In Wild & Woolly Wyoming

As I picked my way carefully across one of the high passes in Wyoming’s Medicine Bow Mountains on my way to the artist residency, I thought the worst part of the drive was the snow-packed highway, the fierce wind and the blowing snow that obscured my vision. I was wrong. When a tractor-trailer passed me in the opposite direction, it threw up a wall of slush that completely covered my windshield for several heart-stopping seconds. I hit the brakes (don’t skid, don’t skid!), flipped on the wipers, held the steering wheel where I thought the road should be. In moments the windshield cleared, but to my horror I was over the yellow line! Fortunately there was no one bearing down on me from either direction. I righted myself, hands shaking, and settled back into my slow but steady roll over the mountains to Brush Creek Ranch, Saratoga, Wyoming.

My trusty Subaru safely arrived at Brush Creek

You might think that having lived in Colorado for two years I’d be used to this. But when snow fills the streets of Fort Collins faster than the plows can remove it, I stay indoors. Out here, however, the locals take such weather in their stride. It’s just part of the High Plains way of life.

Now that I’m recovered from the travel trauma, I am reveling in the Ranch’s vaunted “western hospitality.” I have a snug little private room and bath, a cozy writing studio and three hot meals a day. The staff even outfitted us eight resident artists with snowshoes, high-top boots and ski poles so we can hike the many trails that criss-cross the rolling hills of this 30,000 acre working cattle and dude ranch. 

Wyoming hiking stuff

The ranch and artists’ quarters are just outside Saratoga, Wyoming, a small ranching community in the heart of the North Platte River Valley known for its hot springs. No one in our group tried out the springs last week when we all went into town, though. Six inches of new snow were being thrown about by 30 mile-an-hour winds and the wind chill was 1º. But that’s just one of winter’s last angry outbursts as spring shoulders her way into the valley little by little. The other day she pushed aside winter’s heavy cloud-blanket to let the morning sun warm the day enough for me to paint outside. And while I was sketching, I heard birdsong. Clear evidence that spring is coming soon to southern Wyoming.

Birches – ink & watercolor in a Moleskine sketchbook, 5 x 8

My job here, however is to write, not to paint.  It feels strange to be here as one of the writers and to spend my day in a writing studio, in front of a computer, instead of an easel. But I am making progress. Here’s the evidence:

 

 Eight chapters of my book on watercolor travel journaling, pinned to my bulletin board

To be continued.

Comments

  1. I’m surprised you were able to go over the Snowies. A harrowing experience! I hope the writing is going well 🙂

    • Yeah, well I was surprised too. Keep your fingers crossed that there won’t be another snowstorm when I head home next week. The writing is actually coming along. I don’t like it as much as painting, but it IS rewarding.

  2. Gail Frasier says:

    Way to go, Marilynn!! Sounds like you’re working hard and learning a lot. One item of which is why Coloradoans (maybe Wyomians too) drive Subarus.

  3. Love your writing, just as much as I love your watercolor and color pencil landscapes! Wishing you much continued success in this journey taken in Wyoming – Looking forward to reading more about your travels and your observations Best regards – x0

  4. Jackie Heyda says:

    Marilyn.
    What an adventure!!! Make sure you keep us informed about further adventures and we are looking forward to more posts.
    Jackie and Bob

    • Hi, you two. This has indeed been an adventure. Al came up over the weekend and we drove all over the countryside savoring the sunshine — finally!– and warm breezes. The pronghorns are out and prancing on the hillsides, so it must be spring.

  5. Anne McLaughlin says:

    Marilyn, please sneak in some more watercolors, too. Love that you ar doing this writing residency, too..what a talent d woman! But we knew that😎😎😎

    • Anne, great to hear from you! Yeah, if the wind would just calm down a bit I’ll get out with the brushes and paints tomorrow. The sun has come out, the snow has melted and it looks like spring is getting seriouser and seriouser.

  6. Mikki Dillon says:

    So happy to learn you got there safely! I LOVE the snowy sketch you showed, Marilyn. In case your nose was twitching last week, I was bragging about you to fellow artists on Sapelo Island for a few days of painting, photography, etc. It was great weather…in the 70’s and one day it was 81. Now we are freezing at home with wind chill of 17 degrees. Doesn’t sound like much to you these days, but a pretty wide swing here. Looks like I won’t have many blueberries this summer and I hate to think of all the farms and orchards that will have severe crop failures…tonight is another time in the 20’s. Love you and seeing your work. Can’t wait for the book! Mikki

    • Ah, Sapelo! One of my favorite places, Mikki. I love Colorado, but it’s far, far away from any beach, and I miss the sea. Thanks, as always, for reading my blogs. I can’t wait for this book either. Writing is harder than painting.

  7. I love the scraggly, twitchy line work.

    • Well, the trees are scraggly and twitchy, probably because they get so battered by the wind. I get twitchy out here too, when the big gusts knock me silly. By the way, as the days have warmed, your favorite pronghorns have come out in the hundreds all over the hills. So lovely to see them prancing in what counts for spring out here.

  8. Jan Braby says:

    It is wonderful that you are expanding your horizons and trying something a bit out of your comfort zone. I am sure your writing will be as beautiful as your drawings as evidenced by some of the wonderful ways you describe the change of seasons above. So glad your mishap on the road did not result in a worst situation.

  9. Andrea Gabel says:

    Oh wow! That’s pretty harsh! Quite the adventure! I know the weather here in Colorado is suppose to get nice for a couple of days. I hope it reaches you and you can take a break from writing and sketch or paint outside some more. Have fun!

    • Hi, Andrea. Thanks for commenting. It DID warm up. The sun is out,the mountains are glowing and the pronghorn antelope are frolicking on the hillsides. If the wind would just stop blowing, I’m going to get out and paint again tomorrow.

  10. Jean Lehman says:

    Eight chapters! Congratulations on your focus. I can’t wait to read the book. If not the hot springs, I hope you continue to enjoy the warming weather.
    (Saratoga has good memories. It’s the place I would take my mother for the hot springs in the winter. She enjoyed it well into her 80s.)
    It’s a pleasure to read your blog.

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