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.

Closing public land

A number of people have asked how the government shutdown that has closed the North Cascades and other National Parks is affecting me. In some ways, not so much. I am technically a park volunteer; luckily some of the places I want to paint and walk are on private land. On the other hand, six of my big burned tree paintings are hanging in the Golden West Visitor Center, which is now closed, so no one is seeing them. But at this last weekend’s community cider pressing, I displayed two more of the big trees, as well as the work I’ve done since I arrived three weeks ago. (See my previous post on Community.)

I felt warmly welcomed and appreciated. As a result I’ll be giving a painting lesson at the one-room K-8 school this week. So I’m serving the Stehekin Valley community if not the Park’s visitors. Though to be sure, at least one attendee I spoke with was a Pacific Crest Trail through-hiker turned back by our heavy, early snowfall.

It has also made me wonder about the meaning of “public” land: federal ownership of these jewels of our geography now means we tax-paying “owners” can’t visit them. But many of the trails and pioneer homesteads in this valley existed long before the Park received them, and the idea that something too vast to patrol or maintain is somehow closed to public access seems at least puzzling, if not a bit absurd.