10 years of Extreme Plein Air

The 2019 FSPW Extreme Plein Air Expedition is Version 10.0. During Version 1.0 — 2009 — Aaron Johnson, Jared Shear and Victor Vosen bravely — or foolishly, depending on your point of view — followed me into the rugged heart of the Scotchmans. I knew where I was going — kind of.

We visited Horseshoe Lake, Vertigo Ridge, Melissa Basin and the incredibly wild country in between. Many wonderful paintings were made by the three artists. I also learned a huge amount about the place in four days – by trial and error. Some of which hurt, but not bad. Nobody died.

Hikers from the inaugural Extreme Plein Air pose before bushwhacking through a sea of alder.

The heart of the Scotchmans has four main ventricles: Blue Creek, Ross Creek, Spar Creek and Savage Creek. Each “chamber” pumps out millions of gallons of cold, clean water annually. Each untamed drainage offers unique challenges for backpacking artists. Sitka alder. Devil’s club. The occasional cliff. Elk trail navigation. Braving these “features” — along with the originals — have been painters Ed Robinson and Carol Maddux; sculptor David Herbold; videographers and photographers Joe Foster, Jake Simon, Matt Stauble and Aaron Theisen; and sketch artists Marla Groot Nibbelink, Melissa Compton and Deb Hunsicker.

FSPW summer interns have joined the Expedition: Lauren Mitchell, Sam Olson, Lindsay Ashton and Jacob Arrington. This year, Sophie Conerly will come along.

The Expeditions have climbed — and artistically recorded — Sawtooth; Melissa, Amanda and Elinor Crags; Savage Peak; Son of Savage; Scotchman Two; Vertigo, Stonebridge and Rollover Ridges; and 24- and 48-Hour Passes. We also suffered, enjoyed and embraced the “features of the wild East and West Forks of Blue Creek, Savage Creek, Spar Creek, and South and Middle Forks of Ross Creek — plus a few unnamed drainages.

Painting by Carol Maddux from the 2018 Extreme Plein Air.

This year, the Expedition will be — in honor of the tenth edition — ten days and nine nights. We will enter all four ventricles — again. I know where I am going — kind of.

There will be tag alder, devil’s club and elk trails. And some of the purest water and cleanest air known to man. There will be huge rocks and huckleberries; days of travail, idyllic hours of rest and opportunities for creation in places nearly indescribable except by the artists’ hands. There will be bright stars. And maybe some rain. There will be — as always — things unexpected and new places found. There will be art made by folks who know how to make art. And, probably, nobody will die. But we will spend time in heaven.

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Categories: Blog, Right Now
About The Author:

Sandy Compton has been program coordinator for Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness since 2009. He is also a storyteller and author of both fiction and non-fiction books, and the publisher at bluecreekpress.com.

In addition to his other duties, he runs the FSPW All Star Trail Team (www.scotchmanpeaks.org/trails), which works on Forest Service trails in the Scotchman Peaks. He is a trail surveyor as well, and a C-Certified Crosscut Bucker/Feller and USFS National Saw Policy OHLEC instructor.

Sandy grew up on a small farm/woodlot at the south end of the proposed wilderness and lives there still. He is also board member of the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and a planning team member for the Northern Rockies Wilderness Skills Institute.

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