Monday, December 27, 2010

Thoughts on An Extraordinary Year..

"North on I-29", oil on panel, 16"x16"

This past year has been ridiculously full of travel and exploration. From hiking over mossy trails on Vancouver Island, jogging along the Yukon River in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, standing in sun looking out at the splendour of Cappadocia in Turkey, peering over the shoulders of gargoyles at Notre Dame in Paris, witnessing the impossibly blue Mediterranean Sea, touching the spines of Saguaro Cacti in the south of Arizona, standing beneath the quiet hush of giant sequoias in California's Yosemite National Park, and seeing Mt. McKinley in the heart of Denali National Park in its full glory, I would not trade a moment of it for anything. 

A flicker surveys the surrounding desert landscape from atop a saguaro cactus, Arizona..

It has been a year of reference-collecting extraordinaire. But it is not distance nor quantity of places that matter. It is what you glean and distill from each day that has meaning and builds upon the fibres of your being. Whether you live in a cave (like one woman I met in Turkey) or rub shoulders with arctic tundra on daily is what we choose to store inside our minds and hearts that counts. 

The sublime drive into Delta Junction, Yukon Territory

As Francis Bacon once said: "The job of the artist is to deepen the mystery." 

This is an exciting and challenging task. I am trying my best to do this with my artwork, blogs, photos and other creative projects. Or course one has to venture inwards as much as outwards to fully express how you feel with regards to you work. I hope you have enjoyed these posts this past year, and just imagine what the future holds! 2012 sees another voyage to Alaska, a 200 km hiking adventure above the Arctic Circle in Greenland, and lots and lots of time in the studio getting back to painting the figure. I can't wait!

Cave dwellings thousands of years old in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

The year has also seen "Back To The Wild: The Photographs And Writings Of Christopher McCandless" grow and evolve. We expect to publish the DVD and book in the early part of 2011. You can read more about the project here. It has been an incredible journey helping to bring the photographs and experiences of Chris McCandless to light for the world to see.

"The Big Blue": The Mediterranean in the South Of France

While a good number of paintings have come out of the studio, even more will be produced next year as I let the experiences of 2010 ferment and turn into fuel for future works. I have painted three landscapes recently, one of which is at the top of this post. I love painting these pieces yet I yearn to re-embrace portraiture and figurative work.This is at the top of my list of goals for 2011.

"Uzes Kitchen", oil on canvas, 24"x18", 2010
Private Collection

Magnificent Mount McKinley in Alaska, the highest peak in North America

So thank-you for coming along on these journeys with me over the past year. Many of you have been following my work for years already! I appreciate your support and belief in what I do. If you are interested in the painting "North On I-29", at the top of this blog, please contact Abbozzo Gallery.

Also I have set up an online ordering system for prints of my paintings and photographs! Here is the link to purchase prints.  I will add more paintings and photographs to the list of available pieces soon. You can purchase fine art prints, photo prints, mugs, magnets and more! 

May 2012 be your best year yet!

Sincerely, Heather

"Moving Forward" by Rainer Maria Rilke

The deep parts of my life pour onward,
as if the river shores were opening out.
It seems that things are more like me now,
that I can see farther into paintings.
I feel closer to what language can't reach.
With my senses, as with birds, I climb
into the windy heaven, out of the oak, 
in the ponds broken off from the sky
my falling sinks, as if standing on fishes.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Towards Fairbanks" and "The Swan" by Mary Oliver

"Towards Fairbanks, oil on panel, 9"x12", 2010

                               The Swan      by Mary Oliver

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

This painting and two other new landscapes are available at
Abbozzo Gallery! 

Wishing you a Happy Holiday and a wonderful New Year!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cavorting in Yosemite National Park

"I am not an adventurer by choice but by fate."~Vincent Van Gogh

After our day trip to the ghost town of Bodie, California, my friend Jay and I decided to explore more of Yosemite National Park where we were camped for a week. The entire region was a sensory witness "Nature's Cathedral" so intensely was something we knew we would hold close to our hearts forever. With each glance upward cliffs of granite greeted us and we watched the light slant and change every hour. We had our adventure shoes on, and plenty of good coffee too!

We had a great system of filters and coffee to jump start our mornings at camp

On one of our last days we went to the top of Glacier Point, over 3,000 feet above the valley floor. It was amazing and vertigo-inducing to look down over the edge to Curry Village down below. People scurried about like ants and cars were the size of pebbles. 

The winding climb that took over an hour to reach the top had us giddy with the knowledge that we were in such an amazing place. It was hot...every day was...July in Yosemite challenges your body to maintain a steady temperature, yet the climate is so variable that we were quite cold when twilight dipped into camp. Being in the high Sierras forces you to be prepared for the dramatic fluctuations in temperature from mid day to the middle of the night.

Here is a view looking out from Glacier Point. Half Dome, that sheer granite cliff that has inspired artists and naturalists for ages stands resolutely off to the right hand side. Here is a closer view of Half Dome below. It is hard to believe that it towers 4,744 ft above the valley floor... 

Spending time in Yosemite National Park fostered a new appreciation for the beautiful variation of the earth. It is continually a surprise, an adventure, an invitation to reach out beyond our preconceived ideas about what the world is about. It was my first time in California and I can see why people wax romantic about that state. Granted I only saw a small pocket of it, but an important and significant place. I am pleased that Yosemite National Park is protected, and, while heavily traveled, there is a conscientious attitude there to preserve and enjoy it for future generations. John Muir set a good example and the park simply would not exist without him. 

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, 
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."~John Muir

A view looking down Lower Yosemite Valley

On one of our last days in the Yosemite area, we ventured up to the Northeastern section of the park to Tuolumne Meadows. The drive took us on a winding road over to Olmstead point, which presented gorgeous views of the park from an entirely different angle. All told, we traveled from the top to the bottom of the park over the course of 8 days and did a great amount of hiking. From the vast expanse of the valley floor to standing in the soft shadow of giant sequoia trees, we embraced all that nature had to offer.

 Crazy-gorgeous sky and clouds, with slabs of mountains falling away
 as we drove towards Tuolumne Meadows..

At last...Tuolumne Meadows. Standing here was the highlight of my time in Yosemite..

Tuolumne Meadows literally took my breath away. We walked out on to the emerald expanse, and I could not help but spin around in circles. I felt like a child once again, and looked wide-eyed at the paradise rolling out all around us. Such large spaces of beauty seem to create a vacuum...they seem to possess their own gravity and pull you towards and into them as if with a tractor beam.

 The water was so clear I couldn't help but wade in up to my waist...fortunately I had my Vibram 5 Finger KSO's on!! These little shoes are fabulous...especially if you are a rock climber, or like to amble about or run barefoot. Check out your local hiking store to see if they carry them. Here is their site!
KSO's make you feel like a Nature ninja!

I admired the tenacity of this tree to grow through a crack in the rock. 
Proof that nothing is ever permanent..

We explored the meadow for the afternoon, walking away from the road, towards the river and passed all manner of rocks and trees, encountering almost no one once we left the road. Our entire week in the park had no rain, just hot temperatures, magnificent views and, fortunately, no cell phone reception!

Our last stop was the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias...sequoias are truly exceptional trees...they were almost driven to extinction because their wood is so valuable...I think it is over 300 times more dense than pine. The forest was quiet with a light humidity as we walked in the shade of their shadows...we followed the winding trail down through the forest, marvelling at their immensity and the majesty of these unique trees.

Jay demonstrating the scale of the giant sequoias...

Yosemite seems like a lifetime away now, but yet the memories of spending time here will never leave me. The park thankfully, is protected, and we have the freedom to explore its wilderness to our hearts' content. If you have the chance to visit Yosemite National Park, please do. It has a quiet magic that will cast a spell on you and will not lead you astray. I promise :)

"I will be the gladdest thing under the sun. 
I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one."~Edna St. Vincent Millay

Have a beautiful day, wherever you may be...

I now have prints, mugs, magnets of my paintings and photographs available!
 I will continually add new paintings and photographs for purchase. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thoughts on "127 Hours" And What We Overcome: Part 1

"Figure, Folded", oil on canvas

"The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it."~Moliere

I was on the treadmill today thinking about "127 Hours", as I have every day for the past week. Eight days ago my friend Natalie and I went to Toronto to see this film that I had heard so much about. It is the cinematic adaptation of Aaron Ralston's life threatening experience hiking near Moab, Utah in 2003. Knowing full well what was going to happen in the film, I was nervous about watching"the scene". Would I faint? Feel nauseous? Natalie thrust a colour photo from the center of Ralston's book "Between A Rock And A Hard Place" into my wide eyes, so that I could see his amputated arm, encased in rock and with splashes of crimson all around. That diminished my fear a bit, all the while piquing my curiosity about this man and what he did when there was no other option.

I had full confidence that "127 Hours" would move me. And it did. I've been watching Danny Boyle's films ever since "Shallow Grave" (1994). (Ewan McGregor laughing to himself in the restroom at a wedding, muttering "f#*king bin bag. He made that film).

As for "127 Hours" I was pulled into Aaron Ralston's world immediately. The film had a directness and did not embellish. It did not fall prey to many films that pad their premises with drama for drama's sake. I liked that. It simply took us to the heart of his ordeal yet laid it out in a thoughtful and beautiful way.

As an artist and outdoor enthusiast, I'm attracted to landscapes that take the breath away. I am bewitched by great distances between things. I MUST and WILL hike and experience that pocket of the world...ever since reading 'Desert Solitaire' two years ago, Edward Abbey's description of Arches National Monument and the surrounding landscape has haunted me. The film integrated the landscape with Ralston's enthusiasm perfectly..all the while drawing him nearer to the place that would change, and nearly take his life.

I have contemplated Ralston's act of cutting off his arm. Could I do the same thing? Would I survive it let alone have the courage to try? One can only speculate for it is only in that moment that you really discover the answer. So I started thinking...what have I overcome that has made me who I am today?

Now, keep in mind human beings compare in order to understand. We evaluate ourselves against the trials of our peers. Ralston lost an arm. That's heavy stuff. I'm not trying to compare our respective situations other than drawing even the most remote parallel.

Two experiences in my life have shaped me into who I am now. The first feeds into the second. In this blog entry I will describe the first experience. In a few days I will write about the other..

Three years ago I overcame an eating disorder that had me very VERY ill. I am 5'8" and had whittled down to 100 lbs at my lowest weight. I could not sit on a wooden chair or sleep with my knees stacked together for the pain from lack of body fat/muscle. I was in a crazy situation that had been precipitated by a depression following my mother suffering a massive stroke. I sought control in a situation that had swung madly off the charts of my understanding.

I obsessed about what I ate and overexercised. It became a game. A deadly game. My brain and body chemistry had altered so much that I felt like a husk of a human being. I felt like and looked like a wraith drifting between the world of the living and the dead. It was only when I was told I had osteoporosis at the age of 32 that I snapped out of it. Then and there in the doctor's office. That diagnosis changed me. I was not ready to perish. I was not ready to let go. I walked out of that office, ate whatever I wanted that day and never looked back. Now, four years later I have almost entirely reversed my bone loss (bone is the slowest growing tissue in the human body), am healthy and hike all over the world. With a combination of tenacity and determination, there truly is no limit to what you can do.

"Self-Portrait, Between", oil on canvas

Keep in mind I had to paint and earn a living through the eating disorder. The fire had left my eyes but there was always a spark deep inside. I knew this situation could not continue. It was like living two lives: the one I was trapped in and the one I knew was the correct one. I needed to paint myself in these places of unhappiness. As Picasso once said "painting is just another way of keeping a diary."Thus I have a record of what I went through with some of my self-portraits. Even the other work I did has echoes of that sadness in them. Here are some examples:

"Self-Portrait, Bedhead" This one won a prize :)
"Double Portrait", oil on canvas, 48"x36"

 "The Spare Room", oil on canvas, 30"x60"

I think that this period of my life produced some of the most emotional work I have done. Yet I was not healthy. I painted as though through a gauze, in the shadows, indirectly. Now I am back on track and painting with a vibrant palette and carving out experiences wherever the wind blows me. It is all a part of our own unique history. We all have a way of tallying our lives, of realizing them with permanence. Mine is through paint and words.

Thus back to Aaron Ralston

"Art begins with resistance-at the point where resistance is overcome. 
No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor."~Andre Gidé

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Chris's Tent, Stampede Trail"

"By all means use sometimes to be alone.
  Salute thyself; see what thy soul doth wear."
  ~George Herbert

It is human nature to test oneself. There is a desire to carve out one's character and prove one's mettle in this world. How we do this is beautifully varied and unique to each of our own temperaments. Some of us dream to take the leap into this unknown. Others do it. Chris McCandless did it. The fact that he perished while realizing his dream doesn't change the fact that at least he tried. This is why I have gravitated to his story and the photographs that he took have inspired over 14 paintings based on his adventures from 1990-1992. "Chris's Pack, Stampede Trail", 18"x36", oil on canvas,  is the latest in this body of work.

Chris set out on The Stampede Trail on the morning of April 28th, 1992. It was cold and spring was particularly late arriving that year. This painting shows  the snow-packed trail and his small camp that he has set up right on the track. Considering how many mushers and snowmobilers, skiers and outdoor enthusiasts frequent the area, it is pretty amazing that Chris didn't see another soul for 113 days. But this is probably what he hoped for. Total isolation. The ultimate test to see if he could do it. And he almost did. 

The Stampede Trail runs along a small parcel of land that is technically in the Wolf township. It is surrounded entirely by Denali National Park, a vast expanse that is over 6 million square acres. Stampede Road graduates into Stampede Trail, and the trail meanders for over 20 miles before dissolving into the wilderness. Along the trail there are a few cabins but it is largely unpopulated. I have hiked the entire length of Chris's journey along the Stampede Trail, so going through his photographs I feel a wave of nostalgia, which strikes me as a bit strange. Read about my entire journey here. I recognize areas that he photographed (the Teklanika River, Bus 142, the gravel bar near the Sushana River). This painting is another of Chris's many "self-portraits". His tent, his small home, his worldly possessions all assembled on the cold earth, are an extension of himself. He wanted to look back on these images and remember what he had done and where he had been. 

In approaching this painting I wanted to accentuate the space, the open sky and surrounding landscape. The colour palette is muted. Subtle. I used a lot of grey which I mix on my palette rather than purchasing grey in a tube. The same goes for black. I like to mix all of these tones each time I apply a bit of pigment. I never mix a large quantity of paint to draw from but prefer the inherent variations produced from mixing for each brushstroke. That is why a large section of black can have echoes of dark green, purple, crimson or blue.

Painting white is one of my favourite things to do. Whether it be snow or sheets draping a figure, all colours are found in white, but the challenge is to show that it IS does one do that? Like anything else, it is a balance of value and colour. The important thing is to stay open to being surprised by what you see and being faithful and resolved to reproduce it on canvas as accurately as possible.

Although this painting is of Chris's tent along the Stampede Trail it could belong to any of us. It is a symbol. It represents the bottomless energy of youth and the determination to not shy away from the precipice. 

I have had many requests to show the painting of Chris's belt that I painted a study of. Here it is again. It is called "Diary Of A Supertramp (study)". A full version of the belt will be included in the "Back To The Wild: The Photographs And Writings Of Christopher McCandless", released in 2011! 

"Diary Of A Supertramp (Study)", oil on panel

Below is a photograph of the Stampede trail as it winds through the Alaskan backcountry in the height of summer. Photo courtesy of my dear friend Ed Plumb, who hiked it with me in 2008. 

"I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘T is better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all."
~Alfred Lord Tennyson

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bodie, California: Beauty In Decay

"Men rush to California and Australia as if the true gold were to be found in that direction; but that is to go to the very opposite extreme to where it lies."~Henry David Thoreau

Human beings are by nature a curious and persistent lot. We are constantly seeking to improve ourselves through whatever means necessary. Take gold for example. Gold was the catalyst that created a huge influx of wealth and people into California in the 1800's. Bodie, California lies east of the Sierra Nevada, only 12 miles from the Nevada border. I had the chance to see this amazing town that lives in a state of "arrested decay" with my friend Jay this past August. 

Jay and I were in the midst of spending a week in Yosemite National Park, exploring its many wonders. We decided to leave the park and venture to Bodie for a day trip. A 3.5 hour drive northeast of Yosemite brought us to the dusty and rock-strewn road that breaks off from I-395. We then began a circuitous route around sandy mountains littered with dusty, dry bushes. It was HOT. August. The desert. Enough said. Yet we relished was such a far cry from the cool mists of Vernal Falls and Yosemite Falls in the heart of Yosemite Valley.

Big sky country. Taking a break along the bumpy, 
12 mile stretch of unmaintained road towards Bodie.

As we drove along this road we marvelled at the unrelentingly stark landscape around us. We could not imagine living out here, much less in the ferocious winter months. After what seemed like hours a bend in the road brought us to our prize: Bodie. The buildings scattered on the hillside seemed dwarfed by the sky and sheer scale of our surroundings. 

Bodie's notorious reputation precedes it. Known as a den of inequity and crime in its hay day, all that remains now are whispers and ghosts of its past. As an artist and someone fascinated by the remains of activity in quiet places, it was Xanadu. There were no residents to tell the tales, no miners and bankers, mothers and husbands to share their happinesses and sorrows. There was only what they left behind in the spaces they used to inhabit. Haunting stuff. 

 A small barn slowly accepting the inevitable..
This old bed frame, cast aside, symbolized lives lived and long gone.

Bodie has been designated as a National Historic Site and thus has a small crew that works there on a full-time basis. They take tours out around town and supply visitors with answers to their questions. With a detailed map of present and the footprints of past structures in hand, Jay and I meandered around the town for the afternoon. Here are some photos of what we found...

A chopping block. I found this rather eerie.
Wires like arms outstretched..

 Jim, a convivial guide who offered tours of the mine that is usually closed to visitors.

Relishing the unique climate and feel of such a special place. 
Ontario seemed very far away..

Bodie is a testament to the adage that change is the only constant. The buildings were hastily and poorly constructed when the town began to boom in the 1870's. Thus when winter set, in a lack of insulation contributed to a high mortality rate. Crime was a daily reality as well. The town bell would ring each time someone lost their life. It rang very frequently. One little girl famously wrote in her diary when she learned of her family's move to Bodie: Goodbye God. I'm moving to Bodie."

 The Swayze Hotel in the foreground. Note the beam propping it up.

This side trip to Bodie will always stand out in stark contrast to the verdant climes of Yosemite that we had come to know and love in the days leading up to this day. Bodie in particular is a reminder that life is always hurtling quickly forward. It takes no prisoners. A sign in one building in town had a plaque that showed Bodie in various phases of its existence. "Nothing Endures But Change" Hericlitus said, and this quote lies above the photos. I could have spent weeks photographing this place...the rugged countryside and threatening sky seemed constantly poised to descend and swallow it up. It was eerie. It was beautiful. It was. 

Crumbling remains of the bank in Bodie.

"Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are."~Bertolt Brecht

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Self-Portrait, Smallest"

"The countenance is the portrait of the mind, the eyes are its informers."~Marcus Cicero

The only place that I have ever left that brought tears to my eyes is Alaska. "Self-Portrait, Smallest", oil on panel, 3"x4", symbolizes the vacuum I felt between the 49th state and my studio a few days after arriving back in Ontario, Canada, thousands of kilometres away.

13 wonderful days were spent in my favourite place, meeting new friends, reuniting with old ones and exploring new territory. My friend Jay and I camped and hiked in Denali National Park and spent lots of time in Fairbanks with my dear friend Ed and other good friends. Once you have friends and a community about you, it endears you even further to that land. It attaches itself to your bones and beckons you to return.. Perusing photos I had taken, a melancholia descended upon me and I knew I had to paint that impression. Could this be seen as melodramatic? Perhaps, but this is how it felt and thus it is the truth, and I had to capture it.

I think that often the smallest paintings can be receptacles for the greatest depth of emotion. These tiny paintings are often studies that depict moments of reflection, of poignancy, of quiet urgency. They are easily missed but if you notice them they challenge you to look away. Perhaps that is what I love about Alaska: it challenges me to look away from it when I am off in other places, working on other projects and exploring other landscapes. And perhaps the North, as a corollary, is where the true allure lies. This is what will take me to Greenland and Norway next year, yes further Arctic adventures are in store! Yet each time I gaze at this little painting I am reminded of the mist that lay low in the valleys of Denali National Park the morning we drove out, of the lone caribou that wandered towards us as we hiked along the park road, or of seeing Mt. McKinley out and perfect in its full glory on that special day. It is a small remembrance of a much larger experience. Here are some photos from that journey to provide context...

Driving towards Cantwell on the Denali Highway

Mt. McKinley, the tallest peak in North America was fully visible that day...

Driving out early in the morning from Denali National Park...6 million acres of beauty..

Technically, I spent a long time on this painting. Longer than I thought I would but the intricacy of the smaller details is what demanded further attention. Yes, I painted with small brushes, whisper-thin at a few hairs wide, but you are only as good as your brushes, in my opinion. You can mix colour with anything but the care taken when applying it is where true patience speaks and accuracy is essential. I enjoyed the lack of white, but mixing and applying variations of pale pumpkin all the way through to angry russets. Painting transitions is always something to pay close attention to: where the jawline recedes into the pillow behind it, where the creases in eyelids or hands all must be considered. Unless I am under a tight deadline, I enjoy this task immensely.

This painting is on wood panel, which adds a bit of weight to it. It is comfortable in the seen here as I dropped the painting off at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario:

I found out that there were clients waiting to see the painting the day before, when I had mentioned I would drop it off...what a wonderful know that people are looking forward to seeing work before it has even dried. Joy!

Speaking of joy, I wish you a wonderful and brilliant day wherever you may be reading this post day I will release a book with photography and paintings together, stitched together from different adventures and the impressions they have left upon me, as well as the beautiful souls encountered on the way.

"Your work is to discover your world and then
with all your heart give yourself to it."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Yosemite National Park: Nature's Cathedral, Part 1

Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space. ~Ansel Adams 

It has been quite a while since my last posting but I have been accumulating a lot of blissful experiences traveling and exploring! I seek to embrace as much exploration as possible...there will definitely be a book of artwork and photography that comes from all of these travels!

I had the great pleasure of visiting Yosemite National Park last month. The park surpassed my expectations and let me tell you, they were high. I, like millions of people around the world, fell in love with the park while watching the Ken Burns special "National Parks: America's Best Idea" which aired last year. In fact, one park employee remarked that attendance in the park is expected to increase by 40% in 2010, due mainly to the Burns Special. Truly, Burns' photography painted a stunning wilderness tapestry with his series....he showed the park and the beauty of the High Sierra like nothing I had ever seen before. I remember goosebumps alternating with getting choked up by the beautiful cinematography.

My friend Jay from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and I had been planning this hiking/camping trip for over a year. We would camp for a week in Yosemite and then fly up to Denali National Park in Alaska. Pretty much a National Park dream-come-true :) Initially we were skeptical about our campground being so far away from Yosemite Valley but came to relish the cooler temperatures with the 1,000 ft elevation gain it had compared to the valley floor. Hodgdon Campground was beautiful for its giant Mariposa pines and fresh air....but I did have some issues with noisy neighbours for most of the week. Proximity is close between campsites so hopefully there aren't many people who snore :) However the group of ornithologists camped on our other side made for perfect neighbours...they were quiet and respectful.

Looking down an adjacent valley en route to Yosemite Valley...sublime!

The majestic El Capitan took our breath away
En route to Curry Village we stopped and walked through this meadow
Despite temperatures that rose to swelterings level during the high point of the day we relished the cooler evenings and higher elevation of our camp. Yosemite Valley was bustling with lots of people yet rarely felt "crowded". Curry Village was charming and well-equipped with a great climbing/gear store, a souvenir shop, a great pizza place, a larger hall that served buffet style meals every day, a cafe and a quiet area where WiFi was sporadic. Perhaps the granite cliffs all around us thwarted a decent signal but our goal was not to stay connected but to get away and explore. Jay and I have a deep respect for John Muir and Ansel Adams...both of whom were deeply passionate about the park and we understand why now.

Jay sitting by the sign towards Vernal Fals
We caught a glimpse of the falls on our way up. It was a steep, slippery climb but great fun!
Our climb up Vernal Falls didn't take very long but it had a steady flow of traffic and, being a narrow trail in sections, there was some waiting involved. Everyone was happy and excited to be there, you could tell...and who wouldn't be? I enjoyed the Mist Trail...the park was so healthy and clean...we hardly saw one piece of litter the whole time at Yosemite.

Vernal Falls

We hiked up to the top of Vernal Falls, a popular, steep hike with 900 ft elevation in a short time. On our way back down I spotted some Amish people ascending up the trail. I thought that they looked beautiful and was fascinated. I looked away as they passed because I did not want them to think I was staring at them. I took a quick shot with my camera that I lined up quickly and candidly, having no idea what I would capture, if anything....
But there they were in the frame...
Vernal Falls was a great hike for our first day. We acquainted ourselves with the valley and rented bicycles in the afternoon that we rode out to Mirror Lake. Lots of people rent bikes for the day in the park as there is minimal car traffic and lots of paved areas and unpaved trails to travel on. The ride to Mirror Lake was mostly uphill but a low grade which we appreciated given the heat of the day. Mirror Lake is an area frequented by children and families who want to splash in the clear waters and admire the granite cliffs that surround the park. Part of the trail in the area was closed off recently due to a rockslide but just standing at the water's edge gave us a huge sense of peace. I waded into the water and would have spent the entire day there but there was so much left to doesn't have to push oneself to scale up craggy trails to find great joy. I'm sure Thoreau often found bliss contemplating a blade of grass or a flower. I believe it is not the distance that one travels but how you contemplate and feel about what you have seen that matters most.
Mirror is easy to see where it gets its name from..
Half Dome never seemed far away from is so vast you can see it from many miles away.
 Granite veins that seem to provide a life force to the valley and park.

The setting sun filtering through the trees at Hodgdon Meadow

We had read that the Tiger Lillies were blooming in Hodgdon Meadow so we found the trail and walked out in the evening was peaceful and quiet with the perfume of campfires wafting from the campground nearby. The lilt of laughter could be heard from far off...people relishing the place as well..for they, like we had the pleasure of embracing the magic of Yosemite for that week....

I am heading to France for two weeks for a painting commission but I will blog more about Yosemite and Alaska upon my return. Have a beautiful day and savour every moment...


Sunlight through the Tiger Lillies blooming in Hodgdon Meadow