I’m usually the guy who is (happily) carrying too much stuff. A full-size palette, a 100-page, 8x10 sketchbook, a puffy pillow, and so much more all somehow found its way into my backpack.
My friend Bill is always faster and packs lighter than me. I do my best to keep up. Still, when he invited me to go on an overnight backpacking trip on Mt Hood and said, bring your sketch book, we’ll hang out and just draw, I couldn’t resist, even though I’m not normally a backpacker.
During the first couple of hours of hiking, we ascended nearly 2,000 feet, but I didn’t dare take out my sketchbook. I was mostly focused on keeping up with Bill. There were peekaboo views of the mountain, a few scenic stream crossings, and more fascinating mushrooms than I could count (and desired to sketch), but Bill continued along.
We eventually rounded the edge of a steep hillside and there the scene opened up. A stand of skeletal, fire-killed trees stood amid a meadow of wildflowers, mostly gone to seed. In the distance, the dark conifers gave way to the rocky alpine and early fall snow on the top of Mt. Hood. Nearby, the ocher, orange, red, and auburn of huckleberry and rowan shrubs lit up the hillside. Bill stopped: there was no doubt that we were in the right place to take off our packs and draw.
A jumble of downed trees acted as a table in my outdoor studio. Out came all those art supplies that I’d hauled up and up and up. Bill, being his normal nimble self, wasted no time in producing a miniature watercolor set, balanced it on his knee and began dabbing at a watercolor pad that fit in the palm of his hand.
After leisurely completing our sketches, we wandered further down the trail, found a campsite in a flat spot higher up the mountain. Out came the sketchbooks again. Our challenge now was deciding the best way to capture the scene as a deep shadow ran across the mountainside.
Come morning, we climbed again, our footsteps reaching the crest we’d drawn from our campsite. Now the air felt thinner, the scene more dramatic. The trees were all beneath us. My sketchbook beckoned, but keeping up with Bill and not getting lost in this strange environment seemed like the priority.
A seed was planted; to draw from the heights, to go on a different kind of sketch crawl.