Several plein air paintings were used as the resource for this composite piece created in the studio. The majority of those paintings were made during pack trips in the Eastern Sierra Mountains. Every August a group of us head up for our annual painting, camping trip. We usually make camp somewhere between 9–11,000 ft. elevation. It's a difficult hike for me to make. Living in middle Tennessee doesn't give me much chance to 'practice high elevation breathing.' I work out for months to prepare my muscles for the 6-9 mile hike each year. These pack mules carry the bulk of the load for us, including all of the food for the cook's tent for the trip. Anything over 50 lbs., we pack in ourselves on our backs. This is one sure way of cutting down on what you bring along! I want to think lightweight, warm, dry clothes and boots, minimal colors of paint tubes, fewer brushes, my lightest pochade called a Sketchbook and mini tripod, and Claessens #15 double oil-primed linen mounted on 3mm Sintra or gatorfoam.
In this painting, the mules are crossing one of several streams along our way. Often times the mules are on a different trail than we are, but it is a reassuring sight when our paths cross every now and then.
In the background we see the Minarets, and Banner Peak, and Mount Ritter (12,264'; 12,936' and 13,150' respectively). We took the Ritter Trail out of Red's Meadow Pack Station. Our camp site was just below Banner Peak on Garnet Lake . Known as part of the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Garnet Lake is 8.55 miles from the trailhead and about 3 miles north of the John Muir Trail.
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