The Steen Mountains, Oregon. copyright Bernadette Mae 2019.
We rounded one range of mountains to see snow capped mountains in the distance on the other side of the valley. Turning off the state highway we started down our first desert road. “Livestock on roadway signs were no joke. I’ve seen them before, but one once (six years ago in Wyoming) have we had to stop for cattle. Bucky didn’t know what to think about the giant creatures; he’s only ever seen them from a distance. Over a hill and into the middle of the valley there were enough ranches clustered together for a school bus sign - and sure enough a few minutes later there was a school bus behind us. Sherm pulled over to let him pass us since he was on a job and we were taking in the sights.
"Livestock in roadway" is no joke. copyright Bernadette Mae 2019
A few miles later we found a hot springs. We drove by two other vehicles camped there and continued a few yards to the springs and set up camp on the other side thinking we would leave first thing in the morning. It was so nice to be in nature - and the sun! Fellow campers were in t-shirts and we still had on hoodies from being in the mountains earlier that day. As the sunset we set up the grill and ate dinner under the light of the full moon.
The next day it was so warm I had to pull out a pair of shorts from the Tule. All the summer close were packed away; I thought we wouldn’t need them till as least southern Nevada. After breakfast Sherm walked up the hill to the east of us. He came back and told me about the view so the two of us walked back up with Bucky to check it out together. We took the binoculars - something that proved to be the best thing we could have found in the junk drawer in the kitchen before we left. At the top of the hill you could see Willow Creek meandering through the marsh. Small beaver dams were scattered throughout and the sound of falling water echoed up the hill.
Willow Creek, Oregon. copyright Bernadette Mae 2019
Back at camp I pulled out my paints and started painting the mountains to the west. As the sun moved across the sky the landscape changed dramatically. It’s amazing what a few hours will do. It’s been such a long time since I’ve painted a landscape. As we travel I’ve been looking for patterns, pallets and textures in nature to bring into my color field paintings when I get back to the studio. It was so relaxing to paint (and just be in) nature and we couldn’t get enough sun after another Portland winter so we decided to spend another night.
The wind picked up across the valley the next morning, but it was still warm. It looked like the storm over the mountains might head our way. Our neighbor camper came over before we started packing up. The dogs played together as he told us about other good hot springs in the area. As we started talking about our vans and he mentioned he’s been wanting to get his spare tire cover repainted. Sherman volunteered me and I was more than happy to leave some art along our journey. We ended up hanging out all afternoon as I painted the creek, mountains and cat tails for our fellow camper. He asked if we had any stickers for his van and silly us forget to make more before we left.
After a pot of afternoon coffee the wind showed no signs of letting up so we made the decision to wait one more night. Late in the afternoon a couple more campers showed up. Then more - and more still after we crawled into bed. Turns out it was Easter weekend. It had only been a couple of days since we left the city and all ready we lost track of time!
"Willow Creek" commission piece. spray paint and oil on metal. Bernadette Mae. 2019
copyright Bernadette Mae 2019