Austin Mountain, Nevada
Sabbatical painting, 1976: Don’s journal: . . . Head for Bob Scott campground east of Austin, Nevada. Arrive about 3:00 p.m. and set up travel trailer. The boys and I go four–wheeling to the south up Austin Mountain. Elevation here is about 7500 feet. Beautiful aspen groves grow high on the mountainside, with no other trees around . . . (from The Road to Beaver Park, p. 13.**)
Part 2. Driving up Austin Summit
In my previous Blog I relate the time we found Austin Mountain in Nevada covered with a blanket of spring–green grasses and wildflowers. After a brief stop in town, we rolled on up the road . . . Pulling that steep hill heading east out of Austin was always a slow grind with the truck and trailer. This gave me more time to look out the truck window and savor the look of green carpet that shaped the contours of the mountain range. Grasses were bending in the breeze, an updraft from the desert floor far below. Around every tight curve a new vista appeared—rounded mountain contours with light changing hues from gold to pale green or chartreuse on the ridges to summer green across the curves and flats, then growing into a richer green in the shadowed hollows and ravines. I was mesmerized. The whole mass of the range and its earthy, solid, stable, seemingly eternal presence surrounded me, loomed over me, reached out to me, upheld me. It seems strange at times like this that I almost feel I am part of the earth. My kinesthetic sense reaches out, wanting to touch, to stroke the lesser peaks and valleys along the range and run my hand over the foothills that buttress the higher mountains. They stretch out like terrestrial wings, yet are solidly grounded on the desert floor. Surrounding this earthworks installation is a sea of sagebrush, showing us by clear example the basin and range topography. Landforms are forever fascinating.
Near the top of the pass we pulled into Bob Scott campground and stayed the night. Pinon pine and sagebrush covered the area. In late summer the rabbitbrush would bloom yellow, a welcome sight there and along the roadways of Nevada. Elevation is around 7,200 ft. The campground is not large, about 10 paid sites, with additional areas of free camping. We heard coyotes that night, and there was no moon. Behind and above the trees the night sky was a wonder. We could almost touch the stars.
After we parked I pulled out my watercolors. With eyes closed I could see those sculptured green slopes still hovering in my inner gallery. I painted a small study of the scene. After we returned home I took time to paint the scene larger. The memory was still there, and I brushed it onto a sheet of “good” watercolor paper. Now when I view it, that deep inner sense of stable earth and solid landform once again stirs in my bones. I can feel it even now after all these years. It brings with it a sense of security somehow, that land forms remain. The geologic backbone and related topography of the earth give us location and foundation for life. The green infrastructure of vegetation is in place, also the wildlife. The life community on that mountain range holds its own meaning. It’s up to us to find the metaphor. Mine starts with this painting. I’m glad I had my brush along.
What land forms fascinate you? Does your area topography carry special meaning for you?
**The Road to Beaver Park, Painting, Perception, and Pilgrimage by Janice E. Kirk (Resource Pub/Wipf & Stock: 2016)