This is the third year I have taken a trip into the Eastern Sierras with friends. It's really different for me to do this sort of thing. Actually, painting outdoors doesn't exactly fit me either, but I love it. You see, I don't like bugs or sweating very much. I like spas, swimming pools, and luxury hotels, fine wine, wonderful food, fireplaces, and ambiance. This 8-mile trek (marked as strenuous on the trail map) is one of the most breathtaking hikes I have ever made. Literally. Not only is it amazingly beautiful, but I don't breathe well at that altitude.
Paul Kratter, Bill Cone, Ernesto Nemesio, Terry Miura, Michele de Branganca, Carol Marine, Kim Lordier and I just returned from Ediza Lake (elev. 9265). The hike to Ediza Lake in the Ritter Range in California's Southeastern Sierra is 7.8 miles out of Agnew Meadows. At about 4 miles from the trailhead, the Shadow Lake trail connects with and joins the John Muir Trail. Our camp site was located on the western shore of Ediza, an additional half-mile hike along the trail.
Ediza is truly stunning, with dramatic views of two pyramid-shaped peaks to the northwest, Mount Ritter and Banner Peak, at 13,143 feet and 12,936 feet respectively.
We had absolutely perfect weather. (No sweating, very few bugs). Here is the early morning view from my luxury hotel: a slightly larger tent (not as large as Kim's I must add) complete with camping cot, air pad, and two sleeping bags. Temps can get pretty cold at night, but I was snug as could be. I awoke every morning to this view and fresh coffee. Ernesto worked on a painting of this view every morning. The light changes so rapidly at that time of day, it is next-to-impossible to capture it. After painting for about an hour or so, we were served a full breakfast by our wonderful camp cooks Karen and her daughter Emily.
We painted around camp or hiked another half mile to a mile to paint every day. If you look at the lowest peaks in the distance in the above image, you can appreciate the hike we took one day up to Iceberg Lake. It is just there about another 500 foot gain at the foot of the Minarets. Bill always has at least one or two hikes he is eager to share with us. Iceberg was absolutely worth the trip, but I am thankful Paul was behind me to give my backside a much needed shove a time or two. Wearing your paint gear on your back while you hike up over boulders is not an easy task. Thanks, Paul, for literally saving my @$$.
A few times, as I hiked back to camp, I shorted the rise/fall/rise/fall of my hike by wading through one of several streams or lakes. The icy waters felt wonderful on my tired feet. Spa and swimming pool all in one!
Another hike with Kim to a nearby water falls soothed my soul. I love the sound of rushing water, another spa-like perk provided by nature.
Every evening, Karen and Emily prepared huge dinners. Each of us had packed in nice bottles of wine. We laughed and shared and compared the value of the full moon to the value of the white snow. We played question games and shared our deepest thoughts. It is absolutely true that what gets said in the Sierra, stays in the Sierra. I still think Terry's two-lies-and-a-truth is the best I've ever heard. There you have it, fine wine, wonderful food, and ambience around our cozy fire pit. One evening, a nearby camper and his son dropped by and stayed to have dinner with us. Their stories were equally as welcome and totally fascinating. They camp here a lot, and in fact had just climbed both Ritter and Banner peaks that very day.
During the night, we almost always had another guest. He was a huge black bear sniffing for food. So brazen was this bear, that he didn't fear us at all. He even grabbed snacks right out of our camp while we were eating dinner. Michele scolded him pretty well. "Bad bear," she yells as she confronted him in the woods. We're pretty certain he is still feeling the shame AND the caffeine from Kim's VIA packets. I slept with my bear whistle and Carol Marine, whose tent was next to mine, had bear spray. We never used either.
On the last evening, just before sunset, we shared our sketches and paintings from the week. There, displayed on the rocks, were dozens of pieces. Each of us students of nature now sharing what we learned. One piece was particularly special. Every one of us painted on it and then signed it and gave it to Karen and Emily with our tip.
I'll leave you with a few images of my paintings from the week.