June 8 - Root structure at west intersection of Maddron Bald & Albright Grove Loop Trails
June 8 - Creek at Campsite 29, Maddron Bald Trail
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
2002, ink on paper,
all images 9" x 12" or less
Sometimes you just can't win! For the third time in three years, I was trying to camp in an
area of the Smoky Mountains called Albright Grove. I had no idea what I'd find there, but with
the word "Grove" in the name, it evoked a shady, grassy area with flowers and perhaps (from
looking at the park map) a couple of gently flowing streams on either side. What a perfect
place to go sketching, I thought. There was a special loop trail off the main trail just to go
to the grove, and when there's a special trail for something in the park, there's usually
something worth going to look at there (for example, see High Rocks). The first two years I
tried hiking up to the grove, I was rained out. The first time, I got as far as a backcountry
campsite before rain forced me back to the car. The second time, I never made it out of the
developed campground before I returned to Atlanta.
This year, I was determined (again) to make it to Albright Grove. Finally, the trip went off
without a hitch, and the weather was simply beautiful for camping, hiking, and sketching.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much of anything to see in Albright Grove! The loop trail took me
through a densely-treed area that was identical to miles of other park trails. There were no
grand vistas, no grassy meadows, no flowers (perhaps earlier in the Spring?...), and I never got
close enough to either stream to even see them.
I was determined to sketch something, so at the end of the loop trail, I sat on the
ground to rest my feet before returning to my base camp. Across the patch of bare ground at
the trailhead, I saw a tangle of roots and made that my first sketch. Hardly dramatic, hardly
different from many other sketches I have done, but at least I produced something. While I
can sketch root formations in my sleep by now, I do like the way this sketch captures the
dark, threatening spaces enclosed by the root structures.
Without anything to stop for in Albright Grove, I found myself back at the campsite much
earlier than anticipated. Finding one sketch from the trip a bit on the anemic side, I
decided to try sketching something at the campsite. For a challenge, I sketched the stream
running by the campsite. Instead of focusing on the objects outside the water, I tried to
be different and sketch the objects in the water. Unfortunately, I don't think I captured the
surface of the water properly, so the sketch looks more like a big rock on the right sitting
next to a bunch of little rocks. I'll have to try for this effect again.
Overall, while the camping trip this time was quite nice, it unfortunately didn't yield
a bountiful art harvest, as far as sketches go. I was a bit better off with my camera, and
the results can be found in the