Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hopkins Prairie (Part One)

Oak Hammock 5 x 7

          I was down at Lake Weir last week which is just south of Ocala, so I decided to take a painting trip to nearby Hopkins Prairie.  If you check the google earth map on the left side of this blog you will see that Hopkins Prairie is located in the middle of the Ocala National Forest.  On google earth finding Hopkins Prairie looks relatively easy.  The national forest is cut into squares by long north-south and east-west roads. Just get on State Road 40 and go over two and up two and over a half and there should be a big neon sign with an arrow.  No, it’s not that easy.    First of all the numbers on the roads don’t seem to match the ones on google earth.  Then my GPS tells me I’m not on a road, and when there is a road it has different name than used by google earth or the forest service.  So bottom line I got to drive an extra 15 miles through beautiful dirt roads and see about a dozen wild turkeys, six deer and one bear. (It looked like a bear, but it was a long way down the road so I’m not positive).

          Hopkins Prairie is a beautiful peaceful place.  It is very isolated. I saw only three people the whole day and I’ll have to admit I was kind of spooked.  Maybe it was that almost bear sighting, or the constant muted thump, thump, thump of the gun firing range that you can hear even though it was almost five miles away.  (It must have been the wind because I didn’t hear it the next day.  But, how many people shoot how many guns, how many times?  Seriously, either it was that firing range or there is a war going on in the forest.)    

          The isolation was creepy.  I kept thinking about two movies.  One was “Deliverance”.  (Was that a banjo I just heard?).  The other was the scene in Shawshank Redemption where Morgan Freeman is looking for the box at the rock fence under the giant elm tree.   It’s really quiet except every time the wind blows or the bugs start making noise he stops and looks in every direction.  That was me.  (No bear is sneaking up on me!)

           Fact is I love this isolated exposure to nature.  It is one of my favorite parts of plein air painting.  I did three paintings.  The one above is a little 5 x 7 sketch, just looking at colors and values.  I also got some great reference material AND I spent most of the day outside the range of cell towers so I could only think about painting.  That’s a good thing.  So, if you need some time away from your cell phone plan a trip to Hopkins Prairie.  And bring a better map than mine. 

           This is part one of Hopkins Prairie.  There is more adventure to come involving alligators and wild game tracking.  Stay tuned and thanks for looking. 

Steve Andrews

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