Today I visited Secret Cove Falls for the second time. The first was in spring and the mountain laurel was blooming. Today it was bright and sunny, but still very much winter. There was less water flowing and most of it tended to fall more to one side; of course the colors were all very different. If it was not for the distinctive rock face to the left of the fall it might be hard to recognize them as of the same site.
There is not a trail to get to the “Secret Cove”, which I find surprising since it is quite close to Forest Service Trail 155 off Nancytown Road. It is such a lovely spot with dramatic walls of rock and several comfortable spots to sit and take it all in. It is much more picturesque than Nancytown Falls which does have a well built trail. One of these days I am going to have to do some research on trail building and how paths get chosen to be developed. A direct route from FST 155 to the waterfall is barely half a mile, but both in May and today I took much longer routes in than necessary. It would be great if this waterfall had a true trail leading to it.
The route in orange is from my first visit. The blue line from today is embarrassing, but it is an honest depiction of what I did. The first time I parked on the road near the line in the very top right of the map. I made my way through the undergrowth across the top and then came down the creek to falls. It was not very easy going so I tried a more direct route out. I made some wrong turns but then found FS155 and followed it back to the road. Today I parked right by the FS155 trail head and planned to use it and then take the same direct route. But I did not remember how close to the road I should leave the trail. I followed it way too long as it led away from the waterfall and then accidentally turned the GPS tracker off. When I realized what I’d done I should have just turned around and gone back to where my last track had veered off, but I am stubborn. I just kept going and tried to correct myself. I ended up going way out of my way, but it was fairly easy walking as long as I went around the mountain laurel thickets. I saw some beautiful spots on my way.
When I got to the falls I took pictures for a while and then found a comfortable place to set up. I got off to a good start. Last week I could not finish my painting of Lower Rhododendron Falls because I got too cold, so today instead of a panel I just brought a pad of the 9×12″ watercolor paper I used for my first plein air paintings. It was nice to have a smaller surface to cover and I got my sketch and first blocks of color in quickly. Spending time with talking art with an Impressionist has changed the way I look at the scenes as I paint. I find myself much more aware of the light. My paintings had been more about the capturing the composition (and I hope the feeling) of the scenes. The texture of the rock, the flow of the water, and the pattern of the surrounding vegetation felt more important than the light. I think this change of focus has helped the paintings improve, but it has also added extra challenge. As the image starts to take shape I have been influenced to ask myself, “where is the light coming from?” This is an easy question the first time it is asked, but as time passes the answer can change dramatically.
Today I spent about two hours painting and the light changed completely while I was there. Unfortunately the finished product suffers for it. I think it may be time to either do some reading up on how other plein air artists solve this problem, or give in and do more finishing work in the studio by photograph. I do not enjoy painting in the studio nearly as much as I like being out on site, so I am hoping the former is possible.
The way the light came through the trees behind me made it impossible to geta good picture of the painting as part of the scene.