The Trail Painters

I am a trail painter. That means I paint on the trail across the mountains of the West, I don’t paint the trail itself. There is a fundamental difference between what I do, and what these guys do, er, did. I capture the emotional, expressionist bend of the light through the trees and across the river, incorporating symbols and techniques outside the traditional world of landscape painting. Go to instagram and search #trailpaintings to check it out. That all being said, I went to the De Young museum in San Francisco yesterday and remembered who my favorite painters of all time, are. Consider:

002Thomas Hill, Mount Tallac from Lake Tahoe, 1880

Hill’s paintings often started out as oil sketches. Just after the Gold Rush, Hill was essential to shaping public perceptions of California in an era when the state remained otherwise inaccessible to most Americans. This view of Tallac is near the salmon run at Taylor Creek.


Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon with Rainbow, 1912


Albert Bierstadt, California Spring, 1875

Perhaps the most famous trail painter of the West, Bierstadt’s simple California Spring brings a wave of emotion, sings the pure emotional note of what it feels like here among the oaks in Early February when the hills sprout green.


Chiura Obata, Lake Basin in the High Sierra, 1930

A Japanese-American artist, the “roughneck”, Obata went to the United States in 1903, at age 17. After initially working as an illustrator and commercial decorator, he had a successful career as a painter, following a 1927 summer spent in the Sierra Nevadaand was a faculty member in the Art Department at UCB, from 1932 to 1953, interrupted by World War II, when he spent over a year in internment camps. Look up his Yosemite series, it will change you.


The first of three trail paintings not from the West. Frederic Edwin Church, Rainy Season in the Tropics, 1866


Frederic Edwin Church, Niagara Falls, from the American Side, 1867


John Constable, The Vale of Deadham, 1827


Central Coast Heritage Protection Act



Representative Lois Capps has introduced the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act! The bill will add roughly 300,000 acres of wilderness, scenic areas, and other protections and 159 miles of wild and scenic rivers in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument. This bill will safeguard some of the most spectacular places, including the headwaters of the Sespe River and the largest and most undisturbed remnant of the great Central Valley prairie ecosystem in the Carrizo Plain. The bill will expand nine wilderness areas including the Dick Smith, the Matilija, the Santa Lucia, and others. It will protect lands that are home to endangered wildlife like the California condor, Kit fox, red-legged frog, and Mohave ground squirrel, and lands that contain irreplaceable rock art that reveal thousands of years of human culture.

follow the progress of the bill here


Representative Lois Capps introduced the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act.  Reps. Julia Brownley and Sam Farr will co-sponsor the bill.  Once the Act becomes law, the Condor Trail will be congressionally designated as the Condor National Recreational Trail as an amendment to the National Trails System Act (a first for a National Recreation Trail!).

“The designation of the Condor Trail as a National Recreation Trail is an extremely important part of this bill.  To have this in our backyard is really exciting and that fact that it highlights and supports protection we need for the California Condor is really important.” -Rep. Lois Capps

Sample Message to Capps, Brownley & Farr:

Dear Representative:

Thank you for your leadership and commitment to permanently protect the wild public lands and rivers of the Central Coast region. Your legislation will protect landscapes that are an important part of America’s natural and cultural heritage, contribute to the regional economy, and are a shared resource that the public enjoys through numerous outdoor recreation activities. In addition, they support an incredible diversity of plant and animal species including southern steelhead, Pronghorn antelope, and the endangered California condor. 

The Central Coast includes some of the most diverse habitats and ecosystems found anywhere in North America.  I strongly support your legislation that would add wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, and other protective designations in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument. 

Thank you for your dedicated work with numerous stakeholders to develop a bill that meets the needs and wishes of community members and ensures protection of these treasured lands for generations to come. 


San Gabriel National Monument


The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument permanently protects 346,177 acres of Forest Service land in Southern California. The San Gabriel Mountains are within a 90-minute drive of 17 million people in the greater Los Angeles area, making it one of the most accessible monuments in the country. The monument protects 70 percent of Los Angeles County’s open space, and ensures that future generations will have the opportunity to enjoy its outdoor recreation amenities. Click to link to Conservation Alliance.

Desert Protection Bill 2015


Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act of 2015. It is her intent that Congress will enact this legislation this year.

Senator Feinstein’s new bill will:

  • designate 400,000 acres as wilderness. Passage of the new desert protection bill means these lands can never be developed, mined, or otherwise disturbed.
  • designate 77 miles of stream as wild and scenic rivers.
  • designate 940,000 acres as National Monuments in order to protect scenic, historic, archaeological, geologic and other scientific and educational values.

To explore all the new protection proposals, we invite you to visit our awesome new desert coalition website, and especially the Project Gallery displaying the places and rivers we hope to preserve.

Click here to see a map of the proposed protections.

go here to write Senator Feinstein a thank you letter