The photo I worked from to help guide this painting was taken a couple of years ago. I’m not sure what made me go back in time; maybe the light effect, maybe the time of year. I wanted to show the light coming in from the background to light up the river with enough contrast with dark areas of the river, to keep it interesting. Things may seem just gray and brown this time of year, but I think the lighting in the winter is tremendous – like a lamp with a dimmer adjustment, yet positioned at a certain angle to still create dramatic effects.
The mind never stops churning, even on a relaxing weekend upstate in the Catskills (NY). The Glen Falls House is where we stayed and everyone was super nice. There are short nature trails on the property, some of which, lead to one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. It’s not a big waterfall, but the surrounding rock formations are hypnotic.
Painting this was FUN. I worked on it a couple of hours after work for a little over a week. The water was the biggest challenge but the scene already offers great contrast between the light coming in through the trees and the darkness underneath the rocks. The Eastern Hemlock stand at the top of the falls really hit home. I love these conifers and who knows how long until they are destroyed by the woolly Adelgid. Finally, I went for more glow and stronger color to depict the funky vibe I feel from the Catskills.
The trail turns eastward and the walker, if walking early in the morning, is rewarded with an illuminated morning view of Boston Mine at Harriman State Park (NY). This old iron mine was last worked just before the 1800’s came to an end. With the sun shining so dramatically over this relic, the walker may be seduced for a closer look into the mine, as I was, but do beware of unsteady rocks and saturated ground within. Best to have a quick look and continue on sauntering.
The sun is many things – a star, a giant sphere of energy and hot plasma, the center of our solar system. I also think of it as the star of aesthetics. It is the main ingredient to a beautiful landscape painting with a rustic old barn; if the direction of light is well represented it is likely a success. A light and dark side is key, but what about temperature and feel? The sun painted on the hillside or riverbank adds a feeling of warmth and comfort to the picture, and the viewer may unknowingly start to smile, as a result.
Another rainy morning. Let’s enjoy a scene from Prospect Rock (along the Appalachian Trail); it suits the current climate!
The sun is the heart of our solar system; it is a driving force behind much of the activity (seasons, climate, currents) and life on earth. Throughout history the sun has been worshiped and debated; ancient civilizations built stone structures (calendars) to mark the sun’s path through the seasons. During the days of Ptolemy, most believed that the sun revolved around the earth. Then, much later, we learned it was the other way around. Today, many people are still excited about the sun, especially during phenomenons like the solar eclipse, but most of the time it sort of goes unnoticed.
This is an exciting time of year to notice the changes! During the next 5 days, I’ll make an attempt to be a bit more mindful of the sun by noticing its intensity and position in the sky. I may try to compare to the sun’s presence a month ago. Each day, I will post a photo taken “into the sun” as a way to reflect on the sun during this time of seasonal transition, when the sun becomes a bit dimmer and more pleasant, like turning down the lamp light in the house for a more relaxing mood. I hope this little 5-day activity inspires us to notice our natural surroundings more often.
Here’s a look back on a great hiking weekend in spring (May)…
We were extra anxious to get the Friday workday over with and head to the Catskill Mountains, but the weather report called for rain all weekend. Didn’t matter, we were determined, even if that meant getting drenched and having to haul a wet tent and wet gear back home. Pruney fingers are a small price to pay for some time in the mountains. On Saturday morning, we woke up excited like kids on Christmas at hit the road (I even skipped my coffee ritual).
A couple hours later we made a left on Prediger Road and parked at the trailhead. It was around 10am, but the parking lot was already at maximum capacity. We registered by signing the book and began marching through the woods via the following loop hike: Devil’s Path (red blazes) to Jimmy Dolan Notch (blue blazes) and back to the parking lot via Devil’s Path. The loop is about 7 miles, but we decided to extend the hike a bit by climbing up to one of the overlooks on the way to Twin Mountain to have our PB&Js. There are about 5 scenic overlooks on this hike including Indian Head Mountain, which has earned our vote as favorite scenic point in the Catskills (so far).
We made sure our rain jackets were easily accessible, but luckily there was no need – the day was cool and overcast and we were fortunate enough to have good visibility at the top – The Hudson River cut through the landscape below, like a long winding mirror, and up above, other peaks purpled out in the distance, rise up into the gray sky. Spruce forests occupy the first few hundred feet at the top of the peaks. It is noticeably cooler in these mountain top spruce forests and the cool moist ground is covered with a diverse array of moss. This is my favorite setting, but likely the most sensitive to recreational use.
On our descent, we were dazzled by two gorgeous types of trillium scattered along the trail sides – Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) and Wake-robin (Trillium erectum). Aside from differences in size and leaves, the Painted Trillium has white petals with crimson veins extending from the base of each petal, whereas, the Wake-robin’s entire flower is maroon or dark-purple. We also found Dutchman’s Breeches (not actual pants, but an herb with flowers that kind of look like dangling teeth), Trout lilies, different species of Violets, and other forest herbs. Lastly, a shrub that we’ve often seen in the mountains – Hobble Bush (Viburnumlantanoids) – was really bursting with color in these last weeks of May. Hobble Bush is a native perennial shrub with two types of flowers – large showy flowers with no stamens or pistils on the outside and little egg shaped flowers toward the center of the flower cluster.
As the hike came to an end we reveled in the fresh spring greenery, which in a few weeks will darken into that deep summer green. It was time to camp – or as some may put it – glamp! After a short drive down a very steep Platte Clove road we arrived at Rip Van Winkle campground – a family style private campground with a heated pool, children’s playgrounds, fishing pond, and many other festivities. Luckily, our campsite was tucked away in a quiet place on the edge of Plattekill Creek in the middle of an Eastern Hemlock stand. I think that Rip himself would have personally selected this site if he were to stay at his campground. There’s something for everyone here and it is the perfect base camp location for day hikers looking to explore the park’s Northeastern peaks and waterfalls.
We relaxed on the creek, read our books, identified some plants, boiled up some ramen noodles, burned a few pieces of birch wood, and then of course the rain finally came. This forced us to brush, put stuff away and retire into the tent for the night. I tried to read a few more pages, but before we knew it we dozed off to the sounds of water falling softly onto our shelter. The worst thing about camping is having to get up out of the tent to pee (especially in the rain). One sleeps remarkably better after overcoming that challenge.
The next morning, another 7 mile loop hike would have been nice, but in reality we needed to head home and get ready for work. But, first we treated ourselves to breakfast at Bread Alone, a bakery in Woodstock, NY. Our local supermarket carries Bread Alone bread, but we soon discovered that they don’t just make bread (alone); they have a delicious breakfast menu, amazing dark coffee, and more. Bellies full and slightly caffeinated, we left the quirky hippie town en route to Jersey with a smile on our faces that read – what a weekend!
Shenandoah National Park
Virginia, USA / Sperrysville, VA
7:35 PM / 25ºF
Cloudy / Windy (approx. 25 MPH)
Moon: Waxing Crescent
Cait and I did not plan to hike Old Rag Mountain today, but we did anyway. Old Rag is no joke – it offers intense rock scrambles, some of the most difficult climbing we have ever done. The next level would be to actually strap on climbing gear. A weather system rolled in as we scrambled closer to the summit; at least 50 mph winds made the climb even more dramatic. You had to hold your ground to make sure you wouldn’t be knocked over.
The rocks at the top of Old Rag are over a billion years old. (basement rocks) These rocks make up the Grenville Mountains (the ancestral mountain chain before the Appalachian Mountains formed). After battling the wind and surviving the summit, we made our way down the trail to the Old Rag Shelter where we ate our PB&J. Someone left a few logs still smoldering and we were able to warm our hands and butts. Many of the trees have started to flower and others were leafing out. (dogwoods, striped maple, elm, eastern red buds) We also found a gorgeous large flowering Trillium (trillium grandiflorum) on the way down.
Coming down from the adrenaline rush of such a challenging hike, we made our way back to the car sure to snap a few pictures and get some video on the drive out as the sunlight perfectly danced along the newly bloomed redbuds and the open green meadows.