Backpacking and Painting

Posted Aug 19, 2023


This week I took a 25 mile loop 3 day solo backpacking trip into the Goat Rocks wilderness area in the Cascade mountain range in Washington.  Such a beautiful location.  It was a very hard climb (at least for me).  I also recently purchased a light-weight plein air painting set-up from and was anxious to try it out.  It was a pretty amazing trip, with gorgeous sweeping vistas, and beautiful wildflowers in bloom. 

I've had some experience hiking and backpacking over the years. I was trying to keep my pack as light as possible, and had it down to 37 lbs. There were definitely many times during the hike that I wished I had left a few other items at home. When climbing with a backpack for a while, you start to wonder if you really needed that extra pair of pants, or extra anything. No one cares if you wear the same clothes for 3 days (at least not if you're alone), and if you can get away with making the pack lighter, it's totally worth it.  

Also it was hot, (over 85 deg) so water was a huge priority. And I really wanted to get some painting in, but of course there were complications. There were times when the scenery was just breathtaking and I thought I would like to stop and paint, but there was no shade, and sitting and painting in the hot sun for a couple hours didn't seem like it would be very fun. 

Other times, not being familiar with the area, I felt the need to get to a place that would be a good camping spot first before breaking out the painting set.  So I did complete (or at least attempt) two paintings, both at the end of each day's long hike.  I'm not really thrilled with either of the paintings so I won't post them, but it was a great learning experience and lots of fun.  I think even painting bad paintings is valuable, because the one thing I did was look intently and learn about the rocks and the hills, and I plan to go ahead and complete a larger studio painting of the area with the knowledge I gained.  

My setup shown here was at the end of a 10-mile day, and I needed to cook some food first, so I got started on the painting too late. The light changed so quickly and I just wasn't moving quickly enough to capture the scene before it had radically changed.  Not too long after taking this picture I was trying to finish the painting while wearing my headlamp.  The shadow was moving up that mountainside so fast, my values just got all out of whack.  But still, such a great experience and I have to cut myself a break. I got out there, and made the attempt, and learned some valuable lessons!