I went to the first day of the Park’s annual Level 1 Bear Training and got a lot of information not only about bears but about how the warming climate is affecting local flora and fauna. Besides well-known glacier-wasting the typical extents and ranges of many plants are changing, possibly affecting many food webs. There is a great deal of science going on here – more than I have been aware of in other parks. I learned that last year the Park had its first alpine fire; I will definitely be seeking out charred krumholz to paint.
This may just be my ignorance, but a number of programs are housed at Park Headquarters and there seems to be a lot of interagency and inter-institution collaboration. They are justly proud of bringing the bears back from the edge of endangerment.
I’m afraid bear training didn’t make me feel any less apprehensive—just put more imaginary movies in my mind. The missing data for me are: number of annual visitor-bear encounters versus the number of annual non-bad outcomes per encounter. One has to assume the numbers are somewhere between the ~1 injury or fatality per year since the park began, and the 2 million visitors per year – but where?
It is a new kind of constraint, feeling that it’s unwise to hike alone and sit quietly painting plein air. So mostly I do a quick drawing on my watercolor paper while singing all the verses I can remember to “Roll On, Columbia” and paint it when I get back to the cabin. So far, four hikes, five paintings ; – )
A friend sent a 2012 article that cites Stephen Herero saying 98% of bear encounters where pepper spray was used have positive outcomes for both human and bear… a reassuring statistic though I’d still like to get a sense of the frequency of such encounters.
My friend Wendy The Frog Biologist send me news of a lone wolf sighted in the Grand Canyon. I feel some kinship but as yet my canines haven’t extended ; – )
I am in a war with rodentia. They own the territory and I’m the one that’s out of place.
If I really work at it I can make a scene fit my sheet – really I can. The board in my little plein air kit (gator foam covered with adhesive plastic) fits a quarter-size watercolor sheet (11 x 15). As a consequence that’s the size I generally do outdoors, even when I all I do is a drawing on the sheet, and paint it later. But here in Zion Canyon, the views are so expansive I can rarely contain the scene on a sheet of that proportion – it demands to be wider or taller than “normal”. Over and over I end up continuing the drawing onto a second and even third sheet.
Two days ago while hiking up Observation Point I started thinking about shaped sheets. One of the beauties of work on paper is that one is surely not bound to a rectangle. This is looking down on the canyon floor, Mt. Moroni, one of the Patriarchs, and the top of Angel’s Landing,
Shaped-sheet painting “Observing Zion” ~30″ x 11″, watercolor on paper
Further update: similar viewpoint to Maynard Dixon’s painting of Angel’s Landing and the Great White Throne (a double-quarter-sheet diptych, 15 x 22).
My version of the Great White Throne and Angels Landing, similar to Maynard Dixon’s
The newest rock texture, from my day of painted desert hiking on the southwest side of the park.
Gypsum and shale in Scroggins Wash, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 11″
And another update: a better tarantula photo (second sighting).
About two-thirds the size of my hand.
Saw my first tarantula, crawling in the grass by the side of the Angel’s Landing trail, near the bottom. Pretty cute. Yesterday I saw a shed snake skin, off the Kolob Terrace road.
My first tarantula
High-fashion former snake costume
I’m realizing I am at the half-way point of the residency, and a low-grade panic is setting in. There’s so much more to do! I’m just getting to know a few people. I haven’t painted the river yet, or the huge blind arch on Red Arch Mountain behind the house. I haven’t been hiking in Kolob Canyons or on the east side. There are so many more rock textures to collect and paint…
I’ve seen the fox that leaves its “presents” on the sandstone ledge near my front door handle–very bushy tail, mostly grey, but much smaller than a coyote. For my last trek down-canyon for the Lodge’s wi-fi, I was followed or led by a turkey hen the entire half-mile. Today I saw a jackrabbit bound off into the sage in the emptier painted desert portion of the park. And a few evenings ago as I ate my silent solitary dinner at the kitchen table, immediately on the other side of the glass a doe browsed on the vegetation in the “backyard. I couldn’t tell whether she was as happy with her fare as I was with my smoked tuna salad.