2010 Painting Trip – Shenandoah Valley

In 2010 I decided to drive down to Virginia to paint in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Originally I was going to continue on to North Carolina and the Smokies, but the scenery was just too gorgeous! Herewith my paintings (all done on stretched paper in oils, with the exception of one done on canvas) with excerpts from my journal. Just for fun, I kept track of the latitudes and longitudes too. Please scroll right to see more images.




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Groton Long Point
41.32436, -71.98607
Shenandoah Valley
38.89033, -78.20334
Little Devil's Stairs
38.84519, -78.22689

Range View

38.76431, -78.22960
Bacon Hollow
38.32148, -78.58193
Moorman's River
38.15387, -78.77009
Two Mile Run
38.29803, -78.64935
Pinnacles (Old Rag)
38.62252, -78.32313
  Me, Painting
Appalachian Trail
3824022, -78.71081

Thursday 9/9/10

This was the first painting of the trip, done after a lunch stop on my way south, in Groton, CT. I stopped in Norwalk with my brother for the evening, then drove to Annapolis the next day and stayed with my daughter.


Drove down to the Skyline Parkway at Front Royal (after getting lost in Washington DC), drove into the park and painted:

Camped out in Mathew’s Arm Campground. Ranger gave me a stern lecture about food and bears. All afternoon I could hear something moving around in the woods behind my tent. Went to get water to clean my brushes and when I got back saw a doe step out of the woods 30 feet away. I froze, she froze, then ran across the road into the woods. I thought, if a deer, why not a bear? Still snapping of twigs and moving around in the woods. I ate my dinner standing up, staring into the trees behind my tent and occasionally making loud noises. Chatted with neighbor, also from Massachusetts.

Sunday, 9/12/10

Rained like crazy last night, and I had left my paper palette outside. Luckily I had a spare. A large black bird flew overhead with an eerie deep-voiced croak. A raven? Heard them several more times over the next few days. Painted:

Stopped off at a trailhead to take a leak. A middle-aged Korean woman was standing there, as if waiting for me. Sure enough, she started down the trail with me. She wanted to chat, I was waiting for a split in the trail so I could have a little privacy. Finally I came right out and told her I’d come here to take a pee and would she mind…? She laughed and went on her way. Afterwards, painted:

Went back to camp site, cleaned brushes, ate dinner, went for a walk. Chatted with an older gentleman (the young folk don’t seem to want to talk to me anymore) and heard his tale of woe. He and his wife had come out from Washington State on a Harley with a trailer and had hit a deer. A passerby had picked them up, taken them to a garage, lent them his Corvette (it was sitting right there), and invited them to stay with him as long as they want while they made arrangements for a UHaul. I thought to myself “That would never happen in New England.” I guess it’s the code of the Harley rider. I saw the two of them leaving in the Corvette the next morning.

Spoke for quite a while with another older gentleman, who’s been travelling and hiking with no fixed residence for 20 years now. I asked his advice about getting to the Smokies and he suggested driving the 350 miles to Gaitlinsburg, TN. He had me convinced, then said “Or you could just drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway,” which was my original plan. Saw two more deer, heard ravens, woodpeckers.

Monday, 9/13/10

Packed up my camping gear, got a coffee, started to drive. Saw a beautiful view (“Pinnacles Overlook”) but didn’t stop, started to regret it almost immediately. Lots of road construction going on, with delays. Stopped around 11 to paint:

On canvas. Not really happy with the results, did the rest of my paintings on paper. Ate lunch around 4, decided to camp in the Park again, this time at Loft Mountain. Planned to put on some miles tomorrow.

Changed my mind about driving to North Carolina. Why add a day of driving and not be able to do justice to the Smokies when there was plenty to paint here? Stopped off at ranger’s station and renewed camp site for three more nights. Had a shower (Nirvana!)

Tusday, 9/14/10

Next day a little windy. Worked from 10 to 2 on


There are monarch caterpillars everywhere. When I was sliding the front panel of my painting box I felt something soft—a caterpillar. The panel has a nice overhang which he was apparently interested in. Had I painted another hour, would I found a chrysalis there instead?

Another “break” at a trailhead, pulling out I see a big black dog walking down the middle of the road. But it is of course not a dog but a bear. I sit there for two minutes just staring, wondering whether I should roll up my window, and for the fi rst and only time on this trip I feel the urge to take a photograph. Just as I get the camera out the bear trots off into the woods.

Drove onto Blue Ridge Parkway and got off in Waynesboro, bought beer, ice and masking tape (my tape rolls had gotten messed up in the rain too), used cell phone. Drove back, saw a turkey, more deer back at the campground. I noticed that, due to holding my palette, my left thumb is several shades darker than the rest of the hand.

Wednesday, 9/15/10

More deer this morning. Ho hum. Painted:

Decided to go back 30 miles to the “Pinnacle” view I’d passed. Extensive roadwork delays. Get ready to set up and suddenly realize I’ve left my palette at the previous overlook. Luckily I had placed the rained-on palette in the rear windshield, it’s dry if wrinkly, and I paint: Had my brain picked by an elderly Asian man who was interested in starting oil painting. His wife stood patiently without saying a word while he grilled me. After 15 minutes or so I had to just turn away and get back to work. Another fellow wantde to take my pic for his “Everyday America” project so I said what the hey.  

Headed back and stopped off at fi rst painting site. There sat my palette on the stone wall, untouched. I got out and said “Oh good, there it is.” A guy was standing there taking pictures and said “I was wondering what that was” and I answered “You and everyone else who’s stopped off here in the last six hours.”

Thursday, 9/16/2010

Overcast and windy. Stopped at Brown Gap, saw sign pointing toward Doyle’s Falls. Decided not to carry paint stuff down, which was just as well as the brook leading to the falls was dried up and I turned around. Saw an entrance to the Appalachian Trail, stepped two feet onto it so I could say I had painted on the Appalachian Trail, and painted:

This was the last painting of the trip. It started to rain and I headed back north the next day.


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