At first the day seems chilly. Clouds envelope the hut where I stayed the night before all through the early morning as I carefully repack my pack for the day’s hike. At breakfast the fog begins to lift under the force of shifting winds and a few cups of coffee. Views of the valley appear and vanish, to small gasps of other guests as they catch a flash of green and blue behind the white veil.
Eventually the clouds drop below us, revealing the blue dome above. A frenzy of activity ensues as we hikers rush to get out on the trails. Weather predictions are favorable - best to make the most of the clear skies. With my boots tied firmly and my pack straps adjusted I take my leave of the Lakes of the Clouds Hut and ascend toward the summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire, the Northeast’s highest peak.
The trail winds diagonally up and around the cone of the summit, over huge slabs of granite, gravel, and packed soil. It is marked with cairns at intervals, which make good goals and resting spots as the muscles warm up and work off their soreness from the days before. I also pause to take many pictures as banks of clouds swing by, framing glorious views of the valley below and the rest of the mountains beyond.
Along this upper limit of the Crawford Path is where I recorded the image that would eventually inspired the painting “Crawford Path on Mount Washington.” Rays of sunlight had just struck the hills down in Bretton Woods, turning the deciduous trees a gold-green. The hut was visible behind the faintest layer of cloud, and the tail end of a large, gray mass of fog rolled away to the west. The air was fresh and crisp, the wind came in gusts, and it was a great day to be alive and in the mountains.
I recalled these details of the day as I painted this scene the following February in my studio. In the deep white of winter the act of painting the mountains in July lifted my spirits and got me thinking about my next big hike. “Crawford Path on Mount Washington” remains the largest watercolor work I’ve created so far.