Thursday, October 17, 2013

Five Thousand Miles Wandering About the Pacific Northwest

When Karen and I traveled in the past it was always to get somewhere -- usually without a lot of delays other than stops at Tim Horton's or Starbucks.  So, when we left the house for five weeks this fall it was with a destination, too -- a partially unplanned route back to the house except for necessary ferry rides and prearranged stops at Cape Meares, Oregon; Rialto Beach, Washington and Packwood, Washington near the southern entrance to Mt. Ranier National Park.

Beyond that Karen would fly to Iowa to join her cousin, Connie.  There, a side trip to Wisconsin to perhaps say good bye to Karen's beloved Four Mile Lake cabin, filled out their itinerary.

As for me I had two weeks to plein air paint my way back to Prince Rupert, British Columbia where a ferry would take me home -- no reservations, no agenda, just follow my nose.  I've never done that before.  The trip was filled with energizing moments as I discovered new vistas and previously undiscovered (by me) parts of the northwest where I now yearn to spend a lot more time, disappointments when paintings didn't "say" what I intended them to, loneliness, and wonderingly about why am I doing this.  I came away with a new perspective on my art -- that as much as I enjoy plein air painting, I prefer it in smaller doses -- that painting in my studio offers the most tangible rewards.

I also came away with new perspectives on our country.  The Pacific Northwest coast is still as magical as ever, but so too are many areas I wandered through -- eastern Washington, northern Idaho, western Montana and drives through central British Columbia during the peak of autumn colors.

My unspoken idea of painting in Glacier National Park and several National Wildlife Refuges was scuttled by the government shutdown, but compensated for by a new appreciation for National Forests which lacked enough gates and personnel to block access.  So while I was disappointed at how much has been logged, I was excited about intact riparian areas and stream sides on the valley floors.

The trip brought about humorous moments like the microwave in Heidi's Inn in Iwaco, Washington, that beeped every time I passed it -- until I tried to show Karen the next morning.  We discovered the real meaning of sea foam as 16-foot seas at Rialto Beach, Washington stirred a mixture of diatoms and air into a froth that covered stretches of beach from the edge of the water to several feet deep on top of driftwood logs.  We discovered the meaning of another variety of foam when Mandy put a healthy dose of regular dish soap into an electric dishwasher in Cape Meares, Oregon, thereby rivaling Rialto Beach.  Note:  We usually wash dishes by hand in both of our homes.

The trip provided a few moments of apprehension with reminders of why, at my age, night driving isn't such a great idea and, in another instance, how much I treasure Karen.

I'll be blogging about this trip in a series of installments, perhaps interrupted by current events, but then resuming until the trip has run it's course  But, don't expect a narrative about the spectacular scenery and brilliant autumn colors we encountered.  Hopefully a few photos will cover that aspect.

Stay tuned during the coming weeks and you'll see what happened in our lives through most of September into mid October.

Our first evening on the road, or in our case, on the Alaska ferry, Matanuska, is always one of the best of any trip as we anticipate all the adventures ahead.

Beaches along the Oregon coast, like this one at Oceanside, never cease to make us marvel at the power of nature.

Karen and Mandy got the chance for more mother/daughter bonding at Cape Meares, Oregon

We didn't miss a sunset at Cape Meares, Oregon -- or at Rialto Beach, Washington either -- and we were never disappointed.  Incidentally, Mike is not a hunchback.  He was bending over to relate to Gigi, the pooch Mandy and Mike rescued from the pound several years ago.

Ruby Beach, part of Washington's Olympic National Park, is always a favorite for us.  Karen wanted me to bring the driftwood log home, but I assured her the Park Service would frown on removing some of their scenic wonders.

Our last evening at Rialto Beach left us wistfully wishing that part of the trip wasn't over.

After weathering the tail end of a typhoon merging with a powerful storm out of the Gulf of Alaska while we attempted to visit Mount Rainier National Park, Karen flew to Iowa while I discovered another sea -- a sea of rolling hills in eastern Washington and northern Idaho -- like these hills above Lewiston, Idaho.

I explored many a road, like this one near Lolo Hot Springs in western Montana, searching for plein air painting subjects.  I think I saw two vehicles on the road that day.

Some roads led to discoveries like this sod house close to the Clark Fork (no it's not an eating utensil, it's a River) near Plains, Montana.

 I so much wanted to launch a canoe into this lake south of Prince George, British Columbia. 

Back into southeast Alaskan waters, I savored my last evening on the "road" as I contemplated my next road trip.


Susan Christensen said...

Oh how I enjoyed reading - and seeing - this post of you adventures. I look forward to the next installment Don! And welcome home!

Don and Karen Cornelius Artwork said...

Thanks, Susan. It's good to be home yet I'm looking forward to the next adventure. Karen comes home tomorrow.

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