Saturday, November 22, 2014

Carhenge - A Celebration of Life

Carhenge, Nebraska

On a sultry, summer afternoon, we headed up to the High Plains and investigated a western Nebraska icon. Rising conspicuously out of the verdant corn, Carhenge was constructed 27 years ago as an exact replica of southern England's Stonehenge.

At first, it was considered a despicable eyesore haphazardly fabricated by a crazy farmer but in actuality, it's an admirable display sculpted by a serious artist. Over time as the structure has blended into the environment, locals have not only accepted the work but they have embraced it as their own unique piece of Americana.

Though some may still dismiss Carhenge as the makings of a madman, artist Jim Reinders cleared his field and built it so now we come. Today, people from all over the world arrive in the agricultural town of Alliance, Nebraska to visit the quirky roadside attraction.

The grouping of gray gas guzzlers is a remarkable recreation. Aligned with the summer solstice, Carhenge faithfully replicates Stonehenge's current tumble-down state. As well as the main circle, the exhibit includes two station stones, three upright trilithons, the Slaughter Stone and the mysterious Heel Stone.

For an artisan or photographer, the place is interesting to examine. At the photogenic site, an enormous complex offers tight angles and dark shadows that form interesting compositions at every turn. The cold, Detroit steel contrasts sharply with the undulating Sandhills and billowing, white clouds.

Originally conceived as a memorial, at its core, the monument is a moving tribute to Jim's father. Encouraged to explore freely, children enthusiastically climb cars and kick tires. Whereas the stone slabs of Salisbury are the "Domain of the Dead", the arrangement of American automobiles near Alliance appears to be a celebration of life.

Constructed 27 years ago

Carhenge is a replica of Stonehenge

A serious sculpture

The structure blends into the environment

A piece of Americana

A quirky roadside attraction

Gray gas guzzlers

The mysterious Heel Stone

A photogenic site

Tight angles and dark shadows

The monument is a memorial

A celebration of life

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Janeway, Colorado - A Rowdy Rest-Area

Janeway, Colorado

"Though the white man may take this land, it and everything on it will never make him happy and his endeavors will forever fail." ~ Ute Indian curse after being forcibly removed from the Crystal River Valley

Once upon a time, coal was king...

During the late 1800s, combustible carbon powered locomotives and fired smelters from Aspen to Pueblo. So when "Black Gold" was discovered in Colorado's central Rockies, prospectors, investors and miners saturated the Western Slope. Treaties were broken and the region's native inhabitants, the Utes, were forced to leave their homeland for reservations further removed.

Situated in a rugged ravine, Janeway was a rowdy rest-area for frontiersmen heading into the high country. Originally known as Mobley's Camp, in 1877 the settlement was renamed after its affable innkeeper, Mary Jane Francis. The charming Mary Jane was the most popular resident in this fledgling town of fifty that included a general store, post office, boarding house and saloon.

Wedged into a slender meadow where the Crystal River emerges from a narrow gorge, Janeway offered just enough space for transportation and distribution of goods. At first, serving as a stagecoach stop was sufficient for shuttling passengers to work. Later, more horsepower was required to move the luminous Yule marble being quarried out of the West Elk Mountains.

By 1900, the Crystal River Railway followed the winding watershed all the way to Redstone and Janeway was quickly transformed into a railroad station with a siding for 29 cars. The entire area was prospering with construction, corruption and cash but as prophesied by the "Ute Curse", the success was short-lived.

Around 1910, silver was dropped from the monetary standard and trains were driven by diesel motors so the market for Colorado coal crashed dramatically. During the rapid decline, many of the Crystal River Valley boom towns fell into dark oblivion. Today, all that is left of Janeway are the remains of a lonely, log cabin concealed in the eternal shadow of somber Mount Sopris.

In a greedy rush for wealth, our forefathers may have ultimately failed in their endeavor to rob the land of mineral treasure. Today, one-hundred years later, I believe we've unearthed the true value of the Colorado landscape. I believe we've come to appreciate the precious beauty of these mountains and that does make us happy.

The Crystal River Valley

A rugged ravine

Janeway was wedged into a slender valley

The Crystal River

A lonely, log cabin

Somber Mount Sopris

Beautiful mountains

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Garden of the Gods Pikes Peak - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Garden of the Gods Pikes Peak" Colored Pencil

At first, this unforgettable landscape was a place I could barely remember. Rising out of dark greenery, Garden of the Gods is a glorious gateway to soulful Pikes Peak. The red sandstone slabs stand out sharply against the rugged vegetation resting below.

Above, rumbling with thunder, the swirling sky releases rolling clouds filled with precious rainfall. Receding into the distance, through shades of blue, the massive mountains brace for the incoming storm.

A frequent occurrence in the summer, the entire scene has been simplified into interlocking shapes. Gradients of orange and green describe the desert floor while the peaks are painted with patches of flat, pure pigment.

To really get to know the region, we climbed around on rocky terrain. As for the final drawing, achieving the desired result, required a total recall. Once the misplaced memory returned, finishing this particular project was a piece of cake.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Evergreen Lake Fall - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Evergreen Lake Fall" Colored Pencil

It's a cheerful, chilly day at Evergreen Lake in colorful Colorado. Elk are in the annual rut and a bull's haunting bellow echoes through the narrow canyon. Bear Creek remains motionless while fingers of new ice stretch across the frigid stream.

Expressed with disorderly strokes, golden cattails in the foreground are a linear element set against the tonal landscape. Bright, warm tones blaze across the page, contrasting sharply with somber peaks and the icy inlet.

A row of red trees is a transparent partition hinting at the snow-covered lake beyond while whispy, white clouds sail across the clear, blue sky. After such a splendid, sunny season, we're hoping an awesome autumn awaits.

The busy boardwalk is uncharacteristically quiet and most of the birds have bolted for warmer climes. Even so, Fall is probably my favorite time of year. So, enjoy our exquisite Indian Summer while it's here because soon the snow will be flying.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Epaulet Mountain - A Remote Sanctuary

Epaulet Mountain

I've been here before, up at the top of Mount Evans Road. But on this day, I'm not sure which way to go. Wasting no more time, I've made up my mind. It's Epaulet Mountain that I'm going to climb. Here I go again on my own.

In the shadow of Evans and Bierstadt, Epaulet is a humble hill that's always been outshone. During this lonely trek of dreams, I'm miles above treeline and totally alone. Across the way there's lovely Rosalie. Pointed peaks pierce the sky like remote islands in a vast, blue sea.

After a solitary scramble to the summit, the extraordinary view is impossible to measure. Hiking the natural pathway out to a farther point is an absolute pleasure. Overlooking a deep abyss of solitude, it's a remote sanctuary where I've gone. I'll keep searching for an answer. Oh Lord, I pray you give me the strength to carry on.

I've been here before

Not sure which way to go

Mount Bierstadt and Evans

Above treeline all alone

Lovely Rosalie is across the way

Islands in a vast, blue sea

The summit of Epaulet

Extraordinary views

An absolute pleasure

A deep abyss

A remote sanctuary

Give me the strength to carry on

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bull Elk - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Bull Elk" Colored Pencil Drawing

The Rocky Mountain Elk is the undisputed symbol of Evergreen, Colorado. I see them almost every day so I've become very familiar with their ways. The elk's predictable, seasonal behavior provides me with some comfort during these uncertain times. There is a rhythm to their life that influences our own.

The elk seem to tolerate our intrusion into their habitat as they go about their routine seemingly oblivious to the human activity happening all around them. From a close distance, this drawing depicts an agitated elk during the annual, fall rut.

Mud-soaked and lathered into a frenzy, this bull is in his prime. He bellows loudly to other rivals and cows as a signal that he is defining his territory and claiming his harem. Evergreeners have learned how to live with the elk by developing creative techniques to protect their trees, gardens and bird feeders, and by driving cautiously, especially after dark.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Antelope Island - A Paragon of Uniqueness

Antelope Island's Frary Peak

In a state known for its unusual landscape, Utah's Antelope Island is an underrated paragon of uniqueness. Surrounded by a shallow sea of salt, the parched ground is a desert isle hydrated by a few freshwater springs. From the highlands, a panorama of natural scenic beauty is described by prominent peaks, points and bays.

Historically, explorers John Fremont and Kit Carson are credited with discovering the extraordinary environment in 1845. For the next 100 years, domesticated animals were restrained by a seaside ranch. Today, all creatures are allowed to move freely in safe seclusion from the busy mainland.

A curious causeway connects the wildlife watcher with a prairie paradise where buffalo roam and antelope play. Bighorn sheep scramble across the island's mountainous spine of ancient rock while down at the shore, wandering waterfowl feast on a buffet of brine shrimp.

After a full day of sand, surf and turf, the light doesn't last. As we head back towards the Wasatch Mountains under a setting sun, the surreal scene fades away like a murky mirage. Doubts begin to cloud a weary mind, was that place for real or just a dream?

Surrounded by a shallow sea of salt

A desert isle

Buffalo Point trail

Natural scenic beauty

Bison move freely on the island

A prairie paradise

A place where buffalo roam

and antelope play

The island is composed from ancient rock

Evening light on the island

Back towards the Wasatch Mountains