This week’s topic at Inspire Me Thursday is polka dots, which dovetails beautifully with my armadillo theme, because I happen to own a handmade, polka-dotted armadillo. (How many people can say that?) Made for me by Donna Faivre-Roberts, doll maker extraordinaire, as a going away gift when I left Ithaca, this cutie is about 4 inches long and completely needle felted. Ain’t he sweet?
I came home from the trip to Emmaline Lake with a slew of botanical photos. The wildflowers were booming thanks to the ample run-off from this winter’s snows, but I want to look some of them up before I post a few. So today’s post is going to be some art shots I took of trees we encountered. (Note: I haven’t bothered to look any of these up, so maybe I don’t need to know what the wildflowers are either…) The most interesting trees were on the peaks surrounding Emmaline Lake (approx. 11000 feet).
One of the things that fascinates me about the plants in the mountains is their tenacity; they grow in the most unlikely places. I saw wildflowers blooming just inches from the edge of snow drifts, trees reaching out from steep, rocky slopes, and stunted trees permanently bent by the winds that blow over the ridge they are growing on. But the all time winner was this plant below. I don’t know if it’s a tree or not, but it is growing out of an old tree stump that is right in the middle of a rushing river.
After that, the trees that interested me the most tended to be dead already – smooth or gnarled with twisted trunks and branches. Both of these were up near Emmaline Lake
These exposed tree roots were hanging out from under a clump of scrubby bushes on the slope we climbed to get to Emmaline Lake. (Note: Kurt and I did not approach the Lake on the official trail. In skirting a snow field, we wound up blazing our own trail on a slope nearby.)
There were also beautiful dead and dying trees down in Cirque Meadow and in the woods on the Emmaline Lake trail. Here are the ones I thought were interesting.
Cora is an eleven year old German Shepherd with the energy level and mannerisms of an eleven month old puppy. I adopted her from the SPCA in Ithaca, NY. She’s been with me for nine years now.
Cora loves hiking, walking, catching frisbees, and chasing rabbits. She is easily distracted (I think she has doggy ADD) and most of her misbehavior occurs when she stops paying attention to us because something more interesting has come into view.
Cora was great on our backpacking trip. To begin with, she was a total trooper about the backpack. It wasn’t easy to get it on her; every time I tried to slip the pack on over her head, she would drop her chin. I eventually outsmarted her. I put her in a down so she couldn’t get away from me. The amazing thing is that she didn’t do anything to try and get it off once I got it on. During the hike in, she was her usual, bouncy self, keeping an eye on all five people in our party as good shepherd should. She acted as if she were completely unaware of the pack.
On Friday, she went up to Emmaline Lake with us. Since it was just a day hike, she did it without a backpack, but she took a real beating anyway. The hike from the meadow to the lake is reported as two miles but was actually much longer. The trail hasn’t been cleared out yet this year, and there are lots of fallen trees that have to be climbed over or around. Cora likes to jump onto or over these. As the trail got steeper, it also got rougher. The rocks got bigger so that we went from hiking to climbing. Cora did a lot of jumping and scrambling to get up the rocks. Being strong-willed, she repeatedly headed off in the wrong direction and had to back track to get onto the proper trail. I think she may have covered twice the distance the rest of us did. Fortunately, the destination was worth the trip.
On the way back to camp, she perked up some and I realized she had been struggling at the top due to altitude sickness. Her breathing had been much more rapid than usual, and she began to be reluctant to do anything that required going up. As we went back to 9800 from 11000 feet, she became more spry and less recalcitrant. She did, however, take advantage of every rest break she could get.
Whenever we had our food out to cook, we never had to worry about the chipmunks coming into camp and stealing it. Cora was always there, sharp eyes glued to their smallest movements. She would stand up whenever she saw a chipmunk near our camp, and the tiny squirrels would take one look at her and head back the way they had come.
Cora slept in the vestibule of our tent at night. She rarely moved all night long.
After we broke down our camp for the journey home, I put Cora’s backpack on her and we started down the trail. We realized Cora was in trouble in just a few steps. Her hind quarters were shaking and sinking as she tried to walk. She was so tired and sore from the mountain climb the day before that she couldn’t handle the extra weight. So Kurt added her pack to his. Unencumbered, she did fine on the two-plus mile hike back to the car. But when we got there, she had to be lifted into it. She’s been sleeping a lot over the last two days. Still, I’m sure it won’t be long before the question “Do you want to go for a hike?” gets the usual excited response from her. I know I’m raring to go!
We’re just back from a two-night backpacking trip in the Rockies. It was my first official backpacking trip ever and I came home loaded with good memories, lots of photos, and dreams of trips to come. I’ll be posting stories and pictures over the next several days.
The Cast of Characters: Kurt and I went backpacking with his grad school friend Dana and her two daughters, Sarah and Molly. We also took Cora along for her first backpacking/ back country camping trip ever. We bought her a doggy backpack so she could carry her own food and water.
The Route: We took the Cirque Meadow trail in the Roosevelt National Forest to (where else?) Cirque Meadow. It was stunning and made for an ideal camping spot. Here’s the meadow with Comanche Peak in the background:
Here’s my tiny two-man tent and Kurt’s backpack:
Here’s Dana’s three-man tent, with Sarah and Molly inside, reading. Kurt and I had serious tent envy. Not only did we like the design of their tent, but it was twice the size of ours and one-fourth of the weight! I think we’ll be buying one of our own very soon.
Kurt, Cora, and I enjoyed our outdoor time together. Here we are having breakfast on Friday morning before making a day hike up to Emmaline and Cirque Lakes.
The Destination: Emmaline Lake. It was our plan all along to hike up into the mountains to see Emmaline Lake. Dana picked the destination from a slew of suggestions given to us by a well-informed National Forest Service ranger at the local info center. The full story of this hike will be in a later post, but to give you a tiny taste of the beauty we discovered at the end of the trail, here’s a picture:
Or, Why Armadillos, part 3?
I came home from work one day to find a brass armadillo sitting on my door step. He was about eight inches long and five inches high and had a nice brassy weight to him. There was no note, no indication of where he had come from. I took him in, figuring he needed a good home, and set him high on a window sill on the front side of the house so that whoever had left him there could see he had been taken in out of the cold. I mentioned him casually to my friends, but no one admitted to knowing anything about him.
A few days later I came home and had a shock. The brass armadillo was outside, pausing during a climb up a pile of gravel that was waiting to be spread over my driveway. Not believing that he would leave the house on his own, I was certain someone had broken in and brought him outside. Then I looked up and saw the first brass armadillo sitting where I had left him on the window sill.
The mountain climbing armadillo was the first orphan’s twin. Now I had two brass armadillos and still no idea where they had come from. As time went on, I wracked my brain, trying to guess who had left me armadillos anonymously. I confronted everyone I could think of, but no one ever confessed. To this day, I do not know who the culprit was. I only know the armadillos found their way to my house, and they live with me still. Fortunately, I like a little mystery in my life.
I’ve been interested in mixed-media art for the last few years but only a handful of pieces turn out the way I hoped they would. I keep thinking that there are secrets to learn to get the results I want, but I know in my heart it’s just a question of practice and experimentation. All I need is the willingness to make a bunch of ugly stuff in the process.
However, this past Monday night at my To The Bones art workshop (we’re working our way through Women Who Run With The Wolves), Robin Muse told me a Secret about working with metal tins that I hadn’t discovered yet – you can glue paper right onto them! I painted a tin with acrylics and the paint flaked off after it dried. I assumed glue wouldn’t stick either, but the box in the photo is an Altoid tin covered with brown paper. I used Modge-Podge to attach it, but gel medium also works. To give it a more interesting look, I painted it. I love the texture and depth I achieved. The only question is, do I love it too much? I was going to make a little shrine, but I am now afraid to mess up my super cool tin.
Technicalities for those who care: I coated the paper with a layer of Modge-Podge to seal it and let it dry. Paint layer 1 contained partially mixed ochre, burnt sienna, and gold acrylic paints applied unevenly with a brush. When it was dry, I brushed on paint layer 2 (a black I mixed myself), then took most of the paint back off with a paper towel.