Right after Labor Day I made my annual plein air painting trip to Denali National Park. In past years I have camped at the west end of the park road, and concentrated on the views in the vicinity of Wonder Lake. This year I stayed on the east end, car camping at Teklanika campground, and riding the green buses west to my painting site.

I also changed how I worked. Previously I painted as many small panels as I could during my week in the park. This year I decided to go for the big picture. I set up at Polychrome Pass on the first day, and spent the entire time on one painting.

Because I was riding the bus with all my gear every day, I needed a way to carry a large wet painting without completely disturbing the paint, my fellow passengers, and the wonderful bus drivers. My solution was to use two 16 x 20 panels. I clamped them together to make a 16 x 40 surface, and packed them in a 16 x 20 panel carrier for the trips to and from camp.

I also ordered a new easel, and I was really happy with it. This design is called a Take-It-Easel, and is beautifully made. The first painting day was difficult, with wind gusts up to 40 mph. My easel was steady! The weight of my paint box anchored it well. I went for the original rather than the cheaper knock-offs, and am glad I did.

I also carried a piece of heavy cardboard, measuring about 10 x 30, to help brace the outer edges of the panels. That was the most awkward item to carry on the bus. However, once the panels were clamped in place, all was well. Until that moment I had to throw big rocks on whatever I needed to put down to have a free hand.

Here's my notebook with rocks and my foot, since both hands are holding the camera. No matter how hard the wind blows, I make my Munsell notations. For those who are interested in such things, the view was very much in the 5YR range, with some variations in the YR and R hues. Luckily, I used my notes from last year to mix up and bring what I needed.

I chose Polychrome Pass primarily for that great sweep of glacial plain, with rivers, mountains, snow, skies, and weather. My second reason was human presence. Every one of the many buses traveling the park road stops at Polychrome Pass. I met 50 - 60 friendly and enthusiastic people a day, had my picture taken about 20 times a day, and ran out of business cards. Next time I'm bringing at least 300.

I figured that, because of the many buses, the wildlife might choose to be elsewhere most of the time. As much as I like to see wildlife, I preferred to see wildlife at a respectable distance.

Once I had spent a few days there, my attitude shifted a bit. There was a bear close by for several days, and I am sure the bear knew of my presence, but like all the other bears in the area, my bear was too busy putting on fat for the coming winter to indulge in idle curiosity. Just in case, though, I kept the bear spray on a belt around my waist.

Before long, just about everyone in the park knew about the crazy woman standing out in the wind 5 or 6 hours a day, easy to see from a distance in her bright yellow rain gear.

Many thanks to Mr. Rob Chambers for the photo at the top of the post, and to the kind person who took this one with my camera! More photos in Part II, coming soon.