Dino DNA and the Western Larch Trees

March 23, 2016


Last week I talked about overcoming a painter’s block as I was working on a particular painting. It really surprised me that I struggled with motivation for this painting, because it is of a scene I was really excited about due to the wonderful beauty of northern Washington and the wonderful experiences we had on the last few days of the trail. 

“Dino DNA and the Western Larches” 

This painting is a view of my partner, Dino DNA, hiking through northern Washington on a beautiful day, only two short days from the end of the trail. The end of a thru hike is a very special time. Usually the weather begins to tell you that winter is coming and it is time to be finished, for now, with trail life. There are few people who do not crave a warm fire and dry bed in the cold, rainy, and snowy days of winter, so you know the hiking season is coming to an end. At the same time, most thru hikers want nothing more than to draw the hike out as long as possible; finishing means going back to the real world, back to traffic and Costco, cell phones and responsibilities. Even more importantly, ending a hike it means you no longer get the daily pleasures of living in the woods, of hiking as the sun sets behind distant mountains, of stopping to enjoy dew drops collecting on red leaves, or spending the evenings around a campfire and friends. Despite knowing it is time to get off trail, it is hard to leave this magical lifestyle, and this makes me even more acutely appreciate the beauty of living in nature in the last couple days. 

DNA, Foolhardy, and I finished our thru hike on September 21st 2015, 166 days after we began. In the last few days of our hike, we were lucky to experience the start of the seasonal color change of the Western Larch Tree (Larix occidentalis), a spectacular deciduous conifer. I knew deciduous conifers existed, but until this hike I had never knowingly seen one. I immediately recognized them for what they were though, because the trees ranged from a typical conifer green, to bright spring green, to golden yellow. While different than the typical east coast deciduous forests, the western larch trees are strikingly beautiful, especially when the light catches them. 

Even better than a bright sunny day, as we walked through the larches, beams of sunlight filtered through clouds, setting small patches of yellow and green ablaze with light, highlighting them against the darker shadowed mountains and cloudy sky. The contrast was wonderful and caught my breath every time. I greatly enjoyed watching DNA walk along the mountain paths in his bright yellow fleece, coordinating almost perfectly with the trees around him. 

Naturally I was excited to paint this scene, and now I am happy to share it with you, along with a little time-lapse of my painting. I hope you enjoy this little taste of the beauty of the Northern Cascades’ larch forests in mid September. 



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