One of my favorite Northwest tree is the Red Alder. There is nothing red about this tree, at least as far as I can tell. The Red Alder is a medium sized, slender tree. It grows gracefully along the road, its slender straight whiteness set off well by the tall dark green pines. The contrast is one of beauty, yet it is kin of the pines, the straightness and simplicity of its branches tell it is of the same spirit. The bark is smooth and white, with dark brown breaking through the white in horizontal gashes.
The branches grow straight out from the trunk, effortlessly reaching up to the sky, then spreading out uniformly. The leaves are small, teardrop shaped, slightly crinkled and a dusty darker green. We saw these lovely trees all the way to Northern California, though by that time they were but a shadow of their straight and true cousins in Washington and Oregon.
An hour or so from Portland the land leveled out a bit from rugged hills and valleys to a wide valley. Mountains were visible on either side, and large hills broke the evenness regularly. The yellow grass of Portland became green and lush again as we got closer to Eugene. We stopped at a rest stop so I could draw what I thought was a Red Alder. I happily sat down to draw this beautiful tree, amidst curious stares from other tourists and truckers. It was growing dark so after a quick gestural sketch I took reference photos to draw from in the studio. Later I discovered this tree was not a native Red Alder, but a European White Birch. That is okay, it has turned out to be one of my favorite drawings from the trip!