A Wilderness Science and Art Collaboration

Aldo & Leonardo, a partnership between Colorado Art Ranch and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, is a project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The project is inspired by the scientific wisdom of Aldo Leopold and the artistic genius of Leonardo da Vinci. Our endeavor is an interdisciplinary collaboration of artists and scientists designed to celebrate the lands, resources and opportunities protected by the Wilderness Act. In 2013, we are hosting one-month residencies in six diverse wilderness areas. Artists will work alongside wildland research scientists and gain firsthand knowledge of the wonders, complexities and challenges of our nation's wildest places. The result will be a body of work that creatively illustrates the value of wild areas and honors the scientific efforts to preserve wilderness for the next fifty years.

Monday, August 19, 2013

John Muir Wilderness/Jack Ass Cabin:

Where are we? …the final leg of the drive is 27 miles on  a one lane winding through a Zen garden of bare rock and knurled trees (there is no garden architect, beyond the desire for a tree to split a stone  in order to live, and a lichen to parasitically attaché to a host to rob nutrients). The road climbs and crosses passes  at over 9000 feet  hangs on ledges barely as wide as the car, climbs and curves so sharply that at times you can see no earth beside nor ahead only the hood of the truck and sky I must lean out the window to confirm there is something out  there to drive on.
I have never traveled so slowly by car where 10 mph is something you slow down from, where you drive and drive and do not yet arrive at places just  4 miles away
I have never been on a road so rustic and narrow and so long and deep into the ‘out there’ and yet paved rather then gravel or jeep track.
I have never been on a more scenic road anywhere and thought about wanting to show this place to the son back home and the one on the way kicking in Lori’s womb—fantasies of returning here to camp as a family to say to the new boy on his way this is where your father went while you were forming—I imagine this is what Yosemiti was in the 1950’s  or 1920’s here there is less heroic drama in the stone, the waterfalls are not wedding veil long, but everything we seek from Yosemiti is actually here—a black bear flies into the road at dusk a vague bat like black shape of geometry and large this you only see as after-image and rustling in the growth from where it sprang and where it disappeared.

Things come and go at every pace and in every time scale-- i see only that i see as poorly as poorly as i can smell--and anyone one with a dog  or trying to hde their food from a bear knows they smell very poorly...

I read somewhere that the sierras are the fastest growing mountains in the world and the fastest eroding too—at the Cabin at Jack Ass Meadow our base camp there is a muddy paw print above the shower and claw scratches in the shared bathroom wall near the ceiling—bears like the smell of shampoo and soap. A breeze blows in  through the window and i undress to shower with the claw marks-- I am nor afraid nor even really wary but my reality arrogance has begun to slip away with the suds i am a fangless nearly furless pathetically clawed animal--was it magic alone that kept my kind  alive and thriving and threatening...

There is no phone service no internet, and i have a baby on the way back home--hmmmm—it takes 2-3 hours one-way to reach connective services—and there is a volunteer at High sierra who has a two way radio but its over a half hour to there…that is where we (Tory and I) headed (a week or so later) when the valley filled with smoke and the sky turned peach and pale tan flirting with a value 2 neutral grey depth was obscurred and information only what you could see and smell...and make up...

powers and pressures—increments and sudden shifts are all around—as is the breath in meditation & exertion and potentially in panic. boulders the size of aparments are  set here and there sitting precariously and temporarily in places for longer then my species has even been...

preparing to actually enter the wilderness (we are not there yet)

My fellow artist Tory and I have been lent Forest service Bear Cans – the destruction proof kegs a bit bigger then a large coffee can that hold and protect exotic food from hungry bears—the problem is immediately space –the food we have laid out on the counter and table in aptly named Jack Ass Cabin will never all fit in these cans—we work the puzzle again and again laughing at the dire reality that all our planned meals just wont fit into the cans—we will need to carry fewer calories—and we squeeze and mold our food to pack tight the cans...

—while I remember being told that your stomach is the same size as your fist—this said once by my Girlfriend in response to a heaping portion of food on my plate  and her affectionate hope that I would not grow too fat--that life seems far away as i now I think of a fist per meal and readily see that my bear can, can not provide the fist to stomach ratio multiplied by the days and my projected hunger—Tory and I grow increasingly nervous chatting and contemplating the ‘can problem’ and its off-spring—the bear cans are feeling pretty heavy too… too heavy.  We joke to relieve our tension—can we actually do what we have agreed to do—this walking lugging climbing working task—are we up to it? You apply for exciting opportunities in the arts needing to some how break through the competition—you make claims about your fitness and readiness—during your ph interview as a finalist confidence abounds and you nonchalantly assure all – but really it has been 20 years since you backpacked at this level and never at this elevation or for anthis extended period—you are  an over 50 yr old educator, you are an artist—the thought can I do this really has come pretty late in the game. Tory points out that we can beg for mercy—we imagine Sara our crew leader—we have not met her: all we know is she works as a wilderness ranger and has hiked all three of the  transcontinental trails—we are feeling intimidated—luckily we have a watermelon an offering for the morning to start off in good graces.

Bear cans finally packed into packs we add all our other gear—simply everything we will need have or use for the next 8 days and—Tory and I have known each other about 48 hrs and decide to share a tent for 8 nights to cut the total weight—

From this launch pad we will go on foot eight days many miles and through a series of ascents that are equivalent to a mile straight up—most of the time we carry all our gear food supplies –having carefully considered the weight of each item—

BUT then at the trail head Sara & Bill fit twenty something seasoned wilderness ranger atheletes add, a six foot steel crosscut saw, an axe, two pruning loppers, a hammer, two crow bars, two shovels—and a one man saw called 'the silky'—4 hard hats—these too are added to the packs before we begin—I laugh remembering I was once told to cut off the handle of my toothbrush and take the tags out of t-shirts to cut weight as I grapple to tie on my share of our tools. We will not simply be hiking and climbing this is a work mission—thinking about art squeezes in, in the evening and blinks with experience while on the boot...

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