Sunday, January 15, 2017

Above Shearer Creek

"Above Shearer Creek"
16" x 20"
Acrylic on Canvas 

This was a hike full of surprises. Not like the usual surprises, like when Clint says, “Oh there’s a little hill, but then, it’s flat because you’re going along a stream bottom,” and then, it turns out the trail rollercoasters up and down along steep, rocky shoulders that line that flat stream bottom. That was a different trail…

This trail had more visual surprises—with a terrain that changed quite a bit along the way. We started up a gentle slope in Ponderosa forest that took us to the top of a steep, chaparral-covered hill with few large pines that survived the last fire. We looked out across a deep crease of a valley you’d never guess was there based on the terrain at the trailhead. 

The trail snaked its way down the hill, presenting a beautiful view, and eventually we saw the creek—way down in the bottom. It had rained recently and in the warm days that followed mushrooms had erupted everywhere: all shapes, sizes, and colors, sprouting out of the duff at the base of shrubs, boldly sitting on top of broad tree stumps, and edging the trail. 

At one point, we could see structures in the valley that appeared to be part a camp of some kind—maybe a dude ranch of sorts. We reached the creek and crossed over onto a rutted road that paralleled the drainage for a short stretch. It looked like a lot of water had come through the tight canyon, twigs, logs, and detritus lodged against anything that had resisted the deluge.

We crossed back over the creek, the trail narrowed and started to climb. It was a little slippery and rocky, that section having served as a funnel for rain runoff. We stopped for a short break at a wide spot to let a large party of dudes and dudettes go by on horses. While some looked at their phones, others looked at us in surprise, wondering why people would be walking up this steep, rain-beaten trail. One of the riders made a comment about how riding a horse was the better way to travel—to which we replied that we preferred experiencing the landscape up close and personal on foot—you see things you can’t see from the back of a horse, thank you very much. I was thinking about all the mushrooms we’d seen.

Up over the next hump the dirt turned red, the trail left the creek bed and it opened up into a bowled side canyon—the dirt and rock so red in the sun it hurt my eyes. The trail kept climbing and it was getting damn hot. We pushed on further and got to the top of the bowl where we were treated to this spectacular view across the canyon that opened up before us. We rested, enjoying the light breeze for a while before we turned around and headed back.

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