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                Wandering About the Pacific Northwest

During autumn, 2013, Karen and I decided to wander around the left coast (stretching the definition of coast since I ventured as far east as Idaho and Montana).  Karen headed even further east to Iowa and Wisconsin for a few weeks at the end of the trip -- minus her plein air painter husband, but you'll have to read about that part on our blog, Alaska and Beyond Through Artists' Eyes since this website mostly concentrates on our lives with paintbrush in hand.  Yes, Karen did take her brushes east (as usual) and as usual they stayed dry.


          Rialto Beach Foam                  Karen and Mandy Reunion                Montana Back Road


                     Cape Meares Shoreline   9 x 12 inches   Alkyd on Raymar Panel   $195

I happily dug out my paints when we "landed" in a
vacation rental at Cape Meares, Oregon.  Finally -- a base from which to leisurely explore the wild Oregon coast.  There we rendezvoused with our daughter Mandy and her Mike.  With those two being "night owls" I had zero guilt about heading to the beach for morning painting sessions while Karen pursued her search for the perfect rock -- or shell -- or feather.


Left:  Cape Meares  9 x 12 inches  Alkyd on Raymar Panel  $195

Another morning ushered in by warm weather. Shirt sleeve weather -- the roar of the surf -- what a way to start a day.  Just plop down on a log, set up my easel and go for it.

Right:  Cheese Country  9 x 12 inches  Alkyd on Raymar Panel  $195

With Karen et al off for a shopping excursion, I took the chance to see what I might discover east of the coastline.  I had heard Oregon Route 6 between Tillamook and Portland was quite scenic.  Surely I'd fine plenty to paint there.  Immediately I ran into road construction.  How could I paint between flaggers with heavy construction equipment bathing my canvas in dust?  A side road led past this view of a farm.  I'll bet this farmers cattle contribute some of the milk from which Tillamook Cheese is made.  We eat a lot of Tillamook Cheese.  OK, I confess, I did move the barn -- but not too far.


From Cape Meares we headed north to the northwest corner of Washington's Olympic Peninsula.  There we stayed at  Manitou Lodge near the town of Forks.  These welcoming accommodations near beaches like Rialto with the roar of surf, the air filled with salty mist and waves chasing us up cobble-strewn beaches are magnets for Karen and me.   The power of nature humbles our human spirit, giving us a sense of the fragility of man.  I painted Wild water at Rialto during one of our outings to that storm-thrashed beach.

Karen opted to relax in the lodge one showery day while I headed to the Hoh Rainforest in another part of Olympic National Park.  I can't get enough of those towering old-growth trees clothed in layers of mosses and lichens -- each footstep revealing a new primordial landscape.  For Karen, this landscape triggers her vertigo.  This time a grove of maples framed by backlit alders Along the Hoh River distracted me.  A bonus, the showers quit just as I reached this setting.  No sooner had i put away my brushes than the skies dumped in earnest.  For once my timing was perfect.

Karen would soon fly east, but before she did we thought a few days in Mt. Rainier National Park would diversify our Pacific Northwest experiences.  Little did we know diversify meant hunkering down while the tail end of typhoon Pabuk stalled out over us.  By the time it left, Karen was off to Iowa and I headed to eastern Washington in quest of sun and dry skies.


Left:  Autumn in the Palouse  9 x 12 inches  Alkyd on Raymar Panel  $195

Right:  Rolling Hills Above the Clearwater  9 x 12 inches  Alkyd on Raymar Panel  $195

Brightly colored images of the Palouse Hills straddling the border of northeastern Washington and northwestern Idaho provided the bait
which, coupled with the desire to find dry places to set up my easel iced the cake.  There, the anticipated colors had given way to ochres and browns of autumn.  Still cool shadows contrasting with sunlit hills suggested I had found the perfect landscape for future abstractions.  

Autumn in the Palouse is my first plein air painting in Idaho.  Being a shy painter, the challenge was to find places where I could pull off roads without having to set up between some farmer's house and his barn. 

Heading out of Lewiston, Idaho, US 95 climbs steep bluffs as it winds it's way north.  With every bend in the 4-lane, limited access road, ever widening vistas beckoned.  Would I ever find a place to pull off the highway?  At last, near the top, success -- a pull out offering a place to paint Rolling Hills Above the Clearwater.  I got so involved in this painting that I barely noticed all the semis roaring past a stone's throw away from my easel -- OK, a long toss by someone with a stronger arm than mine.


                      Ruby Creek Crossing   9 x 12 inches   Alkyd on Raymar Panel   $195

As much as I enjoyed the open vistas of the Palouse Hills, curiosity about the terrain  further east, in the forested hills of Idaho, lured me away for a one day "explore."  There, along a rural highway to Elk River, Idaho, Ruby Creek cut short my "explore." Soon I discovered a dirt track that led me to a ford across the Creek.  Painting subjects beckoned in all direction. 
Again, I got so involved in the painting that I failed to notice the approach of a critter until it was a stone's throw (this time an easy lob) distance from me.  A curious cow. 


                                Abandoned  9 x 12 inches  Alkyd on Raymar Panel  $195

Deciding to head east I picked out Kamiah, Idaho on the map.  I'd never been there?  On the way I drove through through Nezperce, where I hoped to look up an old friend.  Alas, he had moved and a sign announced the road from Nezperce to Kamiah was closed.  No problem!  I'd just take a detour that led to Grangeville, Idaho.  I'd never been there either.  I found the route dominated by rolling farmland with scattered ranches -- until I spotted a side track leading to an abandoned house.  I couldn't resist.  However, brush and trees seemed to engulf what was once someone's dream so I opted to pass.  Returning to the highway, I discovered several abandoned apple trees.  Another future abstraction idea.  The apples were tasty, too.


Left:  Idaho Back Road   9x 12 inches   Alkyd on Raymar Panel   $195

Right:  South Fork   9 x 12 inches   Alkyd on Raymar Panel   Sold

I'm so thankful for that detour to Grangeville.  Otherwise I'd have missed a "dead end" road that followed the South Fork of the Clearwater River to Elk City, Idaho.  The residents of Elk City were pretty generous when they described their community as a city -- the recorded 2010 population -- 210.  But, oh what the city lacks in size, the drive there more than makes up for in beauty.  Conversely, the drive led to an unexpected challenge -- where to stop and paint.  Too many choices can be stressful.


Left:  West Fork   9 x 12 inches   Alkyd on Raymar Panel   $195

Right:  Montana Wetland   9 x 12 inches   Alkyd on Raymar Panel   $195

Aiming further east I crossed into Montana where a sign advertising reasonable rates drew me to Lolo Hot Springs Resort.  The drawing card -- the West Fork of Lolo Creek that "spoke" eloquently of scenes from my memory -- similar settings in the high country of Utah and Wyoming that cemented my love of wild places.  My destiny to migrate to Alaska was surely set during those formative middle school years.   Everywhere along the valley bottoms, riparian areas brought back happy memories.  I stayed at Lolo Hot Springs one extra night.


                               Waiting for Rain   9 x 12 inches   Alkyd on Raymar Panel   $195

The time had come to turn back north and west.  I had an Alaska Ferry to catch so I needed to be more judicious with my time.  Besides, the weather was turning towards the wet side.  Then, I spotted a sign -- Whitepine Creek Road.  Umm, I wonder what was up in those mountains?  Off I went for one last painting -- a dry stretch of White Pine Creek.  I guess they needed the rain that was about to hit.

                                  Special Delivery

We needed to visit family.  Why not in autumn 2011 -- when trees put on their finest "clothing"?  What better excuse could we have for a road trip?  So off we headed for a little drive.  Wisconsin, New York, and Iowa sounded nice -- 8800 miles worth.  We even tossed in Vermont.  Why Vermont?  I was asked to paint a piece for the cover of our Middlebury College 50th class reunion yearbook.  Since we were on the road anyway, it seemed like a good idea to save on shipping costs.


       Art Critic with Authority           Are You sure this is the Interstate?      Now where did that bird go?

Despite plans to plein air paint across Canada and the northern tier of states under warm sunny skies and spectacular scenery, the road called even louder.  Thus it wasn’t until I reached Karen’s family home in northern Wisconsin, with the corresponding advent of drizzle and gray, that I dragged out my easel from our overloaded car.  As for Karen -- she opted to fly to Wisconsin.


     Almost Home   9 X 12 inches   Alkyd   $195            The Back Bay   9 X 12 inches   Alkyd   $195


                                             Out by the Road   9 X 12 inches   Alkyd   $195

Beyond Wisconsin I found some roads leading to New York and a visit with my brother including that side trip on to Vermont.  I took my one New England afternoon searching for the setting that captured the essence of where I spent my college years.  So many almosts!!  Finally, running out of time, I spent the last hours of the day ignoring the admonitions of a No Trespassing sign.  The scene -- green pastures of Vermont in the foreground, the Adirondack's of New York to the west.  Somewhere in between lay Lake Champlain, but danged if I could see it.


                                             Green Pastures   9 X 12 inches   Alkyd   $195

In Vermont I paused.  What have I done?  Now I'm committed to driving back to Alaska.  The solution, of course, was in little bites.  Two days drive to Wisconsin.  Pause.  An easy day to eastern Iowa.  Pause.  There, based out of Karen's cousin's home on Sugar Bottom Road, I rediscovered an area where I find painting subjects particularly varied and easy to find.  I even tried some local architecture this year. 


Sugar Bottom Woodlands  9 X 12 inches   Alkyd      Cornfield Religion   9 X 12 Inches   Alkyd   $195
                      Private Collection  


                                The Old Horse Barn   9 X 12 inches   Alkyd   Private Collection

Karen surprised me in Iowa.  She actually wanted to join me on the ride home.  With those promised little bites we'd make an adventure out of our journey.  So, on to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Pause.  Off for Rapid City, SD.  Oops!  We got waylaid.  instead, we were reminded that it's the journey, not the destination that's important.  A brief stop for Karen to look for rocks near the South Dakota Badlands led to meeting rancher/artists, Bret and Tammy Prang.  Bret was in quest of some escapees (cows).  The upshot -- a two night stay on the Frying Pan Ranch smack dab in the middle of the poorest county in the US.  They're living proof you can always measure wealth in financial terms.


                                 Frying Pan Ranch   9 X 12 inches   Alkyd   Private Collection

Beyond the Badlands the days grew shorter and significantly colder as we continued our northwesterly journey.  At that point we concentrated on photography and actually getting to where we were going.  After all, we had a ferry to catch.


     Size wins the right of way                     Heavy Traffic                           Sheepish road hazard

                  The Sun Doesn't Always Strike Twice

Still glowing from the spectacular sunny spring days we had in the Yukon in 2010, we just had to go for a rerun in 2011 -- one week driving from Alaska to Alaska via the Yukon.  We left with visions of returning with a car filled with sun-drenched canvasses.  The final number -- three with six more painted under clouds or even drizzle.   But that didn't stop us from returning with broad smiles and vows for more reruns.


     Dreaming of Sunny Days            Reality on the Haines Highway            Lazy Artist with His Aide


                                  Where the Trail Began     9 X 12 inches    Alkyd     $195

Disembarking the Alaska Ferry in Skagway, Alaska, I set off explore the area around the start of the trail miners followed during the Klondike gold rush, -- at Dyea.  Meanwhile Karen set off to find the ultimate shopping bargain.  There I found my preferred version of gold and bargains-- high intertidal grass flats decked out in winter "plumage."  Here, at the edged of the encroaching forest -- due to the land rising from glacial rebound -- I found a tiny slough that miners must have barely noticed.  I think I found more paydirt than most of them did.  You'll just have to ask Karen about her paydirt.


                                 Evening at Crag Lake      9X 12 inches      Alkyd      $195

My plan was to paint at least one plein air during our drive over White Pass between Skagway and the Yukon.  If you saw the movie "Never Cry Wolf," you've been there vicariously.  Alas, I couldn't bring myself to set up my easel in the drizzle that escorted us across the pass.  Instead we just let photography be our medium that day.

Arriving at our destination,
Dunroamin Retreat, near Carcross. Yukon, the clouds relented and gave us the evening we had been dreaming of -- an evening to match the pleasure of getting acquainted with our hosts Suzanne and Robertson.  Suzanne has created an incredible quilt from clothing labels while Robertson is an equally amazing photographer.  I sure would like to paint some of the people on his website.  Their adventures make our lives seem downright quiescent.  However, I had to tear myself away to paint Evening at Crag Lake depicting one of the mountains across the Lake.  We're already yearning to return.


       Leaving Kluane     12 X 16 in.     Alkyd     $295                      Aspen Ballet  9 X 12 in.  Alkyd  $195

From Crag Lake we set off in
- surprise - rain for Kathleen Lake near Haines Junction, Yukon.  There, sun lured us into the next day at The Cabin Bed and Breakfast .  It didn't make it through breakfast.  Never mind, hosts Brent and Wenda provided their own brand of sunshine (hospitality).  It was also exciting to discover Brent is a fellow artist -- an excellent artist at that -- who inspired me with his creations.  Finally off on our day's exploration, we settled down on a gravel bar along Quill Creek, a stream that flows out of Kluane National Park.  There I painted Leaving Kluane.  Karen collected stones.  The rains settled in as I applied the final dabs of paint.

Returning to our cabin and still inspired by Brent I sat down on the back deck of our cabin to paint Aspen Ballet, a portrait of the nearest tree.  It sure was nice to be able to periodically thaw out in our heated cabin during the progression of that piece.

 Dog Day on the ChilKat   9 X 12 in.   Alkyd   $195           Chilkat Eve   9 X 12 in.   Alkyd   $195

Our final stop was at
The River House in Haines, Alaska.  That's where I discovered a spider that needed rescuing just as I was about to step in the shower.  Late at night.  Almost dark.  Surely no one would be around.  I flung the door open -- wearing nothing but what one wears in a shower -- and vigorously shook the paper towel on which said spider was now residing.  Now, usually when one thinks one is alone in the north, they are.  But, not always. 

The next morning, keeping a low profile, I painted Dog Day on the Chilkat in front of The River House.  The area is apparently dog friendly as are the dogs.  The most friendly is Rufous, a pony-sized Labrdoodle who had to help me paint and then ran off with a bag containing the lid to my painting medium.  Thankfully Rufous knows come.  Did I mention it was drizzling as Rufous and I painted that morning.

Finally the weather changed that evening just in time for painting Chilkat Eve from almost the same spot but this time looking across the inlet.  OK, I moved the island upstream, but only temporarily.  It's now back where I found it.


                                      Across the Bar      12 X 16 inches      Alkyd      $295

Our last day, before we had to catch the ferry home, Karen and I drove up the Haines Highway -- almost back to Canada.  Karen needed one last fix of rock collecting  while I yearned for one last painting.  And it was sunny, although a bit smokey, to boot.  Here, we found the perfect spot for both of us before the road gave way to the sea.

                               Off the Grid in Nome

The only way to actually drive to Nome, Alaska, is via dog team or snow machine.  Or, you can fly.  Thus, this road trip began in a plane.  Alas, the third week in July was wet in Nome.  Foggy and windy, too.  Every day.  If the temperature rose above the 40s we missed it.  I arrived full of optimism, with 13 canvases to complete in six days.  I painted four.  We finally saw the high peaks on the Seward Peninsula -- one of the drawing cards that lured us north -- from the window of the Alaska Airlines jet taking us home.  We sure would like to see those mountains up close.

     Down from the Pass  9 X 12 in.  Alkyd   $195             Edge of Tomorrow  9 X 12 in. Alkyd  $195

Down from the Pass  The first time we saw the sun came on the forth day of our trip -- for most of an entire minute.  Here we stopped above the Solomon River as it wends it’s way towards the Bering Sea.  While Karen and our traveling companion, Brian Paust, climbed a mountain, I tried to capture the moment on canvas. Alas, the sun departed but the river never seemed to notice.

Edge of Tomorrow  The next time we saw the sun came after a miserable morning of cold rain, a storm that felt like it would last until winter.  However, checking the weather on our laptop that evening I noticed a hole in the clouds heading our way.  Armed with that image I made a sage proclamation:  “We’re going to have a beautiful evening.”  Sure enough, the sun broke through around 9:00 PM giving us several hours in paradise -- time enough to get in a plein air painting along the Bering Sea while Karen and Brian searched for an elusive gold nugget.


                                             Last Ridge    9 X 12 inches    Alkyd    $195

It didn’t rain on our last day in Nome -- at least until noon.  North of the city, on the Nome - Teller Highway (really, just a gravel road), Karen and Brian headed out a beckoning ridge while I gave painting one last try.  Below the lichen-covered rock outcropping in the foreground I found a comfortable place to sit and paint out of the wind.  But the composition I liked was out in the wind away from my comfort zone.  It’s my favorite from the brief road trip so it was worth the discomfort.

                       700 Miles to the First Stoplight
Spring 2010

In mid May Karen, Niko and I eagerly boarded a ferry pointed north.  After too many years we were motoring back to some old favorite stomping grounds. 

         Enthusiastic Art Critic                        The Road                      Karen Still Looking for Rocks

We eased into the trip with two nights in the Yukon where I brought out my brushes.  If you're driving between Haines and the Alaskan interior, don't just drive past Kathleen Lake Lodge.  Annette will serve you meals for which locals drive further than the length of the Petersburg road system just for a taste, and her cozy cabins in a wilderness setting are so quiet and peaceful that you won't want to keep on driving.  But you have to or you'd swell up like a balloon eating Annette's pies.

                      Lakeside Guardian                                    Running North on a Southbound Journey

Lakeside Guardian      9 X 12 inches      Alkyd      $195

I painted a wide scenic vista our first evening at Lake Kathleen.  On seeing it, Karen yawned.  Niko was less appreciative.  Maybe I should try to capture the wilds of the Yukon with a narrower focus.  How about a simple mountain?  I picked out a lakeside picnic table and painted King’s Throne as it flirted with the Yukon sun.

Running North on a Southbound Journey     9 X 12 inches     Alkyd      $195

A river flows out of Lake Kathleen, and it’s northward direction suggests a long run down the Yukon. However Kathleen River has teamed up with the Alsek River to carve a path through some of the tallest mountains in North America, the Saint Elias Range, on a much shorter race to the sea.


Spring seems to bring out the wildlife along the Yukon and Alaska road systems.  Karen snapped this black bear feeding on emergent roadside grasses, this willow ptarmigan trying to attract "a lady ptarmigan," and a moose certain that it was well hidden in a grove of aspens.

Our destination was Palmer, Alaska, where we encountered our first stop light. What a shock after 700 miles of unfettered road.  Our reward, however, was indulging ourselves with a week at the Hatcher Pass Bed and Breakfast where hostess, Liz, made us feel like royalty.   Liz asked what we liked to eat and off she charged to the store to satisfy our palettes at this B&B.  

Palmer has changed radically since I lived there nearly forty years ago.  Now, with the fastest annual growth rate in Alaska, back roads that once lead to nowhere lead to subdivisions, cabins, and more roads leading to more subdivisions and cabins.  Four wheelers and motorcycles flourish.  Still, the setting is world class.

Left:  High Valley    9 X 12 inches    Alkyd     $195

Years ago I drooled over this valley in Hatcher Pass most every winter.  Finally, one March day, I skied off through untracked snow.  Climbing ever upward I checked out each clump of willows protruding through the snow until, sure enough, out plopped a white-tailed ptarmigan just begging to be photographed.  The valley hasn't lost it's appeal.

Right:  Crystal Waters    9X 12 inches    Alkyd    $195

While I painted The Valley, Karen and Niko went on an explore along a crystal-clear mountain stream.  I returned several sunny days later and made one tactical mistake.  The setting that most inspired me (did I mention the stream-side willows were a challenge) required me to stick one leg of my tripod in the creek with my easel and my feet dangling over the stream.  One spill, like I had later in the trip, and I'd have been boosting the coffers of my favorite art suppliers.  But the worst problem was I didn't have a choice in how to position my easel without, the sun shining directly on my canvas.  While it seemed to glow, without shade, it's easy to paint colors that are too dark.  Being an experienced painter, I know how to avoid this problem.  Thank goodness for alkyds that let me restore the rich ochres and siennas back in the studio. 


    Touch of Spring   9 X 12 inches   Alkyd   Sold        Below the Ridge   9 X 12 inches   Alkyd   $195

Memorial Day weekend -- three days of fun and remembrances for half the population of Alaska who surrounded me.  I think I saw more cars on the road that Friday afternoon than there are on all of Mitkof Island.  Figuring campgrounds would be full, I headed for an old secret spot overlooking the Chugach Range (a gravel road to a knob half way between Palmer and Glennallen).  Surely I'd be alone on the road leading to a communication site atop that knob.  Wrong.  Every pullout had a vehicle including one with a naked man.  However, a flat spot near the top was vacant and that's where Niko and I weathered two cold nights and hot days surrounded by 360 degrees of painting subjects.


                                      Wilderness Track    9 X 12 inches    Alkyd    $195

Leaving my sunny perch atop that knob I headed north hoping for more of the same in the Alaska Range.  Alas, I soon found myself in a pall of forest fire smoke and, naturally, a thunder storm.  I decided to push on -- back to the Yukon where conditions were predicted to be less challenging.  But before departing the Alaskan interior, I had to add one painting to my American Back Roads series.  Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge provided my inspiration.  That's the place
that was denied a chance to possibly break the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in Alaska several years ago when the thermometer shattered at 80 something below.

             Where Dreamers Once Dreamed                                        Pacific Bound

Where Dreamers Once Dreamed    9 X 12 inches    Alkyd    $195

After a night camping in the Yukon's Kluane National Park, where the wind-driven waves lulled me to sleep despite warning signs advising tent campers about grizzlies, I set off for Silver City, the only bonafide ghost town I've been to.  I may not be good at painting straight lines, but in Silver City straight lines are in short supply. 

Pacific Bound   
12 X 16 inches    Alkyd    $225

I gave in the last two nights, returning to Annette's cooking at Lake Kathleen Lodge.  My last day I drove halfway back to Kluane, passing miles (whoops, kilometers) of postcard images to a roadside pullout that lured me the day before.   Sunlight glinting on the roiling water surrounded by taiga seemed to represent the essence of the north.  However, as soon as I started painting the thunderstorms started rolling in.  I quickly figured out how to set up and take down my painting gear without getting too much paint on our car.


                                     Yukon Back Road    9 X 12 inches    alkyd    $195

For a trip finale I had to give my Back Road series an international flavor.  Exploring a single-lane rocky track along Quill Creek I found my subject with the mountains of Kluane National Park providing the back drop.  Certain that no one else would be further down such a rough road and with no place to pull over, I just stopped our car, opened the back and used it as a seat.  Sure enough, along came a beat up old junker with a passel of kids peering out the back seat window.  Nuts.  However, before I could put away my gear they waved and called out, "no problem," and just drove off the road to pass.

                            9000 Miles on the Road
                                   Autumn 2009

Visions of sunny days plein air painting through British Columbia were drowned by rain showers - the kind that make every road look the same -- an unidentifiable gray blur.  Could this be an omen of what lay ahead?  In the rear view mirror though which we often frame our lives, it was.  We didn't find the elusive sun until Karen and I, along with our dog, Niko, reached Whidbey Island, Washington.  That's where where I dug out my easel from the bottom of our luggage. 

Our itinerary remained sketchy at this point except that it began at the Lighthouse Cottage (http://www.vrbo.com/175962) on Whidbey Island.  From there we aimed for Crescent City, California; Three Lakes, Wisconsin and Solon, Iowa.  Getting directions on Google Maps from Prince Rupert, BC  (where we disembarked our ferry) to those locales suggests a route somewhat shorter than 9000 miles.  We didn’t take the shortest route.

    Karen searching for agates                 The Utah Setup                       Painting California

Deception Pass separates Whidbey Island from the North American continent.  On the continental side of Washington’s Deception Pass State Park Karen and Niko set off in a quest for the perfect stone while I set off to paint the perfect scene.


                    Deception           Alkyd on Canvas           9 X 16 inches            $195

From Washington we motored down the Oregon Coast to Crescent City, California.  The sight of rocky outcrops battered by the thundering Pacific surf make this coastline a major tourist attraction.  We have to hand it to Oregon -- they proved that letting public values trump private ownership values creates a viable economy.  Motels abound along US 101 as do state parks filled with happy visitors, photographers and at least one artist.


           Standing Up to Adversity      Alkyd on Canvas      9 X 12 inches      Pvt. Collection

In California we based out of another Vacation Rental by Owner along the Smith River (http://www.vrbo.com/100008).   From there we made daily forays  -- for me to paint and Karen to search for agates.  Tolowa State Park with it’s vast expanses of sand/gravel beaches backed by undulating sand dunes became a favorite.  The incessant roar of the waves and tinkling of rocks and shells being rearranged by each successive wave provided a musical accompaniment to those carefree days.  But, how to show the expanse of that vista -- a triptych, of course.

              California Triptych        Alkyd on Canvas       Three 9 X 12 inch paintings        $585


                               Behind the Beach        9 X 12 inches        Alkyd        $195

While Karen perused the wave lashed shoreline along the California coast during several evenings, I settled down along a trail winding through the dunes that backed Tolowa Beach.  The grasses absolutely glowed as the sun dipped towards the horizon.  I never quite finished this one those two evenings so had to relive those golden moments from the comfort of my studio to finish it up.

      Foggy Shores       Alkyd on Canvas                    Long Way from Home       Alkyd on Canvas
             9 X 12 inches            $195                                  9 X 12 inches                      $195

Our journey led me back through Seattle to pick up our daughter, Mandy, while Karen flew east.  We reunited along with Karen’s brother and sister-in-law “up north” in Wisconsin where a record breaking October awaited us.  Snow, cold and wind hampered my plein air efforts.  Hypothermia marked the days I did get out.  Night-time temperatures in the 20s with snow and ice threatened the autumn foliage, but those reds of the maples, and gold’s of aspen and birch proved to be pretty tough.   Could they have been frozen in place?  My first  painting, a back road in the Nicolet National Forest, gave birth to an idea for a series -- Wisconsin Back Roads.


                 Back Roads Inspiration      Alkyd on Canvas       9 X 12 inches       $195

     Last Corner  Alkyd on Canvas  9 X 2 in. $195        Mail Waiting  Alkyd on Canvas  Pvt. Collection

      Nicolet Backroad     Alkyd on Canvas                    Under the Canopy      Alkyd on Canvas 
                9 X 12 inches  $195                                                    9 X 12 inches  $195

      Where Soldiers Once Trod     Alkyd on Clayboard                Sandy Track    Alkyd on Canvas
                 9 X 12 inches        Private Collection                              9 X 12 inches            $195

From Wisconsin we traveled south to catch the last the midwest autumn near Iowa City, Iowa.  Here, based out of Connie and Bob Mutel’s home (Connie is Karen’s cousin), I had only a few days before high winds stripped the trees of the colors I still yearned for.  Reds and oranges and golds colored both areas, but the palate that worked in Wisconsin did not match the Iowa foliage.  Leave it to a discriminating artist to realize maples, birch and aspen differ in hue from oaks and hickories.  There, too, I decided to expand my back roads series to include Iowa. 


                  The Way to the Barn    Alkyd on Canvas     9 X 12 inches     Pvt. Collection


                   Rolling Pastures     Alkyd on Canvas      9 X 12 inches     Pvt. Collection

From Iowa Niko and I headed west while Karen remained behind.  We would rendezvous in Seattle.  After a brief stop in Denver, Colorado to visit my niece, Shannon, and her new husband, Edy, Niko and I motored west to paint out of Grand Junction, Colorado.  The I-70 corridor between Denver and Grand Junction is not a painters paradise.  Oh, the scenery is wonderful, but you can’t stop along I-70 to paint and paralleling side roads are in short supply.  Where I found them I either found few places to pull over or No Trespassing signs in the places that most inspired me.  The problem persisted around Grand Junction until I chanced upon a city park in Palisade, Colorado. 

          Respite           Alkyd on Canvas                        Garfield's Memorial      Alkyd on Canvas
                 9 X 12 inches  $195                                                   9 X 12 inches  $195

Running short on time, I opted to make a quick one day loop through southern Utah before heading for Seattle.  My destination -- Arches National Park.  The route, a road along the Colorado River between Cisco and Moab, Utah, waylaid me.  I never made it to Arches.


                                  Dry Gulch    Alkyd on Canvas    9 X 12 inches    $195

I found my last painting of the trip when I decided to expand my back roads series to Utah.  Nearing sunset a side road leading towards a scenic ridge beckoned.  Alas, it was behind a Department of Energy waste disposal site near Green River, Utah.  Dare I risk being stopped as a potential terrorist?  Of course.  You can't be a plein air painter if you don't take chances.   In the end the only ones disturbed by my presence were a herd of antelope.


                Department of Energy Territory    Alkyd on Canvas     9 X 12 inches     $195

                           BACK ON THE ROAD
                                Spring 2009

Death Valley, yes Death Valley would provide a fine winter break this year.  And so I found myself winding down Titus Canyon with fellow artist, John McCabe.  My goal -- more desert paintings.  John’s goal -- inspiration for more of his abstract works.  The reality of the trip-- a case of the two-step, wind strong enough to spring a car door and airline strandings necessitating a ferry ride home on leg five of a three-leg trip.

More importantly I enjoyed traveling with an art critic such as John, I learned you can fix a sprung car door with a ball peen hammer and a two foot length of 2 X 4, and I was reminded that if you're going to fly in southeast Alaska, you're going to get stranded sometimes and it doesn't have to be a bad experience.

            The Art Critic                                  The Road                                More Art Critics

I found John in Beatty -- his campsite, the one reserved for tents next to a dumpster.  For me it was a Motel 6 in a room below somewone who plunked on a guitar for hour after hour with never a hint of melody.  

From Beatty we drove through Titus Canyon twice.  The first day lost to painting for a variety of reasons ranging from wind and the door episode to intestinal distress when we reached the area where I wanted to paint.  With better luck on the second day, I went to work in the shelter of a large rock outcrop that fronted on a lone peak.  A dozen cars must have driven past without spotting me as I relished painting on the sunny side of that rock.


                         Desert Sentinel   Alkyd on Canvas   12 X 16 inches  $225

The official Death Valley map shows a dotted line leading to a ghost town called Chloride.  Why not?  At the Chloride turnoff a sign warns the road is for high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles only.  Hey, I had rented an SUV (turned out to be a low-clearance, two-wheeled drive Dodge something) for just this reason.  “We can do it,” I told John.  “We’re Alaskans.”  Wrong.  Thank goodness John was there to yell and wave frantically as I backed out between the boulders.  


                      Road to Chloride    Alkyd on Canvas    12 X 16 inches    $225

Our next destination -- Lone Pine, California, although I never saw the fabled tree.  I spotted the area in the photos section of Google Maps website.  The Lone Pine backdrop -- the Alabama Hills at the foot of Mount Whitney -- is a scene that has already been discovered by the Hollywood movie industry.  It was here, in the middle of my last painting, where I met a herpetologist looking for three species of rattlesnakes. 

“Where was the best place to find them,” I asked, with full intentions of going elsewhere. 

“Right here,” he replied.

I looked around my feet and figured since I was freezing in the wind while hanging onto my easel with one hand and palette with the other, they probably had more sense than I.  They were underground.  Eventually, the wind and cold won and I returned without completing the last painting of my trip.


                  High Sierra                                                     Sensuous Boulders
         Alkyd     12 X 16 inches                                          Alkyd     12 X 16 inches
                       $225                                                                       $225


                       DON (with Niko at his side)
                          PAINTS THE WEST 2008

                 The Artist                                  The Road                                     The Dog

September 10th, 2008.  D-Day.  For Karen, D stood for doom.  How could they possibly survive a two-month-long exploration of the west with more than two other cars on the road?  For Don, D stood for door.  How could he possibly close the car door with all the painting supplies they had stuffed inside?

Adding to Karen's foreboding, rain tried to set the mood for our departure.  However, Karen’s purchase of a new (used) cheesy yellow raincoat in Prince Rupert was all it took to turn off the faucet -- and add one more thing to squeeze inside the car door. 

Footprint of the Sun

Alkyd   12 X 16 inches


And so we found ourselves with an afternoon in Prince Rupert, British Columbia waiting for our next ferry.  Scattered dabs of sun on the verdant mountains drew us to a lakeside east of the city and brought out our paints.  The greatest challenge:  Keeping a drenched dog emerging from the lake from shaking water all over our paintings.  Guess who threw the stick into the water right next to Don's easel?

From Rupert a mellow day on the BC Ferry, then two lazy days on the road led us to our first major port of call.  Tofino, on the outer Vancouver Island Coast, is Canada’s surfing capitol.  Here sand beaches liberally laced with sand dollars and surfers stretch on and on and on.  New friends, Duncan and Robin McMaster spoiled us in their bed and breakfast, Gull Cottage while sounds of the rolling surf on Chesterman Beach lulled us to sleep every night.  The greatest challenge:  Leaving Tofino.


                      Stranded on Chesterman Beach
                    Alkyd on Canvas Panel  9 X 12 inches

After Tofino we spent three happy days with our daughter, Mandy, exploring southern Whidbey Island.  From there, or at least from Seattle, Karen boarded a jet bound for Iowa while Niko and I set off for unplanned points south.   The greatest challenge:  Not getting sick from stuffing ourselves with acres of succulent blackberries.


      On a Whidbey Island Beach (not far from a blackberry patch)

But, it wasn’t until we reached Florence, Oregon that I hauled out my paints again.   There I was taken by rocky outcrops at Heceta Head with its famous (for some reason) lighthouse.  The beach to the south of the lighthouse was enough reason for fame.  Thundering surf sending plumes of water racing up the sides of cliffs which, viewed from atop driftwood logs high on a glistening beach, was exactly what I had been dreaming of.  The greatest challenge: Growing back the hair on my head after getting shorn by a barber during the fastest haircut in recorded history.


                            Surf's Up at Heceta Head
                    Alkyd on Canvas Panel  9 X 12 inches


       Guardians of the Shore                         Sentinels at the Cape
          Alkyd    9X 12 inches                              Alkyd    9X 12 inches 
                     $195                                                       Sold   

While staying at a campground in Florence I found a brochure luring unsuspecting travelers to the southern Oregon coast.  Where was this image of sea stacks taken?  Gold Beach.  Ah, another destination!   In transit, I narrowly escaped Port Orford.  A town with a campaign headquarters for Barach Obama overlooking another pile of sea stacks had to be my kind of place.  But, I pressed on with visions of an added bonus in Gold Beach: the nicest landscaped Motel 6 I’ve ever seen.  With hot tips from the motel's maintenance man I was off to an area around Pistol River where I spent two days painting.  The greatest challenge:  Keeping shifting sand dunes from filling my jar of painting medium while hanging onto my canvas to keep it from blowing away.  Did I mention it was windy? 


                               Falling Tide on the Coast
                                   Alkyd   9 X 12 inches

I finally loosened up the first morning at Pistol Beach -- something more painterly. 

        Last Light on the Rock Pile                           Gold Beach
           Alkyd         9 X 12 inches                      Alkyd      9 X 12 inches
               Private Collection                                           $195

Regrettably I needed to leave the coast.  An old college friend was expecting me to meet him in Winnemucca, Nevada -- although, as it turned out, he wasn't there.  I needed to head east.  One problem.  You can't go east (or so I was advised) from Gold Beach.  The drill was to drive south to California and then turn back north.  OK.  So Niko and I were off to Nevada via Crescent City, California. 

Stopping at a cafe under a sign "espresso" (where I just happened to buy the tastiest  piece of coffee cake I've ever eaten) I inquired about the red woods.  "Oh, they're just down the road," responded the lady who baked the coffee cake.  Terrific, right on my way back to Oregon.  Several miles down the road I entered a magical forest.  Turning onto a side road I discovered grove after grove of trees as wide as our car is long.  Each was named in memorium of someone (a lot of people died around there).  I quick walk into one of the groves and I was back in the car returning to Crescent City in search of a cheap motel.  Those redwoods had to be painted.  The greatest challenge:  I needed a redwood-sized canvas to paint them on.

                                     Accidental Redwood Triptych
                                   Alkyd, each one is 12 X 16 inches

I painted each of these during a different sitting in a different grove.  It wasn't until I hauled them out of the car later that I realized they worked as a triptych. (well, sort of)

After two days in the redwoods, I needed to head to Winnemucca to meet my old friend -- who, as previously mentioned, wasn't there.  He would be in Tonopah, Nevada.  No problem,  That was still on my way to nowhere in particular (at least for awhile).  Besides I had an aunt who once lived there.  Thus, Larry Robinson, his brother, Mike and Larry's son, Shaun introduced me to their precious metal exploration project.  The idea was to find mother lodes by not looking for them -- sort of like looking for the bad guys by finding their favorite ladies.  While they didn't turn me into a high-tech prospector, I did find that Nevada had more to offer than gamblers hitchhiking along the road after losing their fortunes in the casinos.  The greatest challenge:  Finding a motel room that didn't need a lot of air freshener.  A Lot!

             Desert Encampment                            Nevada High Rise
            Alkyd   12 X 16 Inches                       Alkyd   12 X 16 Inches
                          $225                                                    $225

Alas, all good reunions must end.  Besides I was running low on painting supplies. I knew of a Dick Blick art store in Las Vegas, so farewell Tonopah, we're bound for Vegas.  92 miles down the road we glided into Beatty, Nevada.  My first real oasis.  Stunning.  Around the bend a Motel 6 loomed into view.  Only 11:00 AM but, so what. 

Outside of Beatty we found Rhyolite, a ghost town and further west, Death Valley with forecasted highs of 103 degrees.  Scary!   Niko was already panting in her Alaskan fur coat.  On went the air conditioner and off towards the 103 degrees.  Down, down went the road.  Up, up when the thermometer.  Not too conducive to plein air painting with Niko, so back we went to check out Rhyolite.  The greatest problem:  Rhyolite is a ghost town meaning buildings and I can't paint a straight line to save myself.  I solved that problem by driving past all the reasons to stop in Rhyolite.


                                 Crown Over Rhyolite
                                 Alkyd    12 X 16 inches

That night I looked up images of Death Vally on the internet.  Hey, a slot canyon?  Titus Canyon.  Where was that?  More internet searching and I discovered a one-way road of unknown distance went through Titus Canyon.  Best of all, that road began just down the road from Rhyolite.

Thankfully, Karen wasn't with me, because I would have had to back out of that road for however far we might have gone before she panicked.  It made an Alaskan logging road look like a freeway -- at least most of them.  Titus Canyon Road must not have seen a maintenance crew since pioneers hauled covered wagons over it.  We bumped and wound (a lot) over some high passes before descending into the canyon.  But, what a polychromatic, tortured landscape we discovered.  Niko and I stopped in the high country for a couple of paintings before we decided it was getting dark and we had no idea how far we had to go nor what lay ahead.  Of all the incredible places we visited on this trip, the Titus Canyon Road was my favorite.  The greatest challenge:  Traffic -- all 6 cars of it.

            Death Valley Shadows                         Titus Canyon Surprise
            Alkyd      9 X 12 inches                       Alkyd      12X 16 inches    
                        $195                                            Private Collection

Now I was getting desperate for art supplies so it was back on track for Las Vegas.  There long lost cousins Janet Leedham and Sally Taylor rolled out the red carpet for us.  Well, actually it was a slate floor, but Niko relished the coolness of it.  After the stressful traffic in Vegas, we headed north to Hiko, Nevada for a rendezvous with another long lost cousin, Bonnie Schofield and her husband Jay.  Whew, did Bonnie ever pamper us!  We just happened to arrive as Bonnie was baking pies with freshly harvested peaches.  Perfect timing!  I didn't know peach pies could be so good.  Meanwhile, Jay acted as a tour guide for the area around the ultra top secret Area 52.  The greatest challenge:  Luring Niko away from the cats.

              Back of the Ranch                            Nevada Boulder Field
            Alkyd   12 X 16 inches                          Alkyd      9 X 12 inches
               Private Collection                                            $195

From Hiko it was back to Las Vegas and trauma picking Karen up at the airport.  First I chased a couple of girls off the sidewalk with my car (they stepped in front of me in the dark at the instant I darted for a tiny break in the world's longest line of traffic). Close and I was rattled.  I couldn't find a map of Vegas, so elected to follow signs to the airport.  Las Vegas has a small budget for signs.  The upshot: We almost ended up in Arizona.

But, finally we were off to our actual destination, Rocky Top Bed and Breakfast (at least Bed) on the east side of Zion National Park.  The people who run Zion have a thing about dogs so we chose the east side with few trails.  We figured the rangers would be busy collecting money at the gates so we could sneak Niko off the road to explore slick rock and slot canyons.  I'll never say what we did.  The greatest challenge:  Not getting caught.

                                         ZION PAINTINGS

      Surprise Canyon              Zion Slickrock          Last Signs of the Flood
    Alkyd   9 X 12 inches        Alkyd   9 X 12 inches      Alkyd   9 X 12 inches
               $195                           My first painting             Private Collection
                                                    on clayboard

                                            EAST OF ZION
Our first day in Zion, special friends Pete and Judy Scorup took us further east to Kanab, Utah and down to Mexican Hat, Arizona.  We were so taken by what they showed us that we had to return.


                                   End of the Staircase
                                Alkyd        12 X 16 inches

          View from Rocky Top                              Sunlit Passage
         Alkyd      12 X 16 inches                        
Alkyd      9X 12 inches
View from Ralph and Colleen Carlson's                       $195
Rocky Top Bed and Breakfast
      Did I mention Colleen's muffins?

From Zion we migrated east to Escalante, Utah planning to rendezvous with fellow Petersburg artist, John McCabe in Bryce Canyon.  Phooey on Bryce.  No dogs allowed -- not even out of your car!  And we missed John's message at the visitor center.  No problem.  He walked out of the canyon just as we arrived for a five minute peek while Niko wailed sorrowfully in the car.

We were inspired by John's company in Escalante although he was relegated to a cold campground while we were lavished in luxury at the
Rainbow Country B & B.  Catherine, who ran the B & B, pointed us to a wealth of painting locations while Karen struggled with vertigo and I fought off dehydration.  And nurse wasn't even in Catherine's job description.  The greatest challenge: Leaving the breakfast table. 

 Beyond the Slick Rock           Trout's Lair                 Escalante Pastures
    Alkyd   9 X 12 inches      
Alkyd   9 X 12 inches       Alkyd   12 X 16 inches
               $195                                  $195                                 $225


                                Kiss in Devil's Garden
                                  Alkyd   9 X 12 inches
                                     Private Collection

Devil's Garden in Grand Staircase of the Escalante National Park consists of a host of imaginative rock formations including arches and ex-arches.  I selected this ex-arch to paint because there was an adjacent picnic table to sit at while shaded from the hot sun.

Escalante ended my painting.  We had ferry reservations and a brief rendezvous with Dave and Lena Frandsen in Heber City, Utah, ahead.  Besides, after basking in warm sun for two months, northern Utah felt like Antarctica.  We left Heber City for points north in 7 inches of snow. We even had to abandon the back roads and head for the interstate because our navigator, yours truly, figured it was only a couple of hundred miles from Heber City to northern Montana.  Perhaps had I consulted a map I would have added another day to the trip for those 400 unplanned miles.  The Greatest Challenge:  Ending those care-free days in the sun.

            The Road                         The Dog                         The Rocks

Q:  Would we make the trip again?

A:  Don:  I'm making the reservations.

A:  Karen:  Hmmm, Lets talk about it later.

A:  Niko:  Will there be any lizards to chase?

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