Journaling in the North Cascades

Journal posts from a summer working in one of the most remote locations in the lower 48.


This summer I lived and worked in Stehekin, a tiny community in the lower North Cascades National Park. What with there being no cell service, barely functional internet, and definitely no TV, I had plenty of time to draw and muse without distraction.

IMG_7287I was astounded to find a 100 year old apple orchard in the valley. Now owned and maintained by the Park service, the Buckner orchard is a historic site with the original buildings still intact, encrusted with acid green lichen. The field is carpeted with wildflowers. Otherworldly! It was one of my favorite spots to go and daydream.



A year ago, I came up with a story idea about the Cider sisters who live on an apple orchard above a magic crystal grotto. It was a daydream I developed while babysitting wonderfully imaginative girls, and afterwards I didn’t do much with it. When I happened upon this actual historic orchard surrounded by mountains, it seemed like fate. So I started to draw.


Every inch of the Buckner Orchard is enchanted…worn by a century of seasons, wood silver from the sun, held together with vines and wire.
IMG_7294So far, I have about 50 pages to the Cider sister story. Various elements include witches, lost maps, black market smugglers, circus monkeys, a tattooed lady, asteroids, epic battles, and unrequited love.
IMG_1169I loved to spread out my things on a picnic table by the lake after working…. the light would do all kinds of wonderful things on the mountains and clouds. More than once my papers were scattered by the wind.




IMG_7282I worked on all kinds of projects. The sketch above was a plan for an illustration for the Stehekin Pastry Company, a place so aromatic you can smell the cinnamon a mile down the road.


I drew all stretched out in the hammock.



On top of Bueller’s Bluff, overlooking Lake Chelan.

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So constantly surrounded by beauty, I couldn’t not draw. Everything was inspiration to me. A patch of moss, the way my boss said “squarsh” instead of squash. An apple all flecked with rain.

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My dream would be to do an artist’s residency– getting a stipend and lodging in exchange for creating work about your surroundings. They have them all over the country, in State and National Parks. To qualify you technically have to be an exhibiting artist, and an impressive resume sure doesn’t hurt, but… you never know. Why not?



Here’s to a year filled with drawing in gorgeous places.







3 Comments Add yours

  1. says:

    Claire you have so much talent, you should go for it.  Follow your dream.

  2. Jay E. says:

    This. Is. Amazing.

    I absolutely adore the Stephking Pastry Co. illustration.

  3. Jess Carey says:

    Your work is so beautiful… I’m seriously so wowed right now! How wonderful it must be to be able to just sit in the fresh air and capture it all so perfectly..

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