Thursday, March 15, 2012

Canyon of the Ancients - plein air painting and photos

Took advantage of another fantastic day to head out for some hiking and painting...

Overlooking Sand Canyon - plein air
9x12 inches, pastel on black cardstock
 © S.Johnson
West of Cortez is a BLM-managed area known as "Canyon of the Ancients NM".  It has several Anasazi pueblo ruins within the main canyon - Sand Canyon.  A 6.5 mile trail runs along the canyon from north to south, and today, we opted to check out the northern end, as there is a large puebloan ruin site right near the road.  Unfortunately, it's nothing but rubble, having either been excavated and filled back in or not excavated at all.  Not even photo-worthy.

But, the hike was!  I decided to bring along my lightest plein air set-up along, just in case I found something worth painting.  That consists of my pastel box, a piece of foamboard with a 9x12 paper taped to it, and a stadium chair, which I can strap to my daypack.

We hiked a bit over 5 miles, and this view was at about 1.5 miles.  I saw it and knew I had to paint it on the way back.   After hiking another mile and dropping about 600' in elevation to the wide bench, we hung out for a bit and then came back up to this area.  Wayne read a book in the shade while I painted.

The snow-covered mountain there?  That's Sleeping Ute, as seen from the north and much bigger than the painting I did of it last month.

Anyway, aside from some really treacherous areas of mud (I keep forgetting that it is mud season here for a bit longer), the hike was great.  Spring is definitely on the way - here are some photos:

A species of phlox, I believe

Southwestern Orangetip - one of the earliest butterflies of spring
Another sign temps are warming up:  the lizards come out to sun themselves

And, an interesting shot across the canyon along the bench - an exposed section of sandstone, showing an interesting gridded erosion pattern:


  1. I love the gridded rock pic! And you get the prize for seeing the first lizard of the year.

  2. Yeah, that rock caught my eye when we were at the lowest point on the trail where we ended up turning around. It reminds me of a smaller version of Checkerboard Mesa in Zion NP the way it's patterned.

    I told Wayne I would expect we'll see some rattlesnakes when we hike in the Superstitions next week - this is prime time for them to be out during the day. So, maybe I'll have a photo of a cranky western diamondback to share when I get back ;).

  3. That sounds like the most awesome day. :)) I'm kind of jealous actually. ;) In a nice way. I really love your pastel piece, and the pics are so awesome! Can't believe you found that lzard. :)

  4. Thanks so much for stopping by, Crystal :). You know, I've only done a couple of these "hike out miles and paint" pieces, but I end up liking them a lot, probably because of what it took to make them, and they have a looseness to them that other pieces don't. So, I'm glad you like it as well :).

  5. Wonderful painting! Love the photos, too. Sounds like a great day! It's starting to warm up around here - can't wait to get out there and paint!

  6. Thanks so much, Debbie - I'm glad you liked the photos as well as the painting :). I love days like that, especially considering that it is snowing right now...ugh! Wayne was telling me it is supposed to be 75 in Boston in a few days, so I hope you will have the chance to get out and take advantage of that great weather!


Your thoughtful comments add value to this blog - thank you so much for taking the time to leave them!

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