Journal of Michael Baum / Travels of an Artist

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Canyons of Chapin Mesa

Spruce Canyon (photo), Michael Baum
Spruce Canyon (photo) Michael Baum

 "Spruce Canyon", Michael Baum
    Spruce Canyon, Michael Baum, oil painting,
60" x 30"    

"Down Canyon", Michael Baum
Down Canyon, Michael Baum, oil painting, 14" x 23"


Sunday, 10/8/06
 Eventually, the downpour eases and clouds begin to break toward Chapin Mesa. We decide on a short hike to Petroglyph Point in Spruce Tree Canyon. The sun comes out, the air warms, and is fragrant with wet pinyon and juniper. We hike the uneven trail down the canyon, investigating small ruins along the way. The views of the canyon are breathtaking. I get some good photos. At the far end of the trail, we examine the large rock art panel, then climb to the rim for the hike back and even more spectacular views. I take a lot of photos and try to burn the feel of the place, the space, the vertigo, into my mind. Along the way, we pass by trees stained red with fire retardant dumped during the recent Chapin Mesa fire.

Monday, 10/9/06
Low, dark clouds scud rapidly across the mesa in the dim light of morning. Over breakfast we watch the sky and consider whether to take the Balcony House tour or just take a quick turn around the park and head for home. Balcony House faces east and would have sun early in the morning on a nice day. My plan was to get on the first tour and get my sunny photos. That now looks unlikely. The clouds begin to break a little in the direction of the ruin. We decide to go for it.

Spruce Canyon (photo), Michael Baum
Canyon (photo) Michael Baum

"Canyon", Michael Baum
Canyon, Michael Baum, oil painting, 12" x 30"  Print Available

The bad weather works to our advantage. Because the weather is keeping people away, our guide, Mitch, extends our tour from 1 hour to nearly 2 hours. We have a lot of time in the ruin. We discuss current ideas about life in balcony house. New idea to us: wisdom teeth are a third set of teeth that partially replace molars worn out and lost by a diet full of grit. In our society--where we get to keep our teeth--they are not needed and usually pulled.

I have plenty of time to take photos not crowded with people. Even though the sun does not cooperate, there is enough light to indicate shadows. This may be an advantage, because the filtered light reduces the contrast between the illuminated area and the shadowed areas so I can see details in both. I can increase the contrast in the painting.

Emerging from the ruin, we drive around the mesa to a few overlooks where I get more canyon shots. They're all moody and liquid with cloud shadows. After a quick stop at the visitor center, we hit the road for home. As we leave the park, I shoot a series of photos of the dark, fire-scorched landscape, beautiful under the lowering clouds. Soon we run into rain that will be with us most of the way home. On Wolf Creek Pass, the rain becomes a heavy snow shower. Mist rises from the dark mountainsides and swirls up the slopes.

  Balcony House (photo) Michael Baum
    Balcony House (photo) Michael Baum

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