I climbed up the riverbank and feasted my eyes on remnants of cabins. They were sinking into the tundra holding onto their own story that I tried to decipher. Where should I paint? Each cabin looked more intriguing than the last.
I walked all the paths and pondered what life must have been like when the community thrived. We had only traveled seven miles down the Koyukuk River but we had journeyed back over a hundred years. Gordon Bettles had chosen this site in 1896 to establish his trading post during the gold rush. It was as far as the old riverboats could go. Airplanes forced the community to abandon this beautiful location and move upriver next to the new airstrip in the mid 1940’s.
But not everyone left until recently.
Standing in front of one of the buildings, I was told, “We came here on our snow machines and would dance all night inside this building”. The General Store in Old Bettles seemed to bow in acknowledgment. The weathered dance floor was removed but it still held onto the memories of better days. This is where I chose to plant my easel. Old bottles peeked out from the windows, weathered sheet metal and signage told it’s story. It was a perfect location to contemplate local color and paint wildly.
10″ x 14″ watercolor by Raven, USA