Saturday, September 22, 2007


Today, the last paint day of my residency, is again rainy. Occasionally, a break comes in the clouds, immediately filled with a new cloud and shower. I am tired, feeling the call of home and my upcoming trip to Pittsburgh.

One last time, I choose some favorite trees and shrubs out the visitors’ center windows. This will be my last memories of oncoming fall in the North Cascades, the rich, dark greens and dripping air. I sketch in the dark trees first, then in the foreground add the yellowing ferns, the slightly orange-tinted maples, the pendant rust-colored old leaves of cedars, the small, light-green pines.

If it clears this afternoon, I will hike or paint somewhere in the park. If not, I will answer the call of home.

Friday, September 21, 2007


It’s my next-to-last paint day in the park. I’m taking advantage of a window in the weather to hike back to the meadow on Maple Loop Trail. I pack my minimal paint kit so as to give my knees an easy time, and hike the mile. After all the more demanding hikes, this one comes easily. I set up on a flat stone and contemplate the pattern of dark trees against the colorful tapestry.
It is a day of sounds, of wind dropping down the mountainside in concert with the moving clouds, of whirlwinds whispering in the grasses behind me. Of picas, squeaking from rock piles to my left and right, and of the high crystal whistle of the marmot. Sound textures enrich the color textures on my canvas, the tall reds of mountain ash, low-growing burgundies of blueberry, straw-green grasses, dark velvet of fir trees, rusty rustling tow-headed seeds of long-gone flowers.
When I pack up to leave, I have collected what I came here for.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Fall is truly here. The forecast for today was partly sunny, but the part that was sunny was pretty much all above a thick cover of dripping clouds. It’s this sort of reliability that lets you know summer has truly given up. I spent the morning at the Visitors’ Center, working on a large painting of Newhalem Creek Falls.
Later in the day, I slogged through dripping bushes to photograph some more tumbling creeks. Then escaped to the car to find a spot to paint.
I have been eyeing the cliffs by Newhalem for some time. Every day the grasses get more golden, the leaves more red. Today I parked in the fog and painted a tree atop a cliff with golden grasses and the clouds behind it. A little salute to fall.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Cindy and I are headed out to paint at Ruby Creek. A change has come over the mountains. The rain that pattered on my roof last night fell on the higher peaks as the first snow of the season. Colonial Peak looks like it has a five-o’clock shadow. The clouds are breaking up, and the sun will set to work melting the snow.

The creek is fresh and lively and filled with varying shades of turquoise. We set up on the bridge to paint the flow of water across a cobble-bottomed pool, down a drop, and around the bend. The cedars on the far bank look vivid yellow-green next to the water. Sunlight glints off the river bottom in ripple-focused gold lines. I try futilely to capture the glow in paint, but it looks dead. Will have to think later about how to do that.

Cindy is painting in watercolor, and I in oil. It’s wonderful how different our two pieces come out, as if the universe were processed differently in our two brains. Just one of the many things that makes art so refreshing. We could both take photographs, and our efforts would have technical differences, but be recognizably the same place. But interpretation in paint is dependent, not only on our technical variations, but differences in what we decide is important, what we leave out, and even the way we name and mix the colors we see.

The creek has offered its multi-colored water for us to interpret. We head to the Environmental Learning Center, where I hike up Sourdough Creek to the waterfall that isn’t (only a trickle left after the summer). On the way down, I enjoy the view of high peaks over Diablo Lake. The new snow is already gone.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Clouds with occasional sky holes, and still cold, so I explore the country around Diablo. There is a trail, which overlooks the dam and the town and a bit of the Skagit. The bluff has large bands of crystalline white among the weather-darkened rock. The path is worn into a dip along the hillside, like the path up the hill behind Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle’s house. There’s a structure which I’m told was an old incline, but looks more like just cables stretching down to the tiny town of Diablo.

The road into town has some views of the turquoise Skagit, as well as Pyramid Peak. I park by an old mill replica (not nearly as interesting as the original mill would have been) and paint the view out the side door of my car. This keeps me warm and out of the considerable wind, and has the added advantage of keeping the sun off my canvas nicely. I miss out on the wildlife, though.

Monday, September 17, 2007


The remnants of yesterday’s rain are drifting in cottony tufts around the mountains. I head east, toward Rainy Pass, hoping for a drier day. The views at Diablo Lake are stunning. Wisps of clouds pass in front of and behind the mountains, emphasizing the layers of space. The sun feels extra-strong, punching through the sky holes.

At Rainy Pass, the air is nippy. I pile on all my coats, a scarf, and a fuzzy hat, and hike in all that gear to the lake without even getting hot. At the lake, clouds come and go across the sun, leaving me mostly in shade. At first the lake is full of reflections from the light rock slides and dark trees. Gradually, the wind picks up, and the blue-green of the water takes over. Marmots whistle from at least three spots around the lake, picas squeek from six or seven.

I wonder what makes a rock pile suitable for pica or marmot, and why both would live in the same area. I meet some visitors from Holland, and we talk about their travels in Washington and Oregon. They liked Mt. Hood, where they could so easily walk on the snow. We talk about the picas and marmots, which someone tells me make good pets in Holland. Perhaps a bit of confusion with rabbits, but I have no photos to clear up the language.

An alarming rap comes from behind me. Investigating quietly, I expect to find someone chopping at a log. It is a woodpecker, probably a hairy woodpecker (one I’ve met in these woods before.) He pounds at a tree’s bark in full view, not just pecking a hole, but chipping away bits of bark with twists of his head. It must take considerable force to create so loud a noise. I would have to hit the tree with a professional batter’s swing to match his volume. He is braced against the tree, not just with his feet, but with the lower part of his legs and his tail as well.

I am growing colder and colder. My cadmium yellow is thick as refrigerated peanut butter. I finish the painting, and head back west, where the afternoon sun is shining. Go figure.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Today, it is raining. I have scouted a few locations for painting in the rain (a picnic shelter, under a bridge, and such) but opt to paint at the visitors’ center instead. It’s time to put the finishing touches on the paintings I am giving to the park as part of my residency. Because they are small, I am giving two: a water piece from Newhalem Creek, and a view of the Pickets from the visitors’ center.

The painting of the Pickets seems fine, as is. The creek painting needs a few touches. The question I ask myself is: What would make this a better painting? In this case, I want to pull attention away from the hard edge of the rock and down toward the spilling water. I also want to emphasize the diagonal line of the rock ledge. These things I accomplish with a few brushstrokes of saturated dark colors along the ledge, and some light areas on the foreground rocks. The changes are subtle, but significant.

I am standing in the main room of the visitors’ center where a table has been set up for me. Outside, rain is falling among the cedars and Douglas-fir. I keep watching the mist pull back and forth across the nearby hills, like a curtain opening and closing. I pull a canvas from the car and paint the trees in the mist.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Today is supposed to be mostly sunny. Most of the morning, clouds have socked in the Visitors’ Center, but it’s beginning to clear, so we head out to Diablo Lake. Wind is whipping up the lake, shaking the trees like feather dusters. It takes a while to find a spot where I think my easel will stay set up. At the front of the viewpoint, where the cliff reaches out into the wind, there’s an updraft that leaves the grass and lower tree branches relatively undisturbed. Curious that the calmest spot is the one closest to the beating wind.

I set up to paint in the island of quiet, but I still have to hold my painting against the easel during the worst gusts. I paint a panorama of Pyramid and Davis peaks, hoping that I can keep the canvas from flying away before I finish.

Friday, September 14, 2007


September 14, 2007

This third visit to Cascade Pass allows me to see the beginning of fall. Vine maples and blueberries are the most conspicuous colors, but other trees and herbs are changing as well. When we arrive, the black flies are not around, and I have hopes (to be dashed as the day warms up) of painting here in relative peace.

We hike up the Cascade Pass trail for about a mile, enjoying the cool woods and occasional glimpses of the tall mountains at the end of the switchbacks. Most of the woodland flowers have set their seeds for the season. We find berries on the devil’s club, mountain ash, and queen’s cup. Seeds on the little understory herbs. Thimbleberries sweet and plump (as plump as thimbleberries get.) Plants that in lower elevations would be fruiting at wildly different times are all rushing to produce their last hurrah.

Back at the trailhead, the blackflies have reactivated with the heat. We drive down to a waterfall, where the cool breeze keeps the flies away, and there, I set up my paints. The afternoon heat brings changes here, as well. After an hour, the waterfall fills with more water, exploding as it hits the rock below. The surge sends spray against the rock, mare’s tails down the sloping slab. As we leave, the sun is full on the falls, the spray glistening white.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Newhalem Creek has become one of my favorite places. Despite lots of photographs, I’m still enchanted with painting its spills and rocks in person. Water moving through three-dimensional space is rich with possibilities. My favorite subject is a large slab of bedrock that crosses the creek, spilling water over cracks and breaks. Move a few feet, and it looks like boulders; move again and water shoots out from an angled wall.

Changes in light create still more combinations. The rocks look light blue in the sun, warmer beige in the shade. Sun filters through the trees in patches, moving from the west bank, dappling the midstream rocks, then lighting up the east.

The sound of the stream soothes my ears, stills my sense of time. I am in the center, and at peace.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


This hike takes us into high country on the drier side of the Cascades, where larch and fir grow. There are a surprising number of different species up here. I am again enchanted by the fall colors of blueberries among the green heather, and take a prodigious amount of pictures.

Up at the lake, the trees have tortured branches, bent like arms, curled down as if they were wilting. The lake is blue and cool and filled with mini-trout (cutthroat and rainbow) that are attracting catch-and-release fishermen. We hear there were mountain goats at the lake, but the fishing population must have scared them into the hills.

Instead, we find a ptarmigan shuffling down the trail ahead of us. He scuttles into a thicket, where I snap his picture each time he peeps out to see if I'm still there. We descend from the lake, crossing the hunting station of a hoverfly--a patch of sunlight in mid-air above the trail. I can see the insects he is darting after, respectable bites the size of gnats, but I can't tell if he is catching them. He had better be getting energy from the sunlight, because his wings are beating furiously and continuously, and must take a prodigious amount of fuel.

We return to the parking area, where I paint a meadow with blueberries and silver-trunked trees.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I have crossed a footbridge over a creek to reach the pebbly shore of Diablo Lake. This creek has made a ruckus recently. Huge trees have been dragged down, large boulders rolled around, and it has made itself a delta of cantaloupe-sized rocks among the trees. Trees, surprised to find themselves planted in mid-stream, are gamely going about their business, as the creek carves itself new channels.
I set up in the shade to paint the reflections of beginning fall colors on the lake. As the afternoon lengthens its shadows, a wind turns up its speed, fanning logs up the Colonial Creek arm. Reflections disappear into general turquoise ripples.
My husband points out that I am painting in the middle of a stream. The creek has changed its course since I sat down, and is about to engulf my camera and my journal. It’s as if the tide came in and I wasn’t watching the rise. I gather my equipment and move to higher ground, thinking of how everything changes.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Today, with sore knees and a windy morning, I seek out a spot that has shelter and scenery right at the car. I find a lovely little campground with sun glowing on golden trees just around a river bend. As the morning warms up, I take off my coat, enjoying the march of light across the valley. It's such a pleasure to do more than one painting in a spot. Instead of tearing down my paint kit, I move it a few feet to a different viewpoint.

Lunchtime I spend lying on my back, looking up at the tree patterns. High in the nearest tree, I think I recognize the pendant small cones of hemlock. But the next tree over has larger cones and I can see no difference in its bark. I have a lot to learn about tree identification. If I could live here for a year, no doubt they would all become as familiar as aunts and uncles.

Not knowing what they are, I content myself with looking at branch patterns. Each branch collects a different amount of light, so my Sistine Chapel has varied shades of forest, sap green, and veridian.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Took off on a hike today, intending to reach a viewpoint above Lake Ann. Even before the viewpoint, the hike is a feast for the senses. Scents are of hemlock, fir, and trail dust. I find a colorful sub-alpine meadow, broken up with patches of fir trees. As I climb the hill, I hear plaintive cries of a bird that looks (without my glasses) like a swallow, the squeeky-toy call of a pica, and a bird that goes "ni."

This hike has stunning views. The low-growing blueberries have turned red, and false hellebore leaves yellow, splashing their colors across the meadows. Fir trees form dark clusters against the skyline. I reach my viewpoint, have lunch, and decide to hike the full loop.

Up and up goes the trail. Beyond my lunch spot it becomes steeper, and I'm working considerably harder to make progress. I leave behind the fir trees, and come upon rocky corridors with wind whooshing around them, and rugged mountain vistas. With all my photo stops it takes me three hours to reach the high point of the trail. I descend more quickly and return to my car, considerably sorer in the knees. I do a small painting of a meadow at the trailhead. Would you rather see that, or one of my six hundred photos? How about a local resident?


Another day of waterfall hounding, this time, an approach to the bottom of the falls on Thornton Creek, which I haven't managed to reach from the bridge above. My instructions are to follow an old road grade from the base of the Thornton Lakes road. An excellent plan, if the road grade were a little more free of obstacles. As it is, I am climbing over logs, between trees and around branches. The footing is hummocky, and it's a long walk to the creek. I eventually emerge from the thickening woods, within sight of the highway. Note: go straight up the creek from the highway next time.
I start up toward the falls. It's interesting how the old climbing skills come in handy. I have to be very conservative. No jumping (arthritic knees wouldn't like that), no large steps up. Keep on level footing as much as possible to avoid twisting the knees, don't step on any slippery rocks or moving logs. But my ability to find secure handholds is still there. Climbing techniques like bridging and using the ridges on rocks for footholds come back quickly. I feel terrifically pleased with myself when I climb over a boulder and there are the falls.
The very top of the falls is recognizable from my expedition the day before. I was wise to turn around at the lip and not try to climb down, as I can see from below that the upper rock is undercut. I can also see that it will not be feasible for me to bring my paints down to this view, as the cliff runs along both sides of the creek, steep and forbidding.

When I reach the road (going straight down the creek) I find a spot to paint with a gravel bar, and color-matched stand of light tree-trunks dancing against the darker woods.

Friday, September 7, 2007


It's a lovely sunny day, with patches of sunlight dappling rocks and gravel bars as I walk up Newhalem Creek. I choose a spot farther up than last time, with intricate spills, and set up to paint.

A dipper comes to visit. In my mind, I like to call them water ouzels, their other common name, but no one (including me) seems to know how to pronounce that, so aloud, I say "dipper." I take many photos, trying to catch that curious plie' that they do all the time. I'm told that it's a way of improving depth perception, a tricky business when your food is caddis fly larvae underwater. They also have nictating membranes that can cover their eyes. I've seen them walk and even fly (swim with their wings) underwater. This one seems content to dip his head, hopping from one rock to another with a hop, plie', plie', hop.

I'm deep into my painting, trying to catch the water patterns, when it starts to rain. Where did that come from? Interesting what can sneak up on you when you're concentrating on a narrow focus. I pack up quickly, camera first, and head for the shelter of the woods. By the time I reach the Visitors' Center, the sun is out again.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


I've been told about a nice little waterfall at the end of a one-mile hike. It's been thirty minutes, and the trail is getting thinner, my pack heavier. I wonder if I've gone wrong somewhere. Maybe I should ditch the pack and scout ahead without it. My knees (arthritis) are only good for a few miles. I promise myself that I'll quit in five minutes. Five minutes later, I'm still going up. But the trail is wrapping around into a valley. Maybe that's where the waterfall will be. The valley is dry. No sign of ever having water. The trail turns up between some rocks.

A squirrel scolds me as I walk past. My trail has turned to a thin beaten path across moss and salal. At the top of the rock, I come back to the creek. Why didn't the trail just follow the creek to begin with? A short while later, I come to the falls. It is well worth the walk. I settle in to paint and enjoy my hard-earned view.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Showers are forecast for today. The sun is shining, so I take my paints to Ladder Creek, where I can paint not far from my car in case I need to pack up quickly. I set up to paint the lower part of the creek, which is nearly as spectacular as the main falls. I focus on one side of the drop where the creek falls between large slanted boulders. The rocks are full of subtle variatons in color, and I struggle to capture them, along with the shadows and the particular colors of the water.

It's a difficult painting day. Every time I turn around, I see the bank of clouds moving closer, and I know I have little time before they'll be dropping rain on me. I barely finish when a massive dark cloud covers the sky. A few drops of rain bead up on my oil-coated canvas. The rain holds off, until I get back to the Visitors' Center.

Monday, September 3, 2007


I am sitting on a tree root, painting a view of the Skagit River. I have hiked in without my tripod, so the palette box is sitting on gravel. My legs are pressed into the gravel. All-in-all, not a very comfortable position, but I can manage. Next time, I'll carry either the tripod or a sitting pad.

It's the cloudiest day we've had so far, other than an afternoon of rain. I look for color variations in the sky. The water, too, has many colors in it: more orange in the shallows, turquoise in the deep channel, even hints of yellow and blue. I notice that the tree branches all reach out to the river at the same level, as if someone came along with a weed whacker and trimmed them in a straight line. Flood level.

The river rocks are all nearly white, but with variations. Spotted rock (leopard rock), striped rock (zebra rock), and rock with a golden rusty tone (lion rock.) All of it light, and tumbled to a pocked, rounded surface.

But the cliffs across the river are gray and dark. Why? Driving along the exposed rock later in the afternoon, I can guess. Dark cliffs line the road, but where bits of rock have broken away, the revealed rock is white. Something in the exposed rock has oxidized over the years, turning the rock black.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Painting for a second day at Diablo Lake Overlook is relaxing. I feel as if I know a little about the view, even though the light is different today and I am painting different peaks. I use many of the same color mixes, and I'm not having to invent strategies for every subject I paint. I take advantage of all the greens I've mixed for the first painting by carrying my palette, still set up, to a second viewpoint.

Today's visitors include more of the odd black beetles. One of them totters up a pine branch, wobbling as if his antennae were too heavy for him to balance. As the sun breaks out, warming up the earth and grasses, grasshoppers snap and jitter around me. They are surprisingly colorful, flashing bright yellow wings in their brief flights.

The clouds come and go, and suddenly, at one o'clock, the wind whips down the valley. Holding onto my easel, I get all the color notes down, then pack up for the day.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


Diablo Lake Overlook just might be the busiest place in the park. I set up my paints in the morning, and talk to all kinds of people while I paint. Japanese tourists take my picture. People from Tennessee watch me paint the turquoise water.

People aren't my only visitors. A yellow-jacket grumbles around my hat, and on my palette I get a visit from a rectangular black beetle with four-inch jointed antennae. As I put the finishing brushstrokes on the painting, a woman tells me it's lovely. "All it needs is a bird." I flick in a Stellar's jay, sitting on a tree limb. Can you find it?

Then back to the visitors' center, where I paint underneath the circling bat, until a visitor manages to get him outside. What would the park be without animals?

Friday, August 31, 2007


I didn't go to Diablo Lake today. I painted at the Visitor's Center, working on Goodell Creek, which is progressing nicely. But here is the picture of Diablo Lake that I painted on Monday afternoon.

I followed the winding dead-end road down to the Diablo dam and drove across, threading my way through a busload of senior tourists who were milling around the road. On the far side of the dam, the road continued, and suddenly, this mountain view appeared between the trees. What struck me was the color of the water against the greens and the sky. I had just settled in to paint, when I rememebered seeing a sign that said the gate would close at four-thirty. This might be the fastest nine-by-twelve painting I've ever done. I did NOT want to be stuck behind that gate!

Thursday, August 30, 2007


I have settled in a small patch of shade to try and capture these mountains. The idea of putting these massive rock walls on a nine by twelve canvas is simply ludicrous. They rise all around me, one mountain after another, so tall and close that I have to tilt my head back to look at the peaks. It would be hard to do them justice on a 30 by 40 canvas. But they are inspiring, and I have to try.

Another small piece of beauty is the butterflies who visit me. There are several, unconcerned that my paints are not really flowers, and I smell like insect repellent (in a vain effort to discourage the multitudinous black flies). There is one mid-sized butterfly that looks like a bit of parchment with ink scratchings on it. I look it up later with Andrew...maybe a Mormon Fritillary.

It turns out that butterflies' wings are brightest when they first burst out of their pupae, and they dim as the butterflies age. Imagine getting one set of hair for your entire lifetime. Whatever gets cut or falls out doesn't grow back, until you are finally bald. No, that's not a good enough analogy, as the wings are functional. Imagine you come equipped with a wheelchair instead of legs. Only it is made of balsa wood, and you can't repair or replace it. I guess we do have single-use body parts like that, just not such fragile ones.

Halfway through my second canvas, a shadow falls across the valley. Marmots whistle among the rocks, single-pitched notes like bells, the amphitheater of mountains funnelling their sound to me. I finish my paintings, having ridiculously simplified the magnificent view.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I am having the most lovely strenuous time scrambling over moss-covered boulders. A two-inch nut-brown frog hops across my path, as if we were on intersecting highways, and he was determined to go first. I watch him hop two feet at time, wondering where he is going in such an unnaturally straight line.

I certainly can't go in a straight line. Since I am unable to hop thirty times my height, I must climb up and around every boulder. I too have a goal in mind: a waterfall, glimpsed from the road, that the National Park Service hasn't made accessible by trail. It promises to be very large and twisting, and a confirmed waterfall hound like me just can't pass it up, despite the very steep descent from the road.

My first vantage point brings me to a view of the bottom section of falls. Very nice, but there are still trees in the way. I snap a few photos between the branches, but can't get any closer. There is a cliff below me and I have no rope.
Back up to the road... did I really climb down this far?... and down at another spot. This time, I find the creek, turquoise and tumbling. An amply rewarding view. I follow the creek downhill, lured by a patch of sunshine that might, just might be the top of the falls.

It is, and it is magnificent. Two channels of water slide and tumble over sculpted rock. I scramble down to vantage points near the top, and near the middle of the slide. After seeking out every accessible view, I return to the road, three hundred photos in my camera. I foresee many studio pieces from this lot.

An actual trail takes me with my paint kit to a lovely little falls and pool. Here I relax and paint for the afternoon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Just in back of the Visitors' Center, there's a cameo view of the Picket range. This view has special meaning for me, because when I was in my twenties, Rick, Benny, Charlton and I climbed McMillan (just off to the right of this view). We still have our slides of this mountain range from a much higher viewpoint, with sweeping glaciers and insistent rock. It was the hardest climb I ever did (relentless elevation gain in the approach.) Now, looking at these mountains, I have trouble recognizing the shapes that were once so familiar. But I definitely recognize the names. The Chopping Block. Triumph. Despair. They look steep and forbidding, even in the distance.

People step up and watch me paint. A couple from New Jersey. Some neighbors who used to live in Oregon. Their dogs wonder why they have stopped at the end of this platform. They all (except the dogs) appreciate the view, but I wonder how many can even imagine what it takes to get there. At fifty, I'm not sure I even want to attempt walking up the creek to get a closer look.

It's late in the afternoon, and the shadows are changing rapidly. I get them down with sweeping brushstrokes, and try to resist correcting as the dark shapes grow. Put in the foreground trees. Then go back to my comfortable lodge, where I can imagine not climbing the Pickets.

Monday, August 27, 2007


An icy wind funnels through the canyon, as if the water has thawed just moments ago. It's a bright sunny day in August, but I'm wishing for gloves, or at least hand warmers. I am also wishing that the landings on these stairs were wider, and placed for MY favorite views. I have set my tripod bridging a couple of stairs, to give myself more room to stand below it.

The falls are magnificient, twisting and turning in a sculpted rock channel. The water catches my attention first, bluish white and foamy. But the rocks are just as attractive, and I wonder if I can make their scoops and gullies into a convincing image. I decide to focus on the rocks.

Again, the plants are all familiar: hemlock, cedar, salal, huckleberry (probably red), and sword fern. And lively green moss everywhere. The rocks around the falls are darker, their crevices in deep shade.

I finish my painting with hands that are rapidly becoming immobile. Even stepping into a small patch of sunlight doesn't help. Must get away from this cold mist.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Arrived today in the North Cascades to an intermittent misty drizzle. Clouds hung low over the surrounding mountains, giving me the feeling of driving down a long corridor, with tree-lined walls and a cottony ceiling.

There's something invigorating about travelling to a new place, particularly to a place outside one's home climate zone. I wouldn't have thought that Oregon and Washington were especially different from one another. I expected to be driving into mountains, perhaps steeper than the Cascades in Oregon. But the roads were lined with familiar big-leaf maples, Douglas fir, and cedar trees. Grasses, farms, and blackberries all gave me a feeling of being in my home countryside.

It wasn't until I left my car in a campground and walked down to the Skagit River that the strangeness of the place hit me. The colors of rock and water were as foreign to me as white sand beaches and tropical oceans. The rock is a light gray, sometimes pinkish, sometimes blueish, but never, never dark even when it's wet. Marble? Granite? I will have to ask. The effect of all that light rock is to send light through the moving water, so that even the slight glacial silt leaves it translucent and turquoise. I'm going to have lots of fun painting this water.

The light rain started back up. I drove to the visitors' center, moved into my residence, and set up indoors to start a painting of Goodell Creek, and that lovely turquoise water.