Driving

October 25

One of the hazards of this area is the sharp Kaibab limestone rocks on the back roads. I fear for my tires. I heard from the owner of Willow Canyon (the oh-so welcoming espresso stand/bookstore/gear emporium in Kanab UT) that the GC backcountry rangers assume 2 flats within 10,000 miles, and 4 by 20,000. (I might have the numbers wrong but you get the idea.) With only one spare I was apprehensive on every drive. So there were a number of places where I gave up and turned around.

But I made it to the Triple Alcove, East Rim and some of the Buck Farm Wash overlooks. It was an emotional moment to stand above the places I’d been in 2010 and look down on The River. Once  through a cleft I saw a raft working its way downstream and I wondered if they could distinguish a watcher on the rim.

Photograph of Suze Woolf painting of the Grand Canyon

Looking south from Buck Farm Wash, watercolor on paper, 15″ x 11″ (and already sold ; – )

And in the Folly-of-Man category I saw the remnant enormous eye-bolts used in preliminary tests for the Marble Canyon dam that was, thankfully, never built. This was the battle that brought David Brower to national prominence (cf. Encounters with the Archdruid). I hope that we will do as well with the Trust’s issues of our day – grazing, public lands policy, threats to the watershed, and alas, many others.

Glen Canyon

October 22

I join friends for a boat ride upriver. I fill my entire camera card with photos. It was like a mini-Grand Canyon raft trip, similar spectacular scenery but louder and without all the sand in your food. Ospreys and herons every quarter-mile. However it is well-beloved of fishermen and duck hunters; unlike the Grand Canyon solitude is unlikely. And it was bizarre to round the last corner and see the dam. Also strange to see the Colorado so clear and green: because it’s coming out of the bottom of Lake Powell it lacks the silt and sediment of its enormous watershed. I am reading Tim Egan’s Lasso the Wind; he reminds me of the great irony of the lake behind it named for John Wesley Powell, who argued for climate-appropriate development in the arid southwest and failed.

Photo of Glen Canyon Dam from the Colorado River

Glen Canyon Dam from the Colorado River

 

45-minute sketch of a buttress in Glenn Canyon

45-minute sketch of a buttress in Glenn Canyon

Suze Woolf painting in Glen Canyon AZ

Painting on the beach in Glen Canyon

 

Which Way

October 17

I have been thinking about the Grand Canyon Trust’s experiments to improve grazing practices. Out behind the barn lie coils of old barbed wire, laboriously unstrung from fences by volunteers. A smooth lower wire still keeps the cattle in but allows antelope to crawl under them (and me, too). So I set up some of the rusted barbed wire for a tightly rendered study… exactly what I am going to tell my students not to do, “drawing with a paint brush.”

Which Way? Two pieces, each 5.5" x 15", watercolor on paper Suze Woolf paintings

Which Way? Two pieces, each 5.5″ x 15″, watercolor on paper

I revisited Lee’s Ferry to hike the Spencer Trail. It puts you on top of a plateau with wonderful views down into Glen Canyon – as well as the Page airport. Excellent cell coverage while contemplating the trio of puffing smokestacks of the coal-fired Navajo plant.

Looking into Glen Canyon painting by Suze Woolf

Looking into Glen Canyon

The view the other way was equally compelling, even on a hazy day. I loved serried silhouettes. Is it because of what my 80’s sculpture professor said, that repetition is compelling? Or that seeing a peek-a-boo view of anything occluded by something else is an invitation to exploration?

Suze Woolf painting of Vermilion Cliffs from Marble Canyon on a cloudy day

Vermilion Cliffs from Marble Canyon on a cloudy day

I walked down part of Cathedral Wash. Due to the flooding in September it has a fair amount of muddy waterholes, undesirable for someone who forgot her water shoes. It’s no Blacktail Canyon but the eroded and calcified limestone layer has a certain Halloween-y aspect.

 

Strange limestone formations in Cathedral Wash, Lee's Ferry AZ

Spooky limestone?

A Walking Day: Eastern Crack to the Sand Hills

October 14

I follow guidebook instructions to climb through a cleft in the Vermilion Cliffs. Dramatic, not easy walking, but not technical or terribly exposed, I’m thrilled to be in these places. I have yet to see another soul, though foot prints suggest otherwise. History again hovers – pioneer cabin, rock art and arrowheads this time, though some graven graffiti from 1914 and 1952, too.

Snake petroglyph in the Sand Hills

Snake petroglyph in the Sand Hills

Near the top of Vermilion Cliffs

Near the top of Vermilion Cliffs

 

Kane Ranch

October 10

After stops in Boise with old friends, and new artist friends in Parowan Utah (the amazingly creative and accomplished Sue Cotter and Spike Ress), I finally reach Kane Ranch. Forgive me for posting many days at once – it’s several hours’ drive to access the Internet. Despite my residency on the east side of North Cascades National Park – to which you can only fly in, hike in or take a 2-4 hour boat ride — this is more remote! 10 miles of dirt road and 10 more on paved to the nearest gas. I have just enough cell coverage to occasionally get phone messages, but I am back to life without radio, recorded music, instant answers and facebook.

Built in the 1870s the stone ranch house has been updated with solar-powered electricity, propane heat/stove and new outhouses. So while primitive compared to my urban life, this would be luxury to the pioneers that originally occupied so many homes like this one. History hovers wherever you are around here, and in this dry desert air, its evidence is slow to disappear. Part of the residency goal is to communicate a sense of place, to find another way to express the value of public lands.

This is my 10-mile long driveway.

This is my 10-mile long driveway.

My nearest neighbors ; - )

My nearest neighbors ; – )

Kane Ranch house. It was windy enough that the easel blew over.

Kane Ranch house. It was windy enough that the easel blew over.