Last sketch until I get back. This one was done last year at one of my favorite campgrounds where even the light is golden underneath the aspens and those lovely leaves fall and cover the ground like golden coins. Love that place!!!
This is a view from the top of Beckwourth pass at 5,000 feet into the beginnings of the Great Basin Desert. The trees become sparse here and most of the plant life is either sagebrush or rabbit brush. By the time one gets to Reno it’s almost all rocks and sand. Reno is at about 4,000 feet, and is considered “high desert” whereas most of the Mojave is “low desert” because of the much lower elevations, including some parts that are below sea level.
Since much of this is volcano country there are a lot of hot springs around. This one is in Reno, Nevada and is called Steamboat Hot Springs (supposedly named that by Mark Twain when he was writing for the newspaper in Virginia City). Native peoples had used these springs for a long time before 1800. After that it became a stagecoach stop, a post office, a hospital and a hotel. The waters are very hot and cooling tanks are needed before it can be used, and there are volcanic minerals in it found nowhere else in the U.S. (supposedly). I took a tour of the place the last time I was in Reno, and each bathing room has a large tub and a window made of stained class with a different color for each room. It’s supposed to be light therapy while one is sitting in the mineral bath. Anyhow, these days it is pretty run down, and they are trying to get some sort of funding to upgrade it since it is of historical interest.
Beckwourth Cabin in Portola, CA. Jim Beckwourth was an emancipated slave who became a trapper, trader, businessman, explorer, trailblazer, Indian War Chief, Indian scout, story teller, wagon master, courier, soldier and professional card player. While out prospecting he discovered the lowest pass over the Sierra Nevadas in 1850. Now the horde of prospectors coming to the California gold fields could use this pass which spared them 150 miles, many steep grades and terrible winters, like those of the Donner Pass. In the next decade over 10,000 people used the pass to get to California. This is his cabin in Portola where he welcomed the pioneers and fed them and let them rest, traded with them, told his adventure stories, and sometimes cheated them too. The cabin has been restored and is now a museum which never seems to be open when I’ve been there. He was quite an adventurer and the town of Beckwourth, where he also had a hotel, is named after him.
This is a prosperous cattle ranch in the Sierra Valley on the way to Reno, Nevada. By this time of the year most of the grasses have turned tawny, but the trees are just beginning to turn. The Sierra Valley was settled mostly by Italian-Swiss colonists, who came here to mine gold and found that they could make more money with ranching and feeding the miners. If you go to an old graveyard there are mostly Italian names on the tombstones, and some of the descendants still live and ranch here.
This isn’t a very spectacular plant, but there are lots of cherries this year. They come in colors all the way from reddish to maroon. It’s another favorite bear food, and they are welcomed to them as they are edible but VERY bitter.
This fruit is from the same tree as the painting I posted in May when it was in bloom. It was packed with blossoms then and is packed with fruit now. I think I’ll try making crabapple jelly, although it’s not one of my favorites. But I hate to see it all go to waste after such spectacular beauty in May.
This is from last year. We have Western Dogwood here which, unlike Eastern Dogwood, has more than four petals. In the autumn the berries turn bright red and the leaves turn sort of a brick red and look like stained glass when the sun shines on them. There are whole hillsides of dogwood in some spots and it’s a gorgeous site if you catch it at the right time. I tried to catch the “stained glass” effect here, but I used different colored pencils for the veining before the watercolor was applied as an experiment. The original colors are much brighter than this, but oh well, it’ll have to do.
The thorns on these are vicious, and it’s best to wear leather when picking them. Alas, all I had was denim, and I still have sores where they “got” me. But it was worth it. These are wild blackberries, small but intensely sweet, and I try to pick some every year to savor during the bleak winter months.
I finished this elderberry cluster yesterday, sitting in a mountain meadow at about 7,000 feet, and actually had to put a sweater on because it got so chilly. I could smell winter in the air. White prismacolor pencil was used over the indigo blue berries to depict the sort of haze these berries have (same as grapes). The leaves were done with negative painting, that is I did a layer of light green and then painted around each vein. By this time of year there is very little intact foliage anymore. Most of it has been chewed on by bugs or damaged by weather.