Tag Archives: UT

Mt. Rainier National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Our best idea

Mt. Rainier National Park, WA

Tomorrow is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. All of America seems to be celebrating right now, and rightly so. In my opinion, our wildest pockets are our true national treasures, and our national parks, as Wallace Stegner said, our best idea.

Olympic National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Olympic National Park, WA

So since I’ve spent a good chunk of my sketching life in national parks both close to home…

Arches National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Arches National Park, UT

…and far afield…

Crater Lake National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Crater Lake National Park, OR

I figured I’d add my voice to the celebratory din, in the form of a little sketchbook retrospective.

Badlands National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Badlands National Park, SD

Beyond the centennial itself, I’m always up for toasting the parks. Not only do I think park rangers are the best people on earth,

Redwood National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Redwood National Park, CA

but I also sometimes think they’re the only thing standing between wildness and destruction.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM

And anyway, I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m a total park nut myself. It’s my goal to visit every NPS property before I die, including national parks, historic sites, national monuments, everything. (Actually, I’ve crossed a goodly chunk of them off the list already—

Guadalupe Mountains National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX

—and I even have the stamps to prove it.)

Olympic National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Olympic National Park, WA

I know I have a long path ahead of me before I reach that goal,

Grand Canyon National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

and getting there won’t be easy.

Big Bend National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Big Bend National Park, TX

Yet I can’t tell you how grateful I am that the opportunity exists in the first place—

Rocky Mountain National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

that so many people have fought to preserve these wild places, and won.

Saguaro National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Saguaro National Park, AZ

Best of all is the feeling that no matter how long it might take me to get to each park with my sketchbook,

Glacier National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Glacier National Park, MT

I know it’ll be there waiting for me, as close to unchanged as humanly possible. Thanks to the National Park Service, the window of opportunity remains open.

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Arches National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Frozen desert

In my humble opinion, the absolute best time to visit Arches is in the winter. Sure, you’ll have to wrap up extra warm (it barely got above zero degrees F during the day!), and if you’re sketching, you’ll have to think ahead to keep your paints from freezing. But the rewards far outweigh any annoyances. For one thing, there’s nothing like seeing Arches under a blanket of snow. For another, the teeming hordes that descend upon the place during the peak season are simply nonexistent. So you’re far more likely to have the same luck the Tailor and I did, when we had this…

Arches National Park sketch by Chandler O'Leary

…all to ourselves.

Silver Spur sign sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Spurred to sketch

I really have no idea why this sign isn’t where it’s supposed to be (in Durango, CO), and why we stumbled upon it at Hole n’ the Rock instead. But since Durango wasn’t on the list for that trip, and I never would have made this sketch otherwise, you won’t find me complaining!

Wasatch mountains sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Basin & range

There are plenty of places in the West where you don’t reach the mountains until after you cross miles and miles of foothills. Well, not here. There’s something about the sheer scale of this part of Utah—of perfectly flat valleys abruptly cut off by steep mountain slopes, of towering peaks dwarfing farms and towns and cities at their feet—that gets me every time.

Four Corners sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Four corners

The Tailor and I make for an odd pair on a road trip. I’m likely to put enormous thought into the road tunes, to cue up the exact perfect song to play as we pass through certain landscapes (I am also usually the only one who notices or cares, no matter who’s with me on a trip). He, on the other hand, is likely to have one half of his mind in the present moment, and the other half somewhere in the Annals of Random History.

For instance, on this day, I was all wrapped up in how the weather seemed to shift with the music, when the Tailor turned to me and said, “Did you know that considering today’s date and our current time zone, the Titanic was sinking precisely one hundred years ago?!?”

So of course I had to add that to the sketchbook. Doesn’t the desert remind everyone of maritime disasters?

Four Corners sketch by Chandler O'Leary