A Vermont man is on an uncommon journey to document his state’s vistas — in between impressive stretches of hiking.
“It’s a long walk,” said Rob Mullen of his roughly 270-mile journey through Vermont, from the border of Canada to the border of Massachusetts — the entire length of the Long Trail.
Mullen is stopping along the way to preserve the sights in oil paint, painting Vermont’s scenery instead of photographing it and trying to replicate it back in his studio.
“It feels a little more organic, so to speak,” Mullen said. “It makes me feel more a part of the place.”
Mullen used to be in advertising, using his backgrounds in both biology and art to illustrate animals for print campaigns.
His landscape project is now benefitting a pair of nonprofits.
The hiking artist is collecting pledges that’ll go to the Vermont Wildlife Coalition and the stewards of the Long Trail at the Green Mountain Club, with donors getting artwork in exchange for cash gifts.
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Mullen’s easel, paints and canvases do add extra weight to what’s already a tough trek, the artist acknowledged.
“When you’re going up and down the equivalent of Mt. Everest twice, that eight extra pounds — you start to really resent it at times,” Mullen told NECN and NBC 10 Boston. “I left my tube of cobalt blue at home, because I didn’t want an extra tube of paint!”
Mullen’s wife, Bonnie, will meet him by car at trailheads here and there to lighten his load or resupply him, he noted.
At 10 or more miles a day, it should take the hiking artist until about a week before Halloween to finish up this mission to bring his painting to new heights.
“This is worth the trip,” Mullen said of the view from Vermont’s Mt. Horrid, which he was painting this week. “It’s very gratifying.”
Other hikers on the Long Trail were impressed at Mullen’s effort, including roommates Grace LeGrand and Anne Bode from Brooklyn, who were on a leaf-peeping trip to Vermont when they came across the artist.
“These are places you can’t drive to, so to actually capture that in a painting is an amazing talent, because you can show it to people who aren’t able to hike as well,” LeGrand said.
“I can’t believe he’s backpacking and carrying all this equipment and painting everything,” Bode added. “When we walked out here, the first thing we saw was his little painting of [the view from Mt. Horrid], and I knew the view was going to incredible, because the painting was incredible.”
Mullen has in the past led landscape art expeditions by canoe in Canada, and said he looks forward to planning another — after travel restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 are lifted.