Saturday, January 25, 2014

Idaho Trout Country

Grangeville, Idaho, lies on the western edge of the Bitterroot Range.  I had barely heard of the town before I arrived the evening I painted the apple tree, much less expected to spend two nights there.

Ms Garmin II lead me to a “mom and pop” motel located off the main road through town.  The owner, a very serious immigrant from India who had migrated to Grangeville to buy the motel doesn’t like northern Idaho winters.  Judging from his lack of smiles -- just one briefly cracked his perpetual frown -- I suspect that wasn’t all he dislikes. However the motel was clean and quiet with a firm mattress.  And, it was cheap.  What more could I have wanted -- except maybe some smiles from the proprietor?

                  My first glimpse into the South Fork of the Clearwater drainage in Nez Perce National Forest

In contrast I had not anticipated being so enchanted with the rivers flowing west out of the Bitterroot range.  Memories of my middle school and early high school years, exploring Utah trout streams filled my head.  Ahh, another direction to go with my plein air paintings -- depict images speaking to those memories.  

             Down by the river, I could only imagine how many cutthroat swam within just this reach of the Clearwater.

Another bonus -- following US 12 along the Clearwater River, I was hot on the trail of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. These explorers had floated down the Clearwater in dugout canoes to it’s junction with the Snake River.  That led them to the Columbia River and eventually the Pacific Ocean.  I can barely imagine what their route looked like before the dams, the pulp mills, clearcuts, farms and cities. 

Maybe I had glimpses of their feelings along the South Fork of the Clearwater River which I followed on a narrow road leading to Elk City, Idaho.  With deep pools, room-sized boulders (OK, maybe a small bathroom-sized) deflecting the relentless force of the water, beckoning evergreen forests lining the banks, it almost felt like a wilderness bisected by a narrow winding highway often crowding it’s banks.  Surely the river held plenty of cutthroat trout behind every rock, in every riffle -- eager to nab a dry fly drifted over their lairs.  However, I was surprised to see only one father/son duo fishing over miles and miles of alluring waters.  Sixty years ago that could have been me with my dad.

South Fork   9 x 12 inches   Alkyd of Raymar Panel  I couldn't wait to set up my easel along the South Fork.  I kept expecting to see trout rising to hatching insects while I painted, but alas...

Now, my objective has morphed from catching and eating those cold-water fish to my new-found quest -- capturing the feeling of the waters they inhabit with my paints -- all the while imagining what trophy-sized trout lay just below the glimmering surface I was painting.

Near the head of the South Fork lies the community of Elk City, a town I now wish I had stayed in my second night in the area. 

Idaho Back Road   9 x 12 inches  Alkyd on Raymar Panel  Instead of spending the night in Elk City, and with the Clearwater now enveloped in shadows, I opted for a fast painting capturing the last light on a pull out, another painting for my American back roads series.

Ruby Creek Crossing   9 x 12 inches   Alkyd on Raymar Panel  Up another drainage into the Clearwater I followed a rough road (Karen would have suggested it was not a wise decision) to where it forded Ruby Creek.  There, knowing I was alone in the world and totally immersed in my painting, a branch snapped close behind me.  Chills raced up my spine.  I was not alone.   I turned expecting to see a bear but, whew, it was only my latest fan -- a cow.

Meanwhile, Karen, always on my mind was over in Iowa savoring the mid-western sun, reliving memories and photographing her own quarry.  She's always somewhat envious of the variety of birds that frequent the forest around her cousin, Connies' home.

                                                                               Red-bellied Woodpecker

                                                                            White-breasted Nuthatch


Dana Konings said...

Beautiful images :) - regards from Bergen :)

Fernando Santos (Chana) said...

Belas fotografias...Espectacular....

Don and Karen Cornelius Artwork said...

Thanks Dana and Fernando. We're wishing you the best there in Norway and Portugal.

Dennie Williams said...

Once again great photos Don!
Much appreciated! Best, Dennie

Diane Eatherton-Watt said...

Awe...Don & Karen, you are both so inspiring!
Thanks once again for sharing.