Shenandoah National Park

Trees and mountains garbed in autumn splendor, thick mist softening the world, deer and bear watching from beside the road, craggy rocks to climb, soul-nourishing views to the east and the west…On our way home from Florida in September, Stephen and I took an evening and a day to drive through Shenandoah National Park along the Skyline Drive. I’ve been wanting to explore and sketch there for years, so we meandered our way slowly along the 105 miles of the Skyline Drive. We stayed the night at the Lewis Mountain cabins, partway through the park, staying in a delightful, clean cabin, where I awoke the next morning to the sound of a Screech Owl right outside the window and the fragrance of fall rising from the damp earth and leaves.

We stopped to enjoy most of the overlooks, savoring the variety of views, and I sketched as many as I had time for. We also took a couple of short hikes (though one was longer than planned, due to missing a turnoff on the trail), stretching our legs and breathing deeply of the refreshing, clean air. I could easily spend days in this place, but I thoroughly enjoyed our short visit.

Here are my sketches that tell the story of our time in that magical place. You can click on the images to see them large enough to read my notes about each location and my thoughts about the park in general. 

McCormick Gap Overlook
Sawmill Run Overlook
Crescent Rock View
Jewel Hollow Overlook
Hazel Mountain Overlook
Pass Mountain Overlook
Hogback Overlook
Shenandoah Valley Overlook


“A Yankee and a Liberal”

It’s taken me a while to get around to posting about my trip home, because I came home with the flu and am only now really getting back on my feet. I think I can thank the state of Georgia for the flu.

Here’s some writing I did about my drive through Georgia– not my favorite part of my trip:

A Yankee and a Liberal 

“And this one,” the man’s dark eyes radiated anger as he jerked his thumb toward me, “this one’s a Yankee and a Liberal.” 
I’ve never quite known the definition of “redneck,” but I knew this man for one, and I knew he wasn’t safe. I glanced about the rural filling station convenience store, as the man chanted something about the Mason-Dixon Line. A woman behind the counter, another woman at the front of the line, then two lean, grizzled men, one middle-aged, one older. I quickly ducked behind them on line, keeping my eyes lowered and my mouth shut. I felt a bit less exposed and vulnerable behind the two men, but I didn’t want to incite the man anymore than my presence already had. I knew he was trying to rouse the group against me, but my brief glance had assured me he wasn’t winning any friends in this place. 
How had he known I‘m from up north? I was in a friend’s car with Florida plates, and I had known better than to open my mouth and let my accent betray me. I think that mystery was part of what kept me anxious and on guard during my drive through Georgia a few days later. 
I was driving home from Florida, alone except for Rowan, who was sleeping peacefully on the floor in front of the passenger seat, securely buckled in his canine seatbelt. He wouldn’t be able to reach me to help if anyone hassled me. My plan was to stop and sketch or paint anytime a pretty view captured my attention, and there were plenty of pretty views in Georgia. Most of all, I loved the nearly ubiquitous pecan orchards with their majestic trees rising tall and dark in their winter starkness. They would look great sketched in sepia ink on an off-white paper. 
I longed to stop beside the road and sketch, but something in me kept telling me to keep going, that it wouldn’t be wise to be seen stopped beside the road in my car with New York plates. Several times I pulled off the main road to find a quieter place to sketch, but each time I decided to keep going and content myself with sketching in my mind. One such back road crossed over a creek, and I almost missed the sign with the name of the creek. I turned around to go back and read it—“Murder Creek.” I kept going. 
When I finally crossed into South Carolina and then North Carolina, the dark feeling lifted, and I freely and frequently stopped to sketch or stretch my legs. I’m not sure what it was about Georgia, but I don’t intend to plan any painting trips there anytime soon. I’m happy to be back home in the north now; I’d rather be a “Yankee and a Liberal” than a hotheaded redneck any day.

After a morning in Asheville, NC browsing galleries (Fun!), I meandered along the Blue Ridge Parkway and other roads toward Boone, where I’ve been wanting to go for years to visit Cheap Joe’s, my favorite art store. After leaving Boone, I continued north, pulling off to sketch when I saw pretty views. And finally this Yankee is back where she belongs, north of the Mason-Dixon line.

North Cove View from Blue Ridge Parkway
Table Rock View from Blue Ridge Parkway

Boone, NC, where Cheap Joe’s is located!
Draper, VA exit off I 81
Buchanan, VA exit off I 81

Alaska — Travel Day

What a amazing world! Yesterday we flew from New York to Alaska, via Dallas, Texas. I had a book I was reading on my kindle, but I also enjoyed watching the checkerboard of midwestern and western farms and ranches passing below. In some areas the fields are all planted in circles– clearly due to irrigation systems. Then in some areas they were all in squares and rectangles. No need for irrigation there? or a different kind of irrigation system? I’ll have to look that up…
Watercolor of the view out my window

Then we started to cross over the Rocky Mountains, and I read less of my book and did more watching out the window. Why were the mountains more covered with snow on on side? Why were some areas dry and brown while others were richly green? I want to read more about the intersection of geography, weather, and climate.

And then, finally, we were over Northwest Canada and ALASKA. I have never seen such mountains — jagged, huge, increasingly covered with snow as we traveled northward, brilliant in the sun, seemingly endless in all directions. I saw my first glaciers and marveled at the flow lines so clearly visible from above.  We passed over avalanches (not happening, but the obvious patterns left by them), and myriad mountains just barely peeking out above snow-filled valleys, then broad valleys of deep green with rivers winding through them, followed by more snow-covered mountains.

Alaskan mountains from airplane window

Avalanche at left center

In a couple of the valleys we passed over small towns, isolated by distance, geography, and weather. What must it be like to live so far from the society as I know it? There was no sign of people throughout most of the vastness of the mountains— just rugged landscape, mountains in every direction, and more snow than I have ever seen. My kindle forgotten, I spent the last hours of our flight engrossed in the book of God’s creation, brought to tears and filled with awe by such wonder and beauty as I have never seen before.