Wednesday, July 2, 2014

To the Ozarks!

My favorite part of my recent road trip was the 10 days or so that we spent in the Ozarks, camped close to the War Eagle Creek. The campground itself was set low in a hollow below the roadway. There was no phone or internet service within camp, but a short drive up to the roadway brought us into phone range and to one end of the War Eagle Trail.

The part of the trail I was interested in, descended down a steep rocky path along bluffs high above the creek. From a vantage point above the creek, I had a view in both directions of the creek and rolling farmland that bordered it.

Parts of the trail were so close to the edge, that a safety barrier had been built to hang on to while navigating the slippery ledge.

I set my gear up on a wide bluff, happy to be outdoors in such a gorgeous spot. The day was overcast but bright and the colors of the trees along the bank and the reflections in the water were various shades of soft green and grey. Below me, someone glided by quietly in a canoe. Ahead of me was ridge after ridge of mountains disappearing into the distance. Swallows darted in and out of bluff side nests just below me. I felt like I was floating, suspended mid air in the silence I was part of.

About an hour into the painting, the sky began to darken. I kept painting hoping the clouds would pass. Soon the reflections in the water started to blur and the trees lost all contrast. I heard rain drops on the umbrella I had set up to shield my canvas from too much light. Before I could decide whether to go or stay, it started pouring as dense and drenching a rain as any I've seen in Florida. Rivers of rain washed forest debris off the bluffs and filled the drawer of my easel and my open knapsack. Water and oil paint mixed in an unholy union running off my palette. I could have wrung out my roll of paper towels.

I'm not proud to admit that my serene mood wore thin thin as I struggled in water weighted jeans to haul my soggy gear back up the trail. Determined to beat the obstacles, I returned the next day dressed in shorts and outfitted with a poncho and a big plastic tablecloth to cover my set- up in a down pour. I also suspended all my extra gear from my french easel, with bungee cords. It did rain again that day, and almost every day for the next two weeks. The rain eventually drove me out of Arkansas to Texas, but not before I had done a few more paintings and hiked some more beautiful trails.

Bluffs Above War Eagle Creek - 16x20 oil

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