Journal of Michael Baum / Travels of an Artist

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Cold Beauty
A winter hike in the Rocky Mountain Foothills

Strangers in a strange land (photo) Michael Baum
Strangers in a Strange Land (photo) Michael Baum

Two monuments, Michael Baum photo
Tree/Rock (photo) Michael Baum


Saturday, 1/13/07
We start hiking under morning-bright sun struggling with a haze of ice crystals wrung from an arctic-cold atmosphere. Icy clouds launch off the mountainsides and swirl low over our heads. It is minus 2°. Patrice, Terry Moody and I are wearing snowshoes. The new snow is only 2" to 6" deep, but the ice underneath makes us glad we have them. Paul Hanke, and Laurie and Terry Lee go without. We hike through Stratton Open Space, the alluvial out-sweep from the first low range of foothills west of Colorado Springs. The steadily ascending slope, cut by numerous drainages, is covered in oak, pinion, ponderosa, and fir forest interspersed with grassy, yucca-studded meadow. Everything is coated in snow and rhyme, frozen into crystal, shining in the intermittent sun, mysterious in the ice haze.

Miles of trail wind through the park. We had anticipated a short hike in the frigid temperatures. But, as we walk, we are seduced by the crystalline landscape, the lacy white tree branches in crazed patterns all around us. In spite of the cold we continue on and on toward the snow cracked cliffs and mountains looming in the hazy sun.

I get a nice little collection of icy photos, but have no idea how to paint them. The snow encrusted landscape is so harsh and cold that it crystallizes the mind into brittle shards. Yet, is so delicate and ethereal it transports the spirits to distant universes of aesthetic paradise. How do you paint that?

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