I wanted to paint a short quick little comic about desert hiking, and it ended up being a 20 page zine about trauma recovery and…desert hiking.
(content warning: trauma/assault recovery)
I’m still fairly buried under the last round of edits for my Route 66 book(but you’ll be able to read 160 pages of travel adventures sooooon…well, much later this year, or early 2018). But here’s a painting of the Blue Mesa formation at the Petrified Forest National Park, as well as Bug’s first visit to my favourite national park.
I haven’t updated here much, lately, but it’s because that I was busy having adventures and writing about them for my first full-length graphic novel, which is on Route 66! More news on that soon. I’ll be updating with adventure comics here again very soon.
Also, I have a traveling companion now. Her name is Bug, and she is the best dog.
For now, I have compiled all of my Petrified Forest comics digitally, and you can download it for free on Gumroad!
Bodie is an abandoned gold-mining town that once held 10,000 people, but it is also a historic state park, maintained in a state of arrested decay. It is reached by a thirteen mile road, off Highway 270 near the California and Nevada border, three of the miles little more than a dirt path.
I walked the town alone, easily able to avoid the small groupings of photographers in search of abandoned house porn(without suffering the risk of actually trespassing anywhere), if I walked off the main road. I stood in the graveyard, up a small hill, set apart from the town and entirely empty and quiet. I stood reading the gravestones of immigrants and children, all seeking the American Dream in a remote and barren town. I stood outside the graveyard, where the Chinese graveyard might have been, but no one knows where that actually is, because the labour of the Chinese workmen did not earn them a place within the boundaries of a small town’s graveyard.
I looked at tin shingled walls, tracing the embossed patterns of little round dots with my fingers, and I wondered what it would feel like to hold myself in a state of arrested decay, like this place. To leave the tools scattered around the wood shop, to embrace the creaky walls and the rusty machinery, and to always remember this particular mess and measure of feeling, and to merely acknowledge and accept it, instead of demolishing it, paving it over, or fixing it.
If there is a place that will always remind me that happiness and melancholy can nonchalantly exist in the same heart, it is this strange ghost town in the mountains, curated but not manicured, abandoned but not unoccupied
I really did meet some remarkable people during my stay at the Petrified Forest. I met most of the other people when I was doing my demonstration at the Rainbow Forest Museum, and I was very nice and polite to everyone. But, y’know, be nice to everyone…you never know when you might be talking to a cartoonist.
Desert Solitaire is a pretty great book, definitely one of the classics for “I’m out in the desert alone” reading, especially if you are into grumpy park ranger opinions(I am).
Even before I arrived at the Petrified Forest, I was pretty excited about the idea of getting to barrel out into the desert at night, and wander until I got lost enough to want to find my way back(or had gotten through ½ of my water). My friend Nathan came out to visit me for a couple days, and was a perfect “wandering out into the desert” companion, especially when he had to physically shove me up a cliff.
The Triassic critters pictured are a phytosaur, a metoposaurus and a chindesaurus. Out of the three, only the chindesaurus is a dinosaur, a fact that I was reminded of many times during my stay.
I’m pretty happy with the assortment of “getting lost” gear I’ve acquired over time. Here’s what some of them are:
I’ve spent the past few days catching up on my other work, and goofing around in this beautiful park, but I’ve finally gotten a chance to sit down and…paint more rocks. 🙂
The geologic formations of the Painted Desert are primarily made up of the Chinle Formation, which you can read up about on the NPS website.