On September 7th my friend Mary Bee Kaufman and I headed into Denali National Park with plans to spend a week doing plein air painting, just as we did this time last year (see earlier posts for that trip.)

I also wanted to see if my Munsell reference books would help me to see and mix colors more accurately. I brought the Munsell Soils book, used by geologists to identify and classify soil samples by color. The range of color samples in the book seemed perfect for the high, dry, autumn tundra we were going into. I also had the Munsell student book, which contains higher chroma samples than the soils book.

(If you are unfamiliar with the Munsell system, please see the two posts that precede this one.)

The bus ride to Wonder Lake campground takes approximately 6 hours from the park entrance. The weather was wet at the beginning, then cleared a bit, but by the time we reached Polychrome Pass the clouds were moving back in.

It rained steadily for the next 3 days. We were glad that our tent was snug and dry. We even had cots and a wood stove. Mary Bee wrote in her journal, I sketched her portrait . . .

Then we took a hike out the McKinley Bar trail, a relatively easy destination that starts a short distance from the Wonder Lake campground. The nice thing about rain is that the colors are vivid in the moist atmosphere. The ground vegetation in this very marshy area was diverse and wonderfully delicate.

And there were thousands of big, fat blueberries.

So we kept an eye out for bears, but we thought a moose sighting would be more likely. They love to stand in ponds and chew the grasses. We saw no moose, but a few days later a bull, a cow, and a calf were spotted in this area.

Never go camping without a big umbrella.

The following day, we launched a big project. After collecting many samples of the local foliage, we set up our notebooks, my Munsell books, our specimens, and our paints in the picnic area (tables and a nice roof). For the rest of the day, we analyzed foliage colors, mixed them, noted their position in the Munsell charts, and wrote down our findings. We knew this exercise would pay off once the sun came out and we were painting again.

This story will be continued in Part 2