Dead River Trail

Dead River Trail

Aaarrgghhhh…I struggled with this one.  My inner botanist wants to include all the rare plants that grow along here, while the artist side says, “Whoa there~that just doesn’t make a nice painting with all that squigee detail”.  She made me wash color over the details.  sigh.  She’s right.  Besides the struggle over detail, I was interested in value.  Looking out from the trees to the sun-kissed view beyond, it was tempting to go for my darkest darks when painting the tree trunks and foliage.  In fact I did leave some of that really dark in the foreground at the feet of the tree, but lightened the trunks and lightened them again until they fit more comfortably in the painting.

Yesterday I was out on the trail, and boy is it different today.  Sedges and cordgrass have nearly obliterated parts of the trail, while other parts are entirely under water.  I usually don’t mind wading so I ventured in.  Very quickly I found myself in about 3′ of water!  I’m only about 5′, so….  I didn’t go all the way out to the Lake to see, but I’ve heard that it is really high right now.  I suspect what is happening is that the lake is so high that it is pushing the river back up.  Happily, before I reached the water and the dense growth, I found the rare plant I was seeking.  Yay!  Right where I thought it would be growing.  That must be how it feels to throw a basketball and get “nothing but net.”  🙂


  1. You must have written about this river before, since I remember that strange phenomenon of it disappearing into the sand and then re-emerging, sometimes violently. I found a nice brochure online showing some of the plant life in the surrounding shallows and marshes, and was surprised to see so many plants that I found last weekend: common bladderwort, arrowhead, water lily.

    If the rare plant you found was truly rare, you may not want to say more about it in a public forum, but I’m curious as can be. What I know for certain is that your painting is quite appealing; it makes me want to be able to walk that trail myself.


    1. Thank you so much, Linda. It is a cool trail to walk (or at least, it used to be) along a beautiful little river. I don’t know what the future holds for the area, with the cordgrass moving in so aggressively. There was a time when there was staff there who maintained trails, and a thriving volunteer group that worked to maintain habitat health. Funding cuts have removed the former, age is slowing down the latter.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the play of light and shadow – I’m glad you listened to your inner artist. Maybe the inner botanist would be satisfied with a few drawings of rare species.

    By the way, there is no boardwalk at my local bog, and the sphagnum mat is 15 feet from the shore, with an unknown water depth.


    1. OOOh, that sounds risky! A friend of mine and I found a floating bog when we were canoeing. She tried to climb out onto it but it was like trying to stand on a float toy.
      And, thanks Tom for the comments about my painting. Learning to let go of details seems to be an ongoing lesson for me in the studio.


      1. There is no way that I’ll head out in that bog without a guide or good information – and I don’t want to disturb the bog ecology.
        In photographs, I find I’m happiest with less detail, less of the image in focus. Most of the time, anyway.


  3. How well I remember that trail, both when you took us along it for the first time and when I returned on my own.

    What date does the painting show? I’m assuming it’s not very recent, given the contrast you make in your second paragraph.


    1. You’re correct~the painting is of high summer, but a few years ago when things weren’t overgrown and underwater. It has been my favorite stretch of trail for over 20 years, and all of a sudden it is changed. The water will eventually recede, I suppose, but I don’t see the area ever returning to its former glory now that the cordgrass and brush have entered the picture. I’m sure thankful for my memories, and stores of photos!


  4. I find myself playing colors as well, but – using a camera – it’s mostly by a bit of creative use of different filters, angling, shutterspeeds an such. Great fun, a hobby, but with no revenues 🙂


  5. The light is gorgeous, melissa. I’m thinking about Seurat…. I love the trees, the path and the distant water. Which you ventured into, sounds like it WAS surprising! But I’m glad you found the plant and of course am curious about it. Happy Sunday!


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