon that evening. He said when he had driven in a few weeks earlier he had tried various methods to minimize the teeth rattling, including driving really fast over the washboard parts of the road … but that hadn’t worked! So he finally slowed his pace and took his time. I would have loved to have seen him hauling his rig along the 30 miles of challenging road back out to the paved road the next day but we had already begun hiking toward the Great Gallery when he left.

a loggerhead shrike guarding the trailhead

This two minute video shows part of the trail down the canyon wall. The clip begins about 30-40 minutes after we began our hike at the canyon rim. It shows the gate that prevents livestock (and motorized vehicles) from wandering into the canyon, and the first full view down into the wash. The trail we followed toward the rock art is shown heading down the wash to the right. The trail you see across the canyon floor  leads down from the other side and another part of the Maze District.

Autumn color had begun appearing in the cottonwoods and other deciduous trees in the canyon, and the hike into the wash was dry and relatively easy going (at least on the way in… it would feel far more difficult to our tired bodies on the way back to our campsite that evening). Stopping frequently to explore and take photos, we saw a few handfuls of people later in the morning as they caught up with us on the trail.

Though the Great Gallery, which is about 300 feet long and consists of an estimated 80 figures, is really the visual “plum” of this trip, there are other smaller groups of petroglyphs and pictographs along the way that are well worth experiencing and photographing.

The petroglyphs and pictographs in Horseshoe Canyon are done mostly in the Barrier Canyon Style, dating from approximately 2,000 BC to 800 AD, during what is called the Archaic Period. (These dates I include merely to suggest how very long this has been a significant place to humans… the timespan is theoretical and this site could be significantly older, or younger.) There is newer artwork done by other groups who passed through as recently as 1300 AD. Some artifacts found in the area, however, date as far back as 9,000-7,000 BC! The canyon was basically abandoned by Indians by 1300. These amazing petroglyphs and pictographs have been well preserved and protected by the sheer remote inaccessibility of the canyon… and more recently by the National Park Service. Volunteers are stationed in the canyon during the busy season from spring through autumn. They hike down the wash each day, answer questions, direct visitors to leaflets with information stored in boxes (along with binoculars to enable viewers to get a close-up view without having to closely approach the panels).

This site captivated me so when I studied it in college because of mysterious appearance and sheer size of many of the figures. The paintings indicate to many who have studied them that these people were not only trying to convey a message, but also probably simply enjoyed the medium of painting. The images are often human-sized or larger, often armless, with interesting and varied designs comprising the body of the figure. There are much smaller, more recent additions done by Fremont and Ancestral Puebloan people that are lyrical, life-like and beautiful. I was deeply interested in symbols and American Indian art and this site represented an exciting adventure that only served to enhance the general intrigue.

Theories about the meaning of the figures and the reasons these early people would take the time to create so many panels in the Barrier Canyon Style abound. Were they recording some important event in their history? Creating visual prayers to ensure the survival of their people? We’ll never know for sure… I am less interested in theorizing on a meaning I can never fully verify than I am in merely standing in awe of their legacy, embracing the very mysteries, and sharing the images and impressions with friends. It is important for me to know that these places exist, and that others have made it their life work to help preserve them.

After a long, tiring, and exciting day exploring Horseshoe Canyon we joked that every sound outside our van that evening was the Archaic People coming for a visit. The stars were awe-inspiring and any other human habitation seemed so far away. A few people pulled in to the parking area after dark and camped in preparation for their canyon experience the next day. We vowed to return to this magical place while our bodies would still carry us. Here are links to some more interesting reading about the archeology of Horseshoe Canyon… and another informative article about the Barrier Canyon Style.

Ancient Images on Red Rock

Posted in flora and fauna, historic sites, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, petroglyphs, Southwestern US, Wanderings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2014 by WanderArtist

Zion National Park is an amazing place… With so much beauty in the form of stone, water, flora and fauna, it is simply one of my favorite places in the world. One can spend weeks in Zion exploring different hikes and canyons every day, yet barely scratch the surface of what the place has to offer. Visitors often associate the park with only the main canyon and the north fork of the Virgin River. Popular hikes in Zion Canyon include Angels Landing and Weeping Rock. Historic Zion Park Lodge is also located in the main canyon. The first lodge, which was built in the 1920s and burned down in 1966, was speedily rebuilt that year to accommodate guests as soon as possible. That replacement was remodeled in 1990 to more closely resemble the original. It does not have the grand facade of larger national park hotels, like the Yellowstone Lodge, blending instead into the landscape of the narrow canyon in a subtly pleasing way.

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Union Pacific Motor Coaches at the original Zion Lodge, ca. 1929, photo courtesy of the Library of Congress archives

Though I truly love the main canyon, and sites like the Temple of Sinewava framed by the gorgeous cottonwood trees that thrive there, when hiking and exploring I prefer wandering the canyons on the east side of Zion. There are sublime sights in the east canyons that include the Desert Bighorn Sheep, reintroduced to the park in the early 70’s and now thriving. Because it is such a vast and enthralling area, too immense to cover in a blog entry, I will focus here on just one  hike, one of hundreds of very interesting places within the park.

With the many amazing hikes, washes, iron intrusions, canyons, hoodoos, autumn trees, rivers and slot canyons commanding one’s attention, it is easy to simply pass by the small spaces, including the signs of human life from long ago. Even those who have often visited Zion National Park may not have seen the petroglyph panels in the eastern section along the Zion – Mount Carmel Highway.  According to some folks there are hundreds of rock art sites in Zion, but this area is likely the most well-known and easiest to access from the road. The panels are found by walking through a beautiful stone culvert along a wash, and are guarded by extremely tall pine trees. This site is commonly referred to as Petroglyph Canyon. (You can find more specific information about location by searching the web.)

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Historic image of a stone-faced culvert in Zion, similar to the one along the stream near the rock art panel. Courtesy of Library of Congress archives

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The wall itself is at least 100 feet tall – nearly plum, vertical, red rock ~ pocked with erosion and framed by scrub maples and tall pines. The petroglyphs may be as old as 7,000 years, as human habitation has been traced back that far in the Zion area to ancient Puebloan people (Anasazi and Fremont) as well as ancestors of the Southern Paiute. The petroglyphs found on these rocks were likely made by some or all of these groups over generations.

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There is very little protection for this site but for a general policy of secrecy – just a simple and low wooden fence, and signs warning about consequences of damaging the petroglyphs. Graffiti is present, but not as bad as at some sites I have explored in the southwest. This panel is not a secret, but there are no signs leading visitors to the wall, nor will most Rangers give directions to visitors… Some sites in the park are closed due to vandalism. Sad.

Gazing at the images one can’t help but wonder what they meant to the people creating them… Was it deeper than ‘mere doodling’? Is there meaning tied to sun and moon cycles like other rock art sites in the southwest? What might we find for shadows and light on the spiral below if we returned on a solstice?

I can’t help but imagine the people pecking these images into the walls, with perhaps their family and friends watching them from nearby ~ what were the others doing while the image creators worked? Crafting sandals? Foraging? Preparing food? Or was this conducted in secret, with just a chosen few working on the symbols as perhaps part of a prayer to benefit the group? The time taken to make them was so precious for ancient people in a life that was relatively short and full of very hard work. My own feeling is that these creations hold a depth of meaning we may never fully comprehend.

A Quick Autumn Romp

Posted in Adirondacks, flora and fauna, Local Roaming, Wanderings with tags , , , , , , , on October 10, 2013 by WanderArtist

The fall color is fast fading here in the North Country… we’ve had a wonderful stretch of weather to go out and enjoy it, however! Thought I’d share a quick tour of autumn 2013 through my camera lens…

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Whiteface Mountain on the left

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on the Saranac River

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John Brown’s Farm

Posted in Adirondacks, flora and fauna, historic sites, Inspiring People, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Local Roaming, Wanderings with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2013 by WanderArtist

On a beautiful summer day I recently visited a favorite spot in the Adirondack Mountains in North Elba (near Lake Placid) for a walk back in time. Abolitionist John Brown once farmed here and his old homestead is now a New York State Historic site. John Brown and two of his sons bought the property in 1849 in order to establish a farm for freed slaves. He is best known for seizing the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1859 in hopes of using the weapons to lead an armed slave revolt. It was not a successful raid and he and four others were tried and hanged for the crime. He is buried at the farm along with an estimated eleven of the 21 men who participated in the raid at Harpers Ferry. Ten men in Brown’s group were killed and they killed four in the raid.

Incidentally, the fort was recaptured by a company of Marines under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee of the United States Army. Owen Brown, John’s third son, escaped capture and eventually served as an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War. He died at the age of 64 in Pasadena, CA – where it is said that 2,000 mourners marched at his funeral.

JohnBrownLibCon

Photograph of John Brown from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

John Brown was raised by his father to believe that slavery was a sin against God. Through his struggle in opposing armed pro-slavery advocates in Kansas he came to believe that pacifism was not going to lead to the freedom of slaves in the United States, only armed rebellion. He hoped for a relatively bloodless rebellion and would have been appalled at the toll the Civil War took in human lives.

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Engraving of the Harpers Ferry Insurrection from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

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The ornate iron fence surrounding the graveyard at John Brown’s Farm

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IMG_1206_2“His soul goes marching on”

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Erected in May 1935 this eight foot tall sculpture depicts Brown walking with a young former slave. The New York Herald Tribune stated at the time that over “1,500 people, many of them Negro pilgrims to the last resting place of John Brown, crowded about the statue.” for the unveiling.

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Above is a Seneca Ray Stoddard photograph of the graveyard taken in 1896. It was not until a few years after this photo was taken that John Brown’s son, Oliver and the remains of eight or nine other men from his group (killed in the raid) were moved to this site from a shallow grave at Harpers Ferry.

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The two plaques give (on left) a brief life history of John Brown and a listing of those buried here with him, erected in 1916… The tablet on the right pays tribute to the women of the Brown family who made their own sacrifices in the name of freedom, erected in 1946.

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The above headstone has five names inscribed and was originally carved for the grandfather of the abolitionist – Captain John Brown who died in1776 while serving in the Continental Army (buried in Connecticut) – his headstone was replaced and his grandson had this old one sent to his farm in North Elba in 1858. It now serves as the headstone for John Brown and three of his sons – Frederick (who died and was buried in Kansas in 1856), Oliver and Watson. Brown requested that his name and those of Oliver and Watson be carved on the stone on the morning of his execution… OLIVER BROWN Born Mar. 9, 1839, was Killed at Harpers Ferry Oct. 17, 1859  WATSON BROWN Born Oct. 7, 1835, was wounded at Harpers Ferry Oct. 17 & Died Oct. 19, 1859

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The handsome iron fence, beyond it you can see the headstones and a large boulder with the two bronze plaques.

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The Brown home was open for tours on this summer day. On the left and right you can see scaffolding… The cedar shingle roof was being replaced, the property is very well-kept. It’s a great place for a walk or cross country ski on the two mile loop trail wandering through the woods beyond the pond and out buildings.

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The photo above was taken looking back toward the house (at left) and the gravesite and iron fence. In the far right are the ski jumps built for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

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A handsome out-building at the farm

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These berries were plentiful at the start of the walking trail

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The leaf canopy looked to me like gorgeous stained glass

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A feather found along the way

For much more detailed information about the headstones and memorials at John Brown’s Farm check out this genealogy website  http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~frgen/essex/north_elba/john_brown.htm

John Brown was ahead of his time, and was not afraid to take action to defend the freedom of all men. He felt that armed insurrection was the only way to end slavery in the United States. Historians agree that his raid on Harpers Ferry led to tensions that precipitated the secession of southern states and eventually to the US Civil War.

“Had I interfered in the manner which I admit, and which I admit has been fairly proved (for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of the witnesses who have testified in this case), had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends, either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.

This court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament. That teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to “remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them.” I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say, I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit; so let it be done!”

— Excerpt from a speech given by John Brown in court after his conviction, November 2, 1859

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