Rain, Low Clouds Stymie Artist


All night rain soaked the dry earth turning the dust to a slimy mud, fed the thirsty trees and plants, and raised the volume and size of the East Fork River that raged louder just west of the Murie cabin where we were staying. Morning brought a lighter shade of darkness with a pause in the rain, the landscape was reduced to black, white and grey, and I pondered how to spend the day to take advantage of the privilege of serving as Artist-in-Residence.


We decided to hike from the cabin up Polychrome pass and down the other side toward the Toklat River, and hail a green bus when needed. We hoped to spot wildlife during the hike and that the clouds would lift revealing a clean, fresh, well watered land and clear air. To be safe we wore rain gear, strapped loaded packs onto our backs and headed up the hill to the road with lunch, cameras, binoculars, sketch material, bear spray, water bottles, with schedule and bus passes. It felt good to walk, my muscles warmed up and legs soon fell into a rhythm moving at a comfortable speed. Partway up Polychrome pass an unfamiliar fatigue set in, we were not used to hiking with heavy packs and climbing the grade slowed us down. It didn’t matter, the views were wonderful looking down on the East Fork River, and our slower pace gave us more time to watch for wildlife. Near the top cliff rock changed to colorful yellows, rusts, and browns. Quite spectacular. We carefully picked our way along the slick mud, and stepped aside as far as possible to avoid the murky chocolate colored spray from passing buses.

At the top we rested eating lunch and felt privileged to have this pristine place to ourselves. As we reveled in the quiet three tan diesels arrived and 90 people emerged chattering, exclaiming, brilliant camera light flashes bounced around like fireflies, while others searched for toilets looking horrified to fine none. They all appeared the same, emerging from identical buses with tennis shoes, grey hair, cameras around their necks, different colored windbreakers the only identifying feature. I’ve been a member of tours during travel, but I don’t think we stood out so blatantly or looked as misplaced as these folks did on this windy wilderness mountain, with nothing around for miles except nature, and their obvious need for toilets. Soon the noisy throng headed down the grade, engines whining, air brakes squealing and once again we were alone in the wilderness. A sacred time to savor, to soak in the memory of silence, of wind on our faces, and as far as we could see, there was no one else. I asked myself, how on earth can I paint this?

Gail Niebrugge, Artist-in-Residence

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  1. Gail, you have certainly painted a picture in words. I could feel the solitude, the arrival of the tourists, their departure… I had to laugh at the way you described them; they sounded so like fish out of water. Maybe they were looking for the golden arches of McDonald’s.

    I wonder if the wildlife look on from behind the bushes and wonder if this show is for their entertainment (lol!).

    I await the next instalments with great interest! I know you will keep enjoying the moment, and I hope you will suprised by some more special moments.

    God bless,

  2. Operating separate from the throngs gave me a different point of view 🙂 Gail

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