Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Stunning Painting by my friend Nancy Dillen (and an inside look at her process)

Fall's Bridge by Nancy Dillen copyright
oil on canvas
This stunning painting was done by my friend Nancy Dillen. It makes me think of a time several years ago when I was walking along a fresh, singing and sparkling mountain stream between Snowmass and Independence Pass in Colorado. I thought to myself, "I could die here." I know that could be taken to be a bit maudlin but what I meant in my mind was that the sensory experience of that place was totally fulfilling in and of itself. 
Here is the story of this painting in Nancy's words below. We both have husbands with incredibly 'good eyes' and they are our best critics especially when we have been looking at our work for so long we don't always see the final steps necessarily until they point them out. 

Last fall Rick and I spent some time with friends  hiking the trails at Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania It was the perfect fall day: the colors were intense, the light was crystal clear, and the temperature was just right. Don't know the name of the trail, but it was about 2 miles long along a stream that switched back and forth. We passed about 20+ waterfalls of varying sizes along a loop that climbed back up to the trail head and parking lot. The day was so memorable for me because living in Florida most of my life it is rare for me to see such beauty in fall colors. I was taking pictures left and right as the yellow and orange leaves kept sifting down all around me.

At home in Melbourne, FL this spring I selected a photo that I felt epitomized my experience and started painting. The more I painted, the more detail I included. When I create a realistic painting I always refer to photographs or digital images that I shot and stored on my computer. I keep the computer right next to my easel, and refer to it as I draw the composition and paint. This can be a help and a detriment... a help because all the information you need to know is right at your finger tip. The computer can be a detriment because I start feeling like I have to put all that info into my painting!!! Then, I get so saturated with information, and I can't see the forest for the leaves!!! 

It took me over 145 hours to complete the piece. Thank goodness Rick was able to be objective, and help me realize I was spending way too much time on the detail, and loosing the impact that I wanted when I selected the composition. Sometimes we need another set of eyes to help us out!!!! 

Nancy Dillen

A little more from Nancy in a previous email and a glimpse of the natural world they enjoy in Florida where they live.

Hey Fran,

I promised I would send you my latest painting. Fall's Bridge is it. Boy what a labor intensive painting this was... I kept track of the # of hours I worked on it. By the time I was finished, I was literally sick of it. Because I was so obsessive and interested in the detail, I lost track of the overall image.  The perspective problems just didn't exist for me. I had zoomed in so much on the details in the original that all I was creating was a flat, overall pattern which of course doesn't fit with my body of work!!! All I wanted to do was finish. With Rick's extra set of critical eyes, I was able to finally see what I was doing wrong. 
We went kayaking today and saw at least 20+ manatees. At one time at least 2 came up to our kayaks and pushed us around. It was at a location where there must have been at least 5 feeding on the mangrove leaves. We figured it was their way of diverting us from the others so they could eat. It was a lot of fun. We must have spent at least a 1/2 hour with them pushing us around, rolling over next to us, etc. Later we saw what might have been an otter pop its head up and look around. Then we saw a mother dolphin and baby in several feeding frenzy.

Ricketts Glen State Park
Pennsylvania State Park
Photo of a relatively small amount of water that drops from a ledge and falls in front of layers of rock into a large pool covered with a scattering of floating green and yellow leaves. Green vegetation is visible on the rocks above and behind the falls.
Harrison Wright Falls, 27 feet (8.2 m), at Ricketts Glen State Park
Named for: Robert Bruce Ricketts
CountryUnited States
CountiesColumbia, Luzerne, Sullivan
TownshipsSugarloaf, Fairmount, Ross, Colley,Davidson
Elevation2,198 ft (670 m) [1]
Coordinates41°19′34″N 76°16′46″W
Area13,046.54 acres (5,279.75 ha) [2]
Founded1942 [3]
ManagementPennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Visitation500,000 [4]
IUCN categoryII - National Park [5]
A map of the state of Pennsylvania with a red dot in the northeast part
Location of Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania
Website: Ricketts Glen State Park
Ricketts Glen State Park is a Pennsylvania state park on 13,047 acres (5,280 ha) in ColumbiaLuzerne, and Sullivan counties in Pennsylvania in the United States. Ricketts Glen is a National Natural Landmark known for its old-growth forest and 24 named waterfalls along Kitchen Creek, which flows down the Allegheny Front escarpment from the Allegheny Plateau to the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians. The park is near the borough of Benton on Pennsylvania Route 118 andPennsylvania Route 487, and is in five townships: Sugarloaf in Columbia County, Fairmount and Ross in Luzerne County, and Colley and Davidson in Sullivan County.
Ricketts Glen's land was once home to Native Americans. From 1822 to 1827, a turnpike was built along the course of PA 487 in what is now the park, where twosquatters harvested cherry trees to make bed frames from about 1830 to 1860. The park's waterfalls were one of the main attractions for a hotel from 1873 to 1903; the park is named for the hotel's proprietor, R. Bruce Ricketts, who built the trail along the waterfalls. By the 1890s Ricketts owned or controlled over 80,000 acres (320 km2; 120 sq mi) and made his fortune clearcutting almost all of that land, including much of what is now the park; however he preserved about 2,000 acres (810 ha) of virgin forest in the creek's three glens. The sawmill was at the village of Ricketts, which was mostly north of the park. After his death in 1918, Ricketts' heirs began selling land to the state for Pennsylvania State Game Lands.
Plans to make Ricketts Glen a national park in the 1930s were ended by budget issues and the Second World War; Pennsylvania began purchasing the land in 1942 and fully opened Ricketts Glen State Park in 1944. The Benton Air Force Station, a Cold War radar installation in the park, operated from 1951 to 1975 and still serves as airport radar for nearby Wilkes-Barre and as the Red Rock Job Corps Center. Improvements since the creation of the state park include a new dam for the 245-acre (99 ha) Lake Jean, the breaching of two other dams Ricketts built, trail modifications, and a fire tower. In 1999 Hurricane Floyd briefly closed the park and downed thousands of trees; helicopter logging protected the ecosystem while harvesting lumber worth nearly $7 million, some of which paid for a new park office in 2001.
The park offers hiking, ten cabins, camping (one of the two camping areas is on a peninsula in the lake), horseback riding, and hunting. Lake Jean is used for swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking. In winter there is cross-country skiing, ice fishing on the lake, and ice climbing on the frozen falls. The Glens Natural Area has eight named waterfalls in Glen Leigh and ten in Ganoga Glen, these come together at Waters Meet; downstream in Ricketts Glen there are four to six named waterfalls. The park has four rock formations from the Devonian and Carboniferous periods, and is home to a wide variety of plants and animals. It was named an Important Bird Area by the Pennsylvania Audubon Society and is an Important Mammal Area too. Ricketts Glen State Park was chosen by thePennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and its Bureau of State Parks as one of "Twenty Must-See Pennsylvania State Parks".[6]

Geology and climate

Photo of four large flat-topped boulders divided by narrow splits. Green foliage is visible at the top of the image creating a t-shape in the rocks
Pocono Formation sandstone boulders split by weathering
Ricketts Glen State Park covers two different physiographic provinces: the Allegheny Plateau in the north, and the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians in the south. The boundary between these is a steep escarpment known as the Allegheny Front, which rises up to 1,200 feet (370 m) above the land to the south. Within the park, Kitchen Creek has itsheadwaters on the dissected plateau, then drops approximately 1,000 feet (300 m) down the Allegheny Front in 2.25 miles (3.62 km). Much of this drop occurs in Glen Leigh and Ganoga Glen, two narrow valleys carved by branches of Kitchen Creek, which come together at Waters Meet. Ricketts Glen lies south of and downstream from Waters Meet, and here the terrain becomes less steep. There are 24 named waterfalls in the three glens.[30][56][75]
The rocks exposed in the park were formed in the Devonian and Carboniferous periods between 370 and 340 million years ago, when the land was part of the coastline of a shallow sea that covered a great portion of what is now North America. The high mountains to the east of the sea gradually eroded, causing a build-up of sediment made up primarily ofclaysand and gravel. Tremendous pressure caused the formation of the sedimentary rocks that are found in the park and in the Kitchen Creek drainage basinsandstoneshale,siltstone, and conglomerates.[56]
There are four distinct rock formations within Ricketts Glen State Park. The most recent and highest of these is the late Mississippian Mauch Chunk Formation, composed of "grayish-red shale, siltstone, sandstone, and some conglomerate".[76] This forms the highest points on the Allegheny Plateau and is found north of Lake Jean, forming the land beneath the Red Rocks Job Corps Center and Cherry Ridge to the east. The next formation below this is the Mississippian Pocono Formation, which is buff or gray sandstone with conglomerate and siltstone inclusions. This forms most of the Allegheny Plateau and underlies the park office, Lake Jean and the former Lakes Rose and Leigh. The boulders of the Midway Crevasse, which the Highland Trail passes through, are Pocono Formation sandstone.[56][76]
Photo of a large waterfall that cascades down a sloping rock face composed of many layers. Green vegetation surrounds the falls, with large tree trunks at the base of the falls.
F.L. Ricketts Falls is a wedding cake type waterfall, cascading 38 feet (12 m) overHuntley Mountain Formation rock.
The third of the rock formations within the park is the Huntley Mountain Formation, from the late Devonian and early Mississippian. This is made of layers of olive green to gray sandstone and gray to red shale. The Huntley Mountain Formation is relatively hard and erosion resistant. It caps the Allegheny Front and has kept it from eroding as much as the softer Catskill Formation, to the south. The Catskill Formation is the lowest and oldest layer in the park, and is composed of red shale and siltstone up to 370 million years old. The Allegheny Front within the park is named North Mountain and Red Rock Mountain, with the latter name coming from an exposed band of Huntley Formation red shale and sandstone visible along Pennsylvania Route 487 (PA 487).[56][77][78][79]
Geologists and the official Ricketts Glen State Park web page classify the falls at Ricketts Glen State Park into two types. Wedding-cake falls descend in a series of small steps. Within the park, this type of falls usually flows over thin layers of Huntley Mountain Formation sandstone. In bridal-veil falls, the second type, water falls over a ledge and drops vertically into a plunge pool in the stream bed below. Within the park, this type of falls flows over Catskill Formation rocks or the red shale and sandstone of the Huntley Formation. In the park, the harder caprock which forms the ledge from which the bridal-veil falls drops is gray sandstone. The softer red shale below is eroded away by water, sand and gravel to form the plunge pool.[3][56] Brown's Pennsylvania waterfalls: a guide for hikers and photographers uses four types to classify waterfalls: falls, cascade, slide, and chute.[80]
Photo of a plume of water falls in a narrow channel carved in layers of reddish brown rock. The falls, surrounded by green foliage, spill into a shallow pool.
Adams Falls is a bridal veil type waterfall, dropping 36 feet (11 m) in front of Catskill Formation rock.
About 300 to 250 million years ago, the Allegheny Plateau, Allegheny Front, and Appalachian Mountains all formed in the Alleghenian orogeny. This happened long after the sedimentary rocks in the park were deposited, when the part of Gondwana that became Africa collided with what became North America, forming Pangaea. In the years since, up to 5,000 feet (1,500 m) of rock has been eroded away by streams and weather. At least three major glaciations in the past million years have been the final factor in shaping the land that makes up the park today.[56][77][81]
The effects of glaciation have made Kitchen Creek within the park "unique compared to all other nearby streams that flow down the Allegheny Front", as it is the only one with an "almost continuous series of waterfalls".[56] Before the last ice age, Kitchen Creek had a much smaller drainage basin; during the ice age, glaciers covered all of the park except the Grand View outcrop. About 20,000 years ago the glaciers retreated to the northeast and glacial lakes formed. Drainage from the melting glacier and lakes cut a sluiceway, or channel, that diverted the headwaters of South Branch Bowman Creek into the Glen Leigh branch of Kitchen Creek. Glacial deposits of debris 20 to 30 feet (6.1 to 9.1 m) thick formed a dam blocking water from Ganoga Lake and what became Lake Jean from draining into Big Run, a tributary of Fishing Creek. The water was instead diverted into the Ganoga Glen branch of Kitchen Creek.[56]
These diversions added about 7 square miles (18 km2) to the Kitchen Creek drainage basin, increasing it by just over 50 percent.[56][82] The result was increased water flow in Kitchen Creek, which has been cutting the falls in the glens since. The gradient or slope of Kitchen Creek was fairly stable for its flow when it had a much smaller drainage basin, as Phillips Creek to the east still does. Kitchen Creek is now too steep for its present amount of water flow, and over time erosion will decrease the creek's slope and make it less steep.[56] There are rocks with glacial striations visible within the park.[32]
According to the United States Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System, Ricketts Glen State Park is at an elevation of 2,198 feet (670 m).[1] The two highest points in the park are Cherry Ridge, made of Mauch Chunk Formation rock, at 2,461 feet (750 m),[57] and the Grand View outcrop of Huntley Mountain Formation sandstone, at 2,444 feet (745 m).[56][83] The highest elevation waterfall in the park is Mohawk Falls in Ganoga Glen at 2,165 feet (660 m);[84] the lowest elevation waterfall is Adams Falls, in Ricketts Glen just south of PA 118, at 1,214 feet (370 m).[85]


Ricketts Glen State Park is on the Allegheny Plateau, which has a continental climate with occasional severe low temperatures in winter and average daily temperature ranges (the difference between the daily high and low) of 20 °F (11 °C) in winter and 26 °F (14 °C) in summer.[86] The park is in the Huntington Creek watershed, where the mean annual precipitation is 40 to 48 inches (1016 to 1219 mm).[87] Weather records for Ricketts Glen State Park show that the highest recorded temperature was 103 °F (39 °C) in 1988, and the record low was −17 °F (−27 °C) in 1984. On average, January is the coldest month at the park, July is the hottest month, and June is the wettest month.[88]
[hide]Climate data for Ricketts Glen State Park
Average high °F (°C)33
Average low °F (°C)15
Precipitation inches (mm)2.76
Source: The Weather Channel[88]


Photo of a large black bear walking through a grassy clearing in the woods, with the trunks of several trees are visible.
Black Bear in the park
It has been estimated that before the arrival of William Penn and his Quaker colonists in 1682, up to 90 percent of what is now Pennsylvania was covered with woods: over 31,000 square miles (80,000 km2) of Eastern White PineEastern Hemlock, and a mix of hardwoods.[89] By 1890, Ricketts' land was the largest tract of old-growth forest remaining in the state, and though he made his fortune clearcutting nearly all his land, the forests in the glens of Ricketts Glen State Park were "saved from the lumberman's axe through the foresight of the Ricketts family".[58] The rough terrain of the glens made it difficult to harvest timber from the area. Many of the old-growth trees are believed to be over 500 years old, and ring counts on fallen trees have revealed ages of over 900 years.[23]
The forests in and around Ricketts Glen State Park are some of the most extensive in northeastern Pennsylvania, and provide habitat for a wide variety of woodland creatures. The swampy areas in the park provide a habitat for plants like Black GumYellow BirchCinnamon FernSphagnum and various sedges.[90] The old-growth forest in the Glens Natural Area is mostly Eastern Hemlock, Eastern White Pine, and oaks, and the park is home to 85 species of shrubs, woody vines, and trees, including seven kinds of conifers.[91]
The streams and lakes of Ricketts are fisheries for many fish species,[3][23] although fishing is prohibited in the glens area.[3] In 2009, 4.15 miles (6.68 km) of Kitchen Creek downstream from Waters Meet and all of Phillips Creek were classified as Class A Wild Trout Waters,[92] defined by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commissionas "streams which support a population of naturally produced trout of sufficient size and abundance to support a long-term and rewarding sport fishery".[93]
Lake Jean is home to Brook TroutBrown TroutBrown Bullhead, and Yellow Bullhead.[94] Acid rain with a pH near 3.0 has altered the ecology of the lakes and region; in Lake Jean low pH has decreased the number and quality of insects and plankton at the base of the food chain. Fish which are acid tolerant are predominant, including Fathead MinnowMuskellungePumpkinseedWalleye, and Yellow Perch. Predators like Chain Pickerel and Largemouth Bass are relatively few in number, and adult fish appear to grow rapidly but breed comparatively poorly.[23] Since 1996, the DCNR has added 11 short tons (10.0 t) of powdered lime to the lake each year to make the pH more neutral.[32]
For information on manatees:
Manatees (family Trichechidaegenus Trichechus) are large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals sometimes known as sea cows. There are three accepted living species of Trichechidae, representing three of the four living species in the order Sirenia: the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis), the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), and the West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis). They measure up to 13 feet (4.0 m) long, weigh as much as 1,300 pounds (590 kg)[1], and have paddle-like flippers. The name manatí comes from the Taíno, a pre-Columbian people of the Caribbean, meaning "breast".[2]
Manatees have a mass of 400 to 550 kilograms (880 to 1,200 lb), and mean length of 2.8 to 3 metres (9.2 to 9.8 ft), with maximums of 3.6 metres (12 ft) and 1,775 kilograms (3,910 lb) seen (the females tend to be larger and heavier). When born, baby manatees have an average mass of 30 kilograms (66 lb). They have a large flexible prehensile upper lip. They use the lip to gather food and eat, as well as using it for social interactions and communications. Manatees have shorter snouts than their fellow sirenians, the dugongs. Their small, widely-spaced eyes have eyelids that close in a circular manner. The adults have no incisor or canine teeth, just a set of cheek teeth, which are not clearly differentiated into molars and premolars. Uniquely among mammals, these teeth are continuously replaced throughout life, with new teeth growing at the rear as older teeth fall out from farther forward in the mouth. At any given time, a manatee typically has no more than six teeth in each jaw of its mouth.[4] Its tail is paddle-shaped, and is the clearest visible difference between manatees and dugongs; a dugong tail is fluked, similar in shape to a that of a whale.
Like horses, they have a simple stomach, but a large cecum, in which they can digest tough plant matter. In general, their intestines are unusually long for animals of their size.[citation needed]

[edit]Life history

Half a manatee's day is spent sleeping in the water, surfacing for air regularly at intervals no greater than 20 minutes. Manatees spend most of the rest of the time grazing in shallow waters at depths of 1–2 metres (3.3–6.6 ft). The Florida subspecies (T. m. latirostris) has been known to live up to 60 years.


On average, manatees swim at about 5 to 8 kilometres per hour (3.1 to 5.0 mph). However, they have been known to swim at up to 30 kilometres per hour (19 mph) in short bursts.


Manatees are capable of understanding discrimination tasks, and show signs of complex associated learning and advanced long term memory.[5] They demonstrate complex discrimination and task-learning similar to dolphins and pinnipeds in acoustic and visual studies.[6]


Manatees typically breed once every two years, gestation lasts about 12 months, and it takes a further 12 to 18 months to wean the calf. Only a single calf is born at a time and aside from mothers with their young or males following a receptive female, manatees are generally solitary creatures.[4]

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