I just arrived home from a wonderful tour de Washington loop (out on I-90, back on Highway 20) that included chaperoning one session of Garfield High School’s “Desert School” outdoor education program. The program is based at Camp Delany in Sun Lakes State Park, embedded in a landscape carved by the great flood of Lake Missoula thousands and thousands of years ago. It’s a fabulous sage brush steppe environment and I love to breathe deeply and drink in all the scents out there. I was last out in Sun Lakes eight years ago when I was a senior at Garfield… amazing how time passes.
In between hiking and kayaking with the students (who also rock climb and learn about geology and biology) I found some time to paint. It’s a challenging landscape! The dusty ochre hues range from red to orange and yellow and small details abound. The cliffs have patterns and layers created by multiple lava flows and water erosion, the landscape is speckled with low shrubs, and it’s all a bit dusty. Morning was the best light and my evenings were busy anyways (the last night’s activity of Desert School was an epic four hour skit night). I found in the low light and longer shadows that violet was an integral tone for the landscape. I’ve included one sketch below.
Once the program wrapped up, my boyfriend Darin and I headed north east and left open lands with big skies as we approached the foothills of the North Cascades Mountains. On our trip, we had the opportunity to visit the Grand Coulee and Chief Josef dams on the Columbia River. They are the two largest dams in the United States and part of the 400+ network of dams on the river and its tributaries. I’m curious to learn more my local resources and and appreciated seeing the dams and considering their environmental ramifications- particularly for the salmon populations.
Anyways, Darin and I spent a couple days in the Methow Valley (one of my favorite places on earth) hiking and bird watching. The wildflowers- particularly the balsam root- were in bloom, which was a treat. I found time for some sketching and am trying to be conscientious of value changes- particularly with so much green. I’m building my green “palette of place”… although I’m still more comfortable with rock and ice!