The Final Stretch

3/23 to 3/31


On our drive from Ketchum, Idaho to Ogden, Utah we drove through some amazing farmland and great vistas.  It dawned on me as I sat staring out the window that I should create a new painting series called “From the Road” so that I can share the scenes that we drive through.   The first painting is called “Infinity” and caught my eye because of the vast, uninhabitable empty land with a few simple clouds.  On some days the roads seem to go on forever with nothing in sight which always surprises me after seeing how dense some of our cities can be.

The second painting is called “On the Road to Taos” and is from a previous trip, but I loved the curve of the road, the cars on the road and the snow-capped mountains, drawing me into the distance.

On the Road to Taos

We arrived in Ogden, Utah to some beautiful warm weather which makes for great camping but not great skiing.  We enjoyed opening all the windows, being able to sit outside and barbeque our dinners.  We spent two days skiing at Snow Basin which is another destination on Ross’s wish list. The Men’s and Women’s 2002 Olympic downhill were held at Snow Basin.  Snow Basin is a smaller and less well known ski resort compared to other Utah ski resort, but results in less crowds and very easy access to the ski lifts.  The restaurants and lodges on the mountain were beautiful and as I dubbed them, “dated posh décor”.   The skiing was okay, but we felt there were a lot of blue groomers and then lots of steep extreme skiing with not much between the two.  We did take the gondola to the top where the Olympic races were held and normally would have skied those runs but the snow conditions weren’t great, so we took the safer way down.

The temperatures continued to rise and were unseasonably warm, so we decided to end the skiing portion of this trip and move on to some golfing.  We left Ogden, Utah, made a quick stop in Park City to say hi to a friend and get Buddy his annual Park City toy.

We continued on to Green River State Park in Utah.  Green River was an easy stop over location that we ended up turning into a 3 night stay so that we could enjoy the warm temperatures and play two days of golf.  The morning light was beautiful and gave me some opportunities to take some great photos for future paintings. The golf course was located right next to the campground which made it super convenient and fun.  In the mornings we played golf and in the afternoon I painted. 

We had 4 nights before we needed to head for home, and with a snowy weather forecast on the radar, we decided to get over a few mountain passes before the storm.

We decided to stay at Chatfield State Park just south of Denver.  It was a beautiful place to camp with a large lake, walking trails and nice spacious camping spots.  From Chatfield State Park, our last 2 nights would be at the Clear Creek RV park Golden, CO. We love this RV park because there are some great trails that we can walk to as well as the ability to see friends and play some more golf. 

I had some time in the last 4 days to paint one more painting for the From the Road series called Highway 95.  Again this was a photo from a previous trip,  but I loved the depth  and layering of the plateaus and bareness of the landscape.

Highway 95

After 4915 miles, 46 days, 8 ski resorts and 8 states our wonderful winter journey came to an end. Let me know what you think of this series of paintings and if it intrigues you.  Are there any views from the road that you love in particular?

Oregon and Idaho

3/15/ to 3/22

We departed Sacramento and headed North to make a quick stop over night in Weed, CA at a cute Harvest Host location of Mt. Shasta Brewery. There was a beautiful short hiking trail close by that wound through majestic pines, and so we took advantage of this delightful walk after the long drive.

In the evening we had a nice dinner and beer at the brewery alongside a few other Rv’ers.  The town of Weed as you can imagine had a lot of Weed jokes, t-shirts for sale etc.

As we headed north from Weed we passed through some beautiful scenery but also some shocking views of some reservoirs and lakes that were extremely low. We also drove through many more burned out forests than we can remember.  It caused us to have lots of long talks about how the Earth can continue on this trajectory.  Seeing the affects of climate change in person really brings it home and closer to my heart.

Eventually we got to Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort where we were able to get an RV reservation with electrical hookups at the base of the mountain.  We were almost literally ski in and ski out which has been a dream for Ross.  The day we arrived it was a blustery and snowy afternoon with the winds blowing the snow sideways. 

Fortunately, we woke up the next day to 7 inches of fresh snow and blue skies. We got out on the mountain and had some fantastic skiing. 

We were told by some locals that the Summit chair which goes to the top of the volcano was open and is rarely open (due to wind) so we beelined it over there and were able to ski that run twice and get the amazing views from the top.  See the video below (sorry for a finger in the way during part of it).  What I thought was particularly interesting about the top was being able to see other dormant volcanoes nearby and understand that we were at the top of a volcano and the ski runs and lifts go around the peak and ultimately there is a circular trail at the bottom connecting the mountain.

The following day was a grey day and windy so we skied the lower part of the mountain but again had fun and were glad that we had seen the mountain when there was blue sky.  We had been told by the locals that this mountain is known for its winds. The following morning we awoke to some more fresh snow and the Summit Chair was opened briefly so we went back up to the top.  It was an entirely different experience with horrible winds.  It was pretty humorous to get off at the top and see everyone trying to survive the winds.  Needless to say, it was closed down soon afterwards.

One of the nice things about staying in a location for a few days at a time is that it allows me time to paint.  As I previously mentioned I am working on creating a greeting card line for pets.  The idea is to have cards for pet sympathy cards, welcome to the family cards, get well soon cards etc.  So this week I created a few silhouette images of cats and dogs that I think would make some nice generic images so that I can customize the cards with the appropriate wording.  If any of you are wordsmiths, feel free to send me some wording that you think would be appropriate for these images and I will make sure that you get some free cards!

As you may remember from last year’s adventure we had camped in nearby Sisters and loved it.  We had been to their famous Sisters Bakery and Ross had been talking about it for a year so we decided to make a quick detour to Sisters to stock up on their baked goods and fill up our freezer with lots of goodies.  We then drove to Redmond which is nearby, to spend a lovely evening with my old Nanny who we called Mary Poppins.  We had a heartwarming evening catching up and sharing memories which was so appropriate since it was 32 years ago that my father had passed away, and he adored Kathy.

We officially made the turn to start heading East towards home and decided to take the longer Scenic Byway drive along highway 20/26.  The scenery was beautiful and well worth the extra miles driving this route.   We overnighted at a Lavender farm in Ontario after a long day on the road and for our last night in Oregon.

We awoke to a windy day, fortunately it was mostly a tail wind but we encountered A LOT of tumble weed.  There was something mesmerizing about watching it roll in groupings across the freeway.  We safely got to Ketchum, Idaho with a beautiful drive through valleys, snowy mountains and beautiful ridge lines marked with snow. Downtown Ketchum had some beautiful shops and galleries and had a very nice upscale feeling.  However, almost everything was closed on Sunday afternoon.

The following day we skied Bald Mountain which is an incredibly steep mountain.  We were so surprised to ski their green runs which felt like advanced intermediate runs to us.  Unfortunately, the snow conditions were less than desirable and almost all of the ski runs we would have normally wanted to ski were exposed rock and soil since they hadn’t had snow in quite a while. 

We explored the resort and decided that on a good snow year it would be a fantastic resort to go back to.  However, for us the skiing wasn’t worth another day, so we decided to move on. 

We did drive around town and went over to the Sun Valley area.  We were so surprised to find out that Sun Valley is not a ski resort but a town and that the ski resort is actually 2 different mountains (Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain).  There was lots to like about Ketchum and it would be somewhere we would go back to even in the off season to explore their vast bike paths.

Since we decided not to ski a second day we changed our itinerary a little bit and took a slight detour to Craters of the Moon National Monument.  We arrived and found it closed on Mondays and Tuesdays in the winter so we were not able to get a lot of the information that we would have liked.  The 7 mile driving loop was closed due to snow so we walked in for a ways to explore.  It was interesting to see the vastness of the black lava  with the stark contrast of the white snow. 

We weren’t able to see the craters either due to the snow cover or because they were further out on the 7 mile loop which we could not do but the picture on the informational panel looked great (haha!) and what we could see of lava formations was intriguing. 

Aerial View of the Craters

If we are back in the area at a future date we will stop by.  Ironically, we went to 2 National Monuments on this trip, one of which was the White Sand Dunes made of gypsum and now the black lava fields. Next stop are the ski resorts in Utah for hopefully some better skiing.


March 3rd to March 15

The Skiing is Heavenly

We have finally started on our skiing portion of the trip.  It is ironic that our original itinerary was mostly to visit ski locations throughout the west but then we changed the first 2 weeks due to extremely cold temperatures.  And then when we were supposed to go to Death Valley National Park but the temperatures were too warm so we had to reroute our plans again.  First it was too cold and then it was too hot.

The change in plans did allow us to stay in Las Vegas which was great and then gave us a few days to head to Mammoth Lakes to ski Mammoth Mountain.  We found a nice RV park just on the edge of town which allowed us not only to walk into town but to be a short drive to the ski resort. 

We were fortunate to have a bluebird day on the first day so that we could see the glorious views and get a good sense of the resort.  The skiing was fairly good even though they hadn’t had snow in awhile and it was quite evident by all the exposed dirt and rocks to the side of the runs.  The following day was the exact opposite conditions with blizzard like conditions which did bring some fresh snow but very low visibility and a wind chill.    We were happy to get a good sense of the mountain before retiring back to the warm Airstream.  The nice thing about staying in a place for a few days and only skiing for a few hours is that it allows me to have time to paint. 

I am currently working on a series of paintings with cats and dogs to make into a greeting card side business.  This painting below is of two cats which I started with a base of watercolor on watercolor board and then added some white gouache on top of the watercolor for some of the lighter details.

Best Friends

We woke up the next morning with plans to head to Tahoe but noticed weather alerts on our phone. We checked the road conditions and they were showing that chains were required (which we don’t have currently for the trailer) so we decided to wait a few hours and see if they lifted the restriction.  Low and behold they did, so we headed out and were shocked to see dry roads with not a drop of snow on them.  Coloradans would have been laughing. 

Why were there chain requirements????

We made our way to Carson City, Nevada to stock up on supplies and spend the night at another Harvest Host location called Sunridge Golf Course.  Unfortunately, it was too cold to play any golf but we did have a spectacular view and it was a nice stop over.

Gorgeous Views at the Sunridge Golf Course

 The next day we moved on to Truckee, CA to base ourselves for 5 nights so that we could ski at North Lake Tahoe.  I had spent a lot of time in Tahoe as a kid and it brought back so many great memories and felt a bit like home.  On our first day of skiing, we met my oldest brother, nephew and two others at Northstar to ski.  It was a great bluebird day with decent skiing and great views. 

Lake Tahoe was it’s glorious blue and such a beautiful backdrop. Late in the afternoon Ross and I headed into the historic part of Truckee to walk around and do a little shopping.  It was a charming town and changed for the better.

Our next couple days of skiing was at the old Alpine Meadows (now called Palisades Tahoe) and the old Squaw Valley (now called Palisades).  The ski resorts were much as I had remembered, and we had another few days of great skiing and magical views.  We loved exploring both resorts and after skiing all the resorts that we did in the Tahoe area we ranked Squaw Valley our favorite resort. 

In the afternoon we went in to see Tahoe City and  walk along a new (to me) lakeside path which was really beautiful.   

The following morning we moved to the South Shore of Lake Tahoe and drove the California side of the lake which is pretty spectacular. It was pretty windy and cold and there was a lake advisory due to the winds so there were whitecaps on the lake which made it a bit more dramatic.  We stopped at a few vista points including Emerald Bay to take in the glorious blue of Lake Tahoe. 

Eventually we got to the South Shore and set up at our new camp site which was located in Zephyr Cove. We were nestled in the trees and very close to the lake and Heavenly Valley Ski resort.   We were fortunate to be able to walk quickly down to the lake for our morning and evening dog walks.  It was nice to see the lake and the snowy mountains in the different lighting. 

We had hoped to ski in the afternoon but due the high winds several of the ski lifts were closed so we decided to take the day off but were able to ski the next day.  Heavenly is a perfectly named ski resort because the views are absolutely Heavenly.  From all the ski resorts that we did in Tahoe we had great views but from Heavenly the views are even more breathtaking.  Not only do you get a wide vista of the lake but you also get the dramatic contrast between the desert views of Nevada vs the snow capped mountains and the lake as seen in the video below.

The skiing was also good but again would have been even better if they had had fresh snow so that we could have skied some of the runs between the trees etc. On the last afternoon I felt so inspired by the beauty that I created this quick painting based on a photo taken at Heavenly Valley.

Next stop was just outside of Sacramento where we have some family and a new great niece Rory that we wanted to meet.  

It was a fun filled weekend seeing my oldest brother and his family as well as my other brother’s son, his wife and new born. 

A Fun Family Dinner

On the Sunday my brother, his wife , Ross and I and my friend Susan from college went wine tasting in Amador County.  It was perfect day tasting great wines, enjoy the California sunshine and having a nice picnic.  It was a perfect relaxing day with lots of laughs and great fun.

It is now time to move on to Oregon and Idaho for some more skiing adventures.

Arizona to Nevada

2/23 to 3/2

We left Deming NM in some fairly high winds which made for an interesting drive to Bisbee Arizona.  We saw quite a few dust storms but fortunately none of them crossed our path and we made it safely to Bisbee.

We set up and luckily the winds were not as bad in this location, so we walked into town and started exploring this quirky and crazy place.  Bisbee is a historic mining town and was one of the richest mineral sites in the world.  In the early 1900’s it was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco.  The town is built on a hillside and the homes and streets climb and wind around in a maze-like layout. 

We climbed a few steep stairways and looked at all the amazing architecture.  There were some great historical buildings as well as lots of dilapidated homes.  It was difficult to imagine how one could even restore some of these homes due to the steepness and difficulty getting to the properties.

The following morning, we walked Buddy around town and looked through shop windows and returned a few hours later without our trusted companion so that we could actually go into the stores.  The town is filled with lots of artistic flair as well as old historical artifacts. One of our stops was into their library to see some historic photos of the town and look at their collection of older books. Bisbee’s library was the State’s first community library. In the afternoon we did the infamous Bisbee 1000 Stair challenge that is a 4.6-mile race in October where the entrants go up 9 long flights of stairs (80-180 steps) throughout town.  It was a great workout and so much fun to see parts of the town that we hadn’t seen.  We loved seeing the creative retaining walls, fences, sculptures etc. as well as the funky architecture.

The following morning, we headed out early for a quick stop at a nearby town called Tombstone which is known for its wild west history.  We knew it would be touristy because they have reenactments of gun fights etc.  Fortunately, we were there before the tourists were there, so we had the town almost to ourselves.  It was a bit cheesy for us, but I think if we had young kids it would be a good place to take them to show them what that time period was like. 

We moved on from Tombstone to head to Kartchner Caverns State Park.  If you have been following us for a while you might remember that we were there last year in the campground but due to Covid, were not able to get a ticket to the Cavern Tour. These caves were touted to be the best in Arizona.  We were able to get tickets this year and were glad that we came back to see them.   Last year, Ross and I had hiked over these rolling hills and it was amazing to think these caves were right underneath our feet (well a few hundred feet).  This State Park is relatively new and the construction is an absolute wonder in itself.  These caves were mostly dug out by hand and then they poured an incredible concrete path throughout.  They also had a very intricate system of steel doors that we entered through to maintain the temperature of the caves as well as a misting system to tamper down the lint etc. that humans emit and to maintain the humidity of the caves.  The caves themselves were beautiful.  It is amazing to see the stalagtites, stalagmites, the bacon formations and straws growing from the rocks.  It was a magical world underneath those mountains. 

These caves are also known for its bats roosting.  The female bats migrate from Mexico back to these caves in April through October to give birth to their young.  But the researchers don’t know how they find their way back to these caves and in particular the small entry hole into the caves.  It is well worth a visit.  Unfortunately, there are no cameras allowed in so if you want to see some photos or learn more you will need to look at their website.

We headed north to another town we heard great things about called Prescott, AZ.  It is known for it’s historical architecture in old downtown as well as access to the outdoors and mild temperatures because it is located at around 5000 ft. 

We had a very nice camping spot outside of town nestled into the rock formations and nearby Watson Lake.  We walked over to the lake and hiked a portion of the trail and were mesmerized by the beautiful color of the water and the rock formations.  

Later in the afternoon we drove to the center of town with high expectations.  The town center was nice and there were some beautiful shops as well as a few old historical bars and taverns.  But for us, something was a little lacking.  It seems that most of these old charming towns turn into tourist destinations which then looses their charm and urban sprawl occurs.  I know that we are part of the problem since we were drawn to these locations, but it seems like certain municipalities do a better job than others of maintaining their charm. 

We woke up the next morning to a beautiful blue sky, so we headed out to do the Watson Lake Loop trail.  The hike begins winding up and down and through the Granite Dells which are unusual rock formations.  The views were stunning overlooking the lake and then eventually we wound our way below the dam to the creek below which ironically was called the Boulder Creek.  This section of the trail was called “Over the Hill” which also was ironic since my Birthday was the following day and I’m heading over the hill even though I’m feeling pretty young at heart.  The loop was 5.4 miles, but for some reason felt much longer to all of us (including Buddy see the picture below) probably due to the rock scrambling needed to get around.   The trail flows into a bike path that is part of the rails to trails system and if we had our bikes with us, we would have ridden it. 

The afternoon was spent peacefully while I worked on a few paintings of dogs.  The first painting is done with watercolors on watercolor board.  This surface does not allow the watercolors to bleed the same way that normal watercolor paper does.  The one benefit that I have found with the watercolor board is that it is easy to lift paint off of the surface which can be a good thing at times but also does not allow me to layer colors.  The second painting I did is of the same subject matter but with a paint called Gouache (sounds like g-wash) on watercolor paper.  Gouache is like a cross between watercolors and acrylic.  It flows a little bit like watercolor but instead of being transparent it is opaque.  This means that I am able to add some lighter colors over the darker colors which is not possible in watercolors.  So one set of dogs is in watercolor on watercolor board and the other is Gouache on watercolor paper.  Which do you prefer I’d love to know.

Gouache on Paper
On Watercolor Board

On our last full day in Prescott, we decided to hike in the Ponderosa forests which the area is also known for.  We did a loop starting from the Spence Trailhead north of town.  It was a beautiful winding trail through the trees, and it definitely had a west coast feel to it.  It was peaceful and quiet with very few people on the trails. 

The afternoon was spent doing some necessities as well as some more painting and then we headed into town for a nice dinner out.  Prescott does do a very nice job of providing the history and photos of the historical buildings and streets.

We started heading further west and made a stopover in Las Vegas.  It was the day after my birthday, so we decided to celebrate with a nice dinner and seeing the Cirque Du Soleil show Beatles Love.  Normally we prefer not to stay in large commercial RV parks, but we have to say that the Oasis RV Park on the edge of Las Vegas was fantastic.  It was huge (about 900 spots), extremely well organized, clean and had security.  They even had mobile dog groomers, mobile RV washing, 3 pools, hot tub and an 18 hole putting golf course.  We only stayed one night but would definitely stay here again for a few nights to spend in Vegas.  We Ubered into Vegas and had a fabulous dinner and then saw Cirque Du Soleil’s Beatles Love which was amazing.  Every time we see a Cirque Du Soleil production  we are blown away by the creativity, the music, the athleticism, the costuming, and the stage sets.  What m a magical evening!  My brother Jeff and his old college roommate happened to be in town for a conference so we were able to catch up with them briefly as an added bonus. To top off the evening I played some Craps (which is my favorite) and won $250.  Overall, our one night stay in Vegas was fantastic and surprisingly makes us want to come back on our next trip west.

And now for a little humor and inspiration seen on this trip. Can you figure out which picture was taken at the RV campground in Las Vegas?

From Snow to Warm Desert – Boulder to New Mexico

February 15 – February 22

As I’ve said before in this blog, traveling in the winter in an RV requires a lot of flexibility.  Ross and I had planned a 3000 mile loop in which we were planning on going to a lot of ski resorts, beginning with Copper Mountain, Crested Butte and then to Taos.  Once again, our plans were derailed by weather. The day that we had planned to leave Boulder had been forecasted to be a lot of snow, so we decided to sit it out and wait until the roads were clear.  After a few days delay, we left and started to head south instead of going over the Colorado Mountains as originally planned because it was a holiday weekend and they had received a fair amount of snow.  As we were watching the weather, was also saw in the forecast that an artic blast was coming into Colorado and Northern New Mexico with temperatures ranging from -9F to 9F degrees.  We decided that not only would that make camping uncomfortable and difficult, but also the skiing wouldn’t be that enjoyable either.  So, plan B or C was brought into place. 

On one of our past trips, we had hoped to get to a small town in New Mexico called Truth or Consequences so we decided that we would head that direction where the weather looked pretty good. While investigating locations in the South of New Mexico we came across the White Sands National Park (which is only 2 years old) as well as a town called Bisbee.  So we re-routed our journey and we had two big driving days for us (we try and limit our drives to around 4 hours).  Our first night we camped at Trinidad State Park in CO which is a frequent overnight location for us.  The second night we stayed at a Harvest Host location at Dessert Lakes Golf Course.  It was an easy enough place to get into and allowed us  close proximity to White Sands NP.  The mountains nearby were beautiful and the sunset was gorgeous. 

We woke up the next morning and headed over to White Sand National Park with low expectations since we have already been to the Great Sand Dunes NP in Colorado.  But we found a beautiful surprise! The National Park has a 16 mile out and back road, and when you look at it compared to the expanse of White Sand Acreage it is a small percent. It is 275 sq. miles of gypsum sand dunes which is the largest in the world.  The national park is relatively new and because of this (we think) they allow dogs on the trails and hikes. When we started driving into the park the sand dunes were small but beautiful with Yucca plants and other small shrubs. 

We stopped at one of the first pull outs that had a boardwalk out into the dunes.  The glare of the white sands was immense. 

Ross at the Boardwalk
Breakfast with a view

After walking around and exploring we set up the camper for a quick breakfast break and then proceeded up the road because we were concerned that on a holiday weekend there would not be enough parking space for us.  We wrong about that!  There are enormous salt flats that have been plowed for a ton of parking.  We got to the end of the road where we wanted to hike and set up along the edge of some dunes.  Once we climbed up to the top of the first dune, we were struck by the vastness of these white rolling dunes. 

With the blue sky and beautiful mountains and starkness of the white dunes it was breathtaking.  At that portion of the park there is a five-mile trail that is marked by red posts, but we were free to wander wherever we chose with Buddy!  We all started off on a hike, but believe it or not it was getting hot and Buddy wasn’t as excited as we were. 

So, after a bit Ross and Buddy headed back to the trailer and I continued with the hike.  I found the soft undulating curves of the dunes, the shadow lines, and mountains to be mesmerizing and I would have continued to walk forever but it was getting hot, and I was worried about getting back.

This makes for some great abstract art!
Great contrast in shapes and colors.

The joy of traveling with your home is that we set up and had lunch in the parking lot with views. Buddy got to enjoy a nap in the sun and we took off our shoes and and relished in the softest sand I have ever felt. It was fun to people watch and relax in the warmth.  It was a perfect day and reminded us both of why we love to travel.

From White Sands NP we drove to Truth or Consequences (a town named after the TV show). It is known to be a town with some artistic flair and hot springs.  We pulled into town in the evening and weren’t sure that we had made a good choice.  The following morning, we got up and after giving Buddy a quick walk in some open space next to our RV park we walked into town. The town was very quiet (it was a holiday so perhaps that was the reason) and we did go through some art galleries, but we weren’t super impressed.  The town had an interesting mix of run-down buildings, historic charm, and some that had murals and artistic flair.  Overall, it isn’t a place that I would say you need to go out of your way for. 

The redeeming factor is the hot springs.  We booked an hour at the Riverbend Hot Springs which is the nicest facility in town and over looks the river and mountains in the background.  It was gorgeous and extremely relaxing and really made this stop worthwhile.  If we ever need to pass through here again, we will stay at the Riverbend RV park (although it is very difficult to get into since there are only 6 spots) and spend the afternoon relaxing.  From there we went over to the local brewery and enjoyed a beer with the locals.

Happy Campers
Natural Hot Springs with a View!

Heading a bit further Southwest, we moved on to Deming New Mexico to visit the largest winery in New Mexico.  The winds were a bit crazy, so we spent the afternoon hunkered down in the trailer making future plans and reservations for the next week and a half.  At happy hour we made our way over to the winery to enjoy some wine tasting.  The wines were enjoyable but being the snob that I am I did not feel the need to buy any to bring on the trip.

No paintings were created to share yet but I am working on a new series for an soon to be announced greeting card side venture!

Next stop is Arizona as we head West to California.

Steamboat Springs Sept 17-25

Signs of Fall

I write this latest update watching the glorious orange sun rise above the mountains in Steamboat to start the last day of an amazing week of painting.  Ross, Buddy and I have been here for the week so that I could participate in the Steamboat Spring Plein Air Festival.  As I mentioned in my last post, these events are a friendly competition amongst plein air painters.  There are painters from all over the country competing in this event, and we are given certain parameters into which we must paint which mostly includes in this case, anywhere within 50 miles of Steamboat Springs.  The event organizer was the Steamboart Art Museum and they put on such an amazing event that I plan to come back next year.  The week for me began with a great visit with a friend who lives in Steamboat who spent a few hours driving me all around, showing me some of her favorite places that she thought I would enjoy painting.  For those who haven’t been to Steamboat Springs, CO, the countryside is stunning and full of lots of ranches with glorious vistas and old barns.  The ranch life and old west feel is very strong here.  There wasn’t a day that I drove to a location to paint that I didn’t stop the car a few times to think about also painting the vista I saw.  Unfortunately, a few of those locations didn’t have a wide enough pull out where I felt safe to stand for a few hours and paint.  However, I took lots of photos of things to paint when in my studio.

The first day started with the official stamp in of the canvases so that the organizer sees that you are starting with a blank canvas, stamp it with their logo and send you off with lots of maps and a schedule of events.  This was a “free” day to paint wherever we wanted.  I decided to head to a glorious Aspen Grove off a hiking trail that my friend had shown me the day before. The trees were just starting to turn colors and the ferns were already a glorious reddish brown. I loved the contrast in colors and the dappled light in the tress.  It was so peaceful to stand and paint there for a few hours with a babbling creek behind me and hikers going past.  It was a pleasant surprise to hear so many of the locals say that they knew it was Plein Air Week.  Little did I know that this event was so well publicized and anticipated by the local community.  I went back to the Airstream where we were parked for the week in a beautiful state park, happy with my first painting.  Always a good way to start off!

Simply Elegant

The second day of the competition was the quick draw at the farmers market area.  These are always a little stressful because you are given 2 hours to paint and then a short time after that to frame the piece and have it up on an easel for sale.  I got to the farmers market early to walk around and see if anything spoke to me. It felt too overwhelming, so I chose a more serene spot on a bridge overlooking the Yampa River which was within the boundaries of the area we could paint in.  I decided to do an acrylic painting with my palette knife (instead of the more traditional brush) because I tend to paint faster and with more emotion in that style.  Lots of people stopped by to watch me paint as well as a few local friends one of which helped document the event for me with some action shots.

I felt pretty content with my final painting, ran back to my car and framed it and hustled over to the location where the sale was to begin.  I had no idea what to expect but WOW it was crazy.  I set up my easel with my painting and price tag and BAM it was sold within minutes.   I was beyond flattered!  The response was overwhelming and to my surprise there were several others who were disappointed that they didn’t buy it first, so I handed out every business card I had.   I floated back to the trailer on a high.

The Glorious Yampa
The new owner of this beauty

The third day was another “free” day to paint whatever we choose, so I drove out to another country road that my friend had shown me, and pulled over to paint a few barns that had a backdrop of the mountains with a hint of the colors changing.  It was a hot and windy day which provided a few challenges, and was surrounded by the chorus of cows mooing.  Nothing like really immersing yourself in the feel of the environment. 

Ranch Life in Steamboat

The forecast for the next few days was for a cold spell and the weather predictions were correct.  We awoke the next morning to a dusting of snow.  I set out with my down jacket and mittens to head to Yampa (a small town nearby) where we were provided a few locations to paint including some ranches on private land.  I drove for about an hour trying to find the perfect location.  With so many choices it was hard.  I finally decided to paint a partly collapsing barn surrounded by trees.  I loved the rustic textural feel, as well as the hidden colors in the wood as the sun hit the front side.  I painted away and was joined by another artist, but after about two hours of standing in the freezing cold, with the wind blowing steadily, I looked at her and said I need to go sit it my car and get warm.  Instead, she suggested we pack up and head back to the town of Yampa for a warm cup of coffee.  What a brilliant idea that was!   A few of us ended up in a local diner having a coffee and talking about art.  It was a great way to get warm.  I was able to finish off the painting back at our campground and was happy with the result and loved how whimsical that barn turned out.

I’m Still Standing

The wind continued and I really wanted to get a second painting in that afternoon.  So drove back to a location I had passed in my car on my way to Yampa, and sat in my car and painted a watercolor of the hay bails in a field.  I don’t know what it is about hay bails, but I have always loved seeing them in the fields in fall.  I certainly love watercolors for a lot of reasons, but the fact that I can do them while sitting in a car was an added perk for the day.

Signs of Fall

The following day the organizers had arranged for us to paint on another private ranch.  Again there were so many options to paint….barns, cows, rusty old farm equipment, the Yampa River meandering along and many other vistas.  I choose to go with a view of the Yampa River.  The sun just sparkled on the water and with the babbling water sounds I couldn’t resist that location. I spent the next few hours painting a watercolor that I hoped captured the peaceful feel. 

The Yampa Sparkles

There were lots of other artists coming and going so it was fun to talk and see what else everyone was painting.  A few of us sat around at lunch sharing art tips, thoughts and philosophical theories which made for a fun day.

Our next arranged location was at Alpine Mountain Ranch which is a new development with huge lots and expensive homes with impressive amenities.  Again there were some many choices….barns, horses, lakes, and lots of views and trees changing colors.  One of my new painting friends told me that she was heading to location where she had been told the Aspen trees were in all their splendor.  I followed her up to the location where there were quite a few other painters.  As soon as I walked around, I could see why.  It was a magical location.  I decided to paint with my acrylics and do another palette knife painting.  I started off with a base coat of vibrant colors and let that dry.  I then painted over that with my palette knife and allowed some of those colors to come through.  I added the Aspen tree trunks last and was so happy with the result. 

A work in progress
Follow Your Path

I headed back to the campground to start varnishing and framing all my completed paintings since I needed to have them completed for the final show.  But first the organizers had another event/pre-sale arranged for us.  There was a sunset happy hour/buffet back at the Alpine Mountain Ranch where we could put a painting up for sale.  I chose my painting “I’m Still Standing” the whimsical barn that I painted in the cold.  The event was a great mingling event with the other artists and art collectors.  My painting sold to a lovely couple with a great sense of humor saying that the barn represented their future house after putting their grandkids through medical school.

A new Collector

After dropping off all the framed paintings (we were allowed to submit 5 paintings to the competition) to the museum, we had a relaxing and fun evening having a great dinner with my two friends and their husbands on their deck overlooking Steamboat.  What a glorious way to end the week.

Friday was a beautiful day so I decided to head out and try and get one more painting in before our departure on Saturday.   I put Buddy in the car and we headed up into the mountains where I could see lots of Aspen trees in their bright shimmering yellow.  I spotted a nice pull out with a rustic farm fence and lots of trees in the background.  I loved how my eye was pulled into the Aspen Grove by the fence line. It provided a great start to a painting which I hope to finish off in the studio when I get home.

Then it was time to head off to the Museum for the jury and the show.  It was great to walk around and see the 200 paintings created by all my fellow artists.  There was a variety of styles, subject matter and skill level.  I did not win any awards, but I had a great response to my paintings and sold at least one.  I left before the end of the show and the art will be hanging until Nov 6th if you are in the area stop by the Steamboat Art Museum. 

My display of paintings
More new collectors!

Some of the take aways for me from the show and the feedback were: continue to paint both watercolors and acrylics.  Don’t worry so much about trying to get into a gallery but use social media and email marketing  more to sell what I want to create and not what a gallery wants me to create.  Lastly, it seems that my palette style of painting acrylics with the vibrant colors seems to speak to a lot of people and is more unique.  Since I enjoy the methodology, I think I will create a series in that style and see where that journey takes me. And now it is time to head home and get ready for a few busy weeks of Open Studios in Boulder.  If you are in the area please feel free to come by my Open Studio Sale/Show on Oct 2,3, 16 &17, from 12-5.  Feel free to message me for more information and the address if you do not have it already.

Boulder Plein Air Festival

Boulder/Lyons June 6-11

Sue painting along the St. Vrain

What a week it was!  This past week was the Boulder Plein Air Festival and I thought I’d share with you what it is like to be involved with such an event and a little bit about how each painting was created.  If you want to skip the details, be sure to jump to the end of this post for some exciting news!

Before I go into the details of the event, I thought I would share with you my plein air setup since so many people ask me about this.  When I am painting in acrylics I have a large pack that weighs about 20 pounds.  Inside the pack is a tripod, my easel, a palette holder, an umbrella, a stay wet palette, paint brushes, a sketch book and palette knives, about 10 tubes of paint, my painting apron, a hat, paper towel to wipe my brushes, water to drink and washes my brushes, a spray bottle, and a Panel Pak that allows my to carry to painting panels (wet or dry).  I also have sunscreen, bug spray, a trash bag, a bungee cord and a snack bar for those longer days.  My watercolor setup is much smaller and lighter because I usually sit and paint in my lap, so I don’t need the whole easel setup.  In my watercolor pack I carry a small folding stool, a travel watercolor kit with a few extra tubes of paint (unique colors that I might need for just that day), a water bottle for my to drink and use for painting, paint brushes, paper towel, hat, bug spray, sunscreen and watercolor paper. You can see from the photos that this medium of painting is much more manageable. You can see the difference below:

My Acrylic Setup
My Watercolor Setup

If you want more details about each of these products please feel free to ask me and I can write another blog describing each of these items functions.

The first morning started off with all the entrants stopping by a central location with their blank canvases that they anticipate using for the week.  The host stamps the back of these canvases so that they know everyone starts off with a blank canvas.  Everyone is provided a list of recommended locations to paint, but we can paint anywhere within Boulder County lines. I had been searching out locations that I thought would be good the few weeks leading up to the event.  Boulder has received a lot of rain recently so everything is green and lush but I wanted to paint more than just green. The wildflowers had started blooming so I knew where I could find some color. 

The view that inspired me

I started off doing my first painting at a location where I often hike with Buddy.  I had noticed that the glorious poppies had started to bloom, and there was an amazing vista of the Flatirons in the distance.  I hiked up the steep hill with my pack on, set up my easel around 6 am to catch the morning light as well as beat the heat.  (Unfortunately, we experienced a heat wave the entire week, so I was often painting in 90-degree heat.)  It was a bit of a challenge to paint in this location because I was standing on a sloped surface.  When I am painting, I often will step back about 6 ft every 10 minutes so that I can get a better perspective of my progress and see what needs adjusting.  Going back and forth all morning dodging rocks and being on a slope was a challenge. In this painting I was using the poppies and morning light on the grasses to guide the viewers eye back in the painting to the distant Flatirons. I was able to capture the effect I wanted and was happy with my painting.

It’s Poppy Season

That afternoon I decided to head over to Chautauqua Park to start a sketch of one of the charming cottages.  I found a fairly shady spot and sat down to get a base sketch done. I intended this painting to be a watercolor because I have found that I am able to get better detail with my watercolors.  Perhaps it is because I have a lot more experience in watercolors than I do in acrylics.  Unfortunately a thunderstorm pulled in and it started to rain so I decided that I would paint this one at a later date.  It is now a half done painting waiting to be finished another day.

A photo of the cottage
The start of a painting

The next morning, I got up early again and decided to paint along the St. Vrain river in nearby Lyons.  We camp here often and love the rocks, the river and the amazing purple wildflowers.  I have been studying a lot about composition, movement in a painting and selecting focal points.  With this painting I really tried to work on the composition.  The river is meant to draw your eye into the painting, the tree on the right is intended to hold your eye and not let it flow off the page, the edge of the main rock structure draws your eye to the center and the brighter yellow color adjacent to the dark green is meant to also give you a focal point.  It has been an interesting exercise to think more about these elements and try to incorporate them into my work.

The St. Vrain

That afternoon I was in search of a good shady spot again and remembered a church that I used to bike past.  This is a quaint historic church perched on the top of a rolling hill with great big trees and a beautiful cemetery.  I walked around the grounds to see which viewpoint I preferred. I stopped to take a few photos of some beautiful peonies and was startled when an enormous snake slithered past my feet.  Fortunately it was not a rattlesnake…..but it sure gave me a scare. I ultimately found a great spot to sit and paint for the afternoon (and made sure there were no snakes nearby).  I decided this subject matter would be better suited to watercolors.  I am trying out a new painting surface (probably not the best idea to do in a competition) which is a hardboard covered in a linen the accepts watercolor.  I liked this idea because with this surface I would be able to varnish and frame the painting without needing protective glass (as is needed with traditional watercolor paper).  The downside to this new surface is that the watercolor paints do not run and bleed like they do on traditional paper.  However, the paint does lift off the paper which means you can correct mistakes but have to be very careful not to paint over areas that are already completed.

The Historic Ryssby Church

On Day 3 I got up early again and went back to make a few touch ups to the painting I had done the previous day at the St. Vrain river.  Often I will take a painting and hang it somewhere in the house where I can stare at it for awhile to see what changes it needs.  I saw a few tweaks that I thought would make the painting better so I went back for a few hours to make the painting stronger.

That afternoon I headed back to Chautauqua Park but decided not to work on my half done painting of the cottage, but instead to start on a painting of the Ranger Station with the Flatirons in the background.  On this painting I was trying to focus on capturing the architecture.  With my architecture background and drawing skills I have been thinking about going back and using them more.  Early in my painting career I focused on doors and windows of Europe and have somehow let that go.  It has resurfaced in my desire to paint, and I decided to follow that feeling.  I placed myself in a great shady spot that is full of tourist.  It was a bit intimidating because I had a lot of people stop to look and ask questions.  I enjoy the interaction and ultimately it was rewarding.  This painting took a lot more preparation because I had to make the drawing more accurate.  I did take some liberties and made a few changes to simplify the building.   This painting was also done in two different sessions because it was labor intensive and as I looked at it back at home, I realized that I needed to make some changes.   It was hot and grey afternoon so the shadows were not strong, but I would like to go back another day when the lighting is better.

Meet me at the Ranger Station

The final morning I was able to paint at a private residence out in the country with gorgeous flower beds.  The owner was gracious enough to let a few of us paint on their property.  I walked around and couldn’t decide if I should paint some flowers close up or do a larger subject matter.  Ultimately, I decided to go for a larger view.  I loved how the walls of this garden provided a sense of drawing the eye back and yet enclosing the flower bed to keep the eye focused in with the strong color.  This ended up being one of my favorites that I painted over the 4 days of painting.

Summer Flowers in the Country

The next big challenge of painting in a Plein Air Festival is that the artist has to have all their work submitted by a certain time and it must be framed and ready for a sale.  So, I made a mad dash home that afternoon to varnish my paintings, let them dry and then frame them.  This generally means that most artists paint in a standard size panel/canvas and has already pre-purchased frames to fit these paintings.

The Paintings on Display

At last, the exhibition is hung, and the show and jurying begin.  Each Festival has its own rules on how many paintings can be entered for the jury, what awards will be given out etc.  And the jury process is always interesting to see what the judge picks.  It is subjective and sometimes I don’t always agree with the paintings they choose.  I will say, that there were about 200 paintings submitted by 50 artists and most of them were of very high standards.  I was extremely pleased to find out at the end of the evening that I had won a 2nd Place in Acrylics award for my painting “It’s Poppy Season”.  I was so excited to say the least!  If you are a Boulder local and you would like to see all the great art produced during the week stop by the temporary gallery at 1881 9th Street between Canyon and Walnut, Suite 110.

My next Plein Air Festival on the calendar is in Steamboat Springs, CO in September and I am already looking forward to it and all the fall colors!

South Eastern Colorado and Lots of Painting!

April 14-25

We are now back in Colorado and we are loving being back in the trees and mountains.  As much as we loved all the rock formations of Utah, we do love the mountains of Colorado.

We decided to stay in Dolores, CO based on an RV park with great wifi and cell phone coverage because I was going to attend the Plein Air Painting Convention online. After getting set up and giving Buddy a good walk around that campground which is on acreage, we went across the road to the McPhee Recreation Area and Reservoir.  The area has beautiful 360-degree views of the mountain ranges, but seeing how low the water level was in the reservoir was shocking.  Colorado needs rain/snow in a bad way. 

Great Views on a clear day
What happened to all that water?

We then stopped by the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.  This area is full of archaeological sites from Native American Tribes.  The museum was closed, but we did the short hike up to the preserved Escalante Pueblo built in the 1100’s. 

On the 15th I got up early to hike with Buddy and get ready for the Plein Air Live Convention.  The next three days were action packed and full of lots of learning.  It was fascinating to watch various professional artists paint a variety of subject matters and all of them had a different approach.  Fortunately, I am able to replay the event, because it was too much information to absorb in such a short time. 

Buddy got a bit bored watching all the videos

On the first afternoon of the convention I had to get out since it was a beautiful day and I couldn’t sit inside anymore, so I did a quick watercolor painting from our campground.  One of the other campers (who we became friends with) ended up buying the painting.  I was so flattered and happy that they loved it.

On the 2nd day I watched an amazing demo of an artist painting rock formations. I was inspired to paint a scene from Capital Reef, and the weather in Dolores wasn’t great that day, so I painted inside and was fairly happy with the outcome. 

Capital Reef

My head was spinning on the last night with thoughts about color mixing, warm and cool colors and the different shade and shadow techniques we learned.  I have so much to work on!

After the final day of the convention, I needed a lot of exercise so we headed over to the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument trail in the Sand Creek Area.  We were able to take Buddy on the hike to see remnants of Puebloan homes from the 1200’s.  The trail was fantastic, and we saw our first spring wildflowers.  I am always thrilled when bright colors come back to the landscape. 

It was also great to see some of these ruins from the trail. 

After we finished the hike, we decided to go across the street to a winery.  The Sutcliffe Vineyard sign said that it was one of the most beautiful vineyards in Colorado, so we had to go!  We were so happy that we did, because the setting was fantastic. We sat with a glass of wine, enjoying the view, while I painted their doors.  I felt like I was back in Italy and the wine was good.  What a perfect way to end the day.

Painting with a glass of wine
The Sutcliffe Winery Doors

The following morning, we got up and headed over to Mesa Verde National Park.  We had been there a few years ago and loved it.  In the past we did the Cliff Palace tour where we went with a guide and were able to climb down into the cliff dwellings.  Due to Covid there were no tours but we still enjoyed the views from the overlooks.

Cliff Palace
Ceremonial Site

We decided to do a hike called the Petroglyph hike.  There were petroglyphs, but both of us felt that the hike was much more than that.  The hike begins with lots of switch backs dropping you down quickly in elevation, and then along a ledge/rim trail between rocks, through caves, around trees with fantastic vistas.  I could feel the Puebloan energy, and felt like I was transported back in time and was walking with them.  It was easy to imagine how they must have lived in these cave dwellings and moved between cliff dwellings.  Another fantastic hike that we would highly recommend.

The amazing trail through rocks
Amazing cave overhangs
The Petroglyphs

That afternoon I decided to repaint the doors from the Vineyard.  After looking at it (and having learned so much recently) I felt that the first version was flat.  I decided it would be better to pull the viewer into the painting by adding the side wall in perspective, open one of the doors to make the viewer want to go inside, and to also add some warm light glowing from the inside.  I also decided to improvise and add some leaves to the vines, add some shadows based on what I assumed would be morning light (we were there with afternoon light behind the building).  I think all these changes enhanced the second painting and was happy to explore it further. 

Welcome to the Winery

We left Dolores and headed North to start our slow trek back to Boulder.  We drove Highway 145 which is one of the San Juan Scenic Byways.  The road follows the Dolores River and was full of painting inspiration.  We started off in a glorious valley with green pastures and beautiful homes.  It felt so peaceful and quiet that I wanted to stay longer.  Eventually the road wound up out of the valley towards the snow capped Mountains.  There were a hundred spots that I could have pulled over to paint.  Eventually we came to a pullout that turned out to be a place that we could have camped. If we had not had campground reservations in Ridgway we would have stayed the night.  However, we made the best of it and parked for a few hours while I painted, Ross played guitar and Buddy played in the river.  Fun was had by all!

While painting this painting I was able to incorporate more of what I learned over the past few days.  I started with a quick sketch to try and make sure that my composition worked for me. I then laid down a warm base coat of paint on the panel (which adds an undertone of warmth).  I also was very conscious of mixing warmer paint colors for the area in sunlight (even though it was a grey day) and cooler coolers for the areas in shade.  I also studied the color of the water and used more greens and browns than I would have in the past.  I was pretty happy with the outcome and made just a few minor adjustments to finish it off when we got to our next location.

The Dolores River

We packed up and headed further North through a cute town of Rico, through groves of aspen trees, over a pass with striking views of the mountains and down through more rocky canyons.  We have decided that this area is going to have to be further explored in the fall when the Aspens are turning colors and I could paint for days!!  Ultimately, we pulled into the town of Ridgway which is charming and into Ridgway State Park.

We were able to get our 2nd Covid shot in Montrose, so we laid low on the first day and enjoyed walking around the park. Fortunately, we had very minimal reactions to the shot, so we were able to do a short hike in the morning and then proceed to Telluride for the day.  We had spent a few days skiing in Telluride years ago and loved it.  It is a beautiful town tucked into the end of a valley with mountains surrounding it on three sides.  The historical buildings are well maintained and restored, and there is a great feeling walking around town.  We stopped and had a nice lunch outdoors just in the nick of time.  The temperature plummeted as we finished up, and within 20 minutes it was snowing.

Looking back to Telluride with the snow clouds

The following day we spent the morning refining the arts!  Ross played guitar while I made some adjustments to a few of the paintings done along the way.  We then headed over to the other charming historical town of Ouray.  We had passed through Ouray years ago when we were in a small pop-up camper.  We strolled the streets and loved looking at the historical buildings with the backdrops of amazing mountains.  Ouray unfortunately has a bit to touristy feeling for us, so a few hours was good. 

We headed back to walk around Ridgway which again is filled with historical buildings from the mining days.  With this being an even smaller town it was a quick walk and then back to the campground. 

Ross headed off to work on his golf, and I walked down to the beautiful river on the campground to paint.

Due to the winds (and it has been windy all week) I decided to work in watercolor so that I wouldn’t need to set up my easel and risk having it blow over.  It was late afternoon light on the river and the background was in shade, so it made for a darker composition, but I loved the glimmer of light and movement in the river.  There are a few things that I am really happy with in this painting.  I added some yellow ochre to the green/brown river color to show the light and the reflection of the bottom of the river.  I was able to leave some whites from the paper to show through and I also used a bit of white gouache (which is an opaque watercolor) to add some additional whites at the end to capture the movement of the water.

The Flow of Life

On our last full day in the area we woke up to a glorious warm still day. I decided to head out on the Enchanted Mesa Trail which climbs up the hillside out of the campground, over the dam wall and along the reservoir. The colors were magical, and had we had one more non-windy day I would definitely painted from that trail.

Ross picked me up at the end of the trail and we drove up the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton, which was an old mining town halfway between Ouray and Durango. It is another road that we had driven in the fall season and loved. The road begins as a narrow windy road with steep drop off’s, and then winds past old historic mines and shacks, over snowy mountain passes, past red colored mountains into Silverton.

The sleepy town of Silverton

It was time to pack up and start heading home. The rest of the trip will basically be a few stops along the way to break up the drive. I think Buddy is getting ready to be at home in his own backyard as are we. Stay well until we meet again!

I’m ready to go! Are we home yet?

Capital Reef / Natural Bridges National Monument

April 8-13

We have heard from a few of you that on previous posts the formatting of photos are being squished and stretched. So on this post we are trying a new format. Please let us know if you are having issues. If you are, you can always go directly to website ( and that issue will be resolved since it appears to only be happening in the email version.

Having felt like we got a good overview of Kodachrome Basin State Park we moved on and started our journey to Capital Reef National Park. We drove Highway 12 which is called The All American Road.  We had driven it a few years ago after having hiked the Grand Canyon and had forgotten how spectacular a road it is.  Utah is really a stunning state with so much variety in mountains and rock colors and shapes.  There are sections with beautiful rock structures that look like old Greek temples, then sections of red rocks that feel like castles, rounded slick rock formations to make you feel like you are on the moon, and then we ultimately wound our way through amazing forests of Aspen Trees. 

At one of the scenic overlooks, it named that section of the highway as the million dollar highway of Utah because it took them 5 years to build it.  It allowed them to connect several towns that at one time were difficult to access.  Looking at all the vast arid rock you can see why. We did stop and enjoy a cup of tea while taking in the view,

We have decided that we will make a trip back here one fall to see the colors in this spectacular setting.

We were having difficulty finding a camp spot, so for the first night we stayed in the town of Loa.  It was a depressed little town, but allowed us to catch up on emails etc. since we had been out of range for 4 days.  Somehow, we were lucky because we called into one of the campgrounds and someone had cancelled, and we got their spot.  We ended up with a double wide spot that backed to open space with views!  The Thousand Lakes Campground is one that I would recommend.  It was well kept, they also had a chuck wagon bbq restaurant there that was really good.  They also offered homemade muffins delivered daily, had a nice lawn area and a mini store and laundry mat.  It was about 20 minutes to Capital Reef but was well worth it.

We spent the first afternoon driving the scenic road in Capital Reef NP.  It is a much smaller National Park than the others and only has one main road with 2 dirt road off shoots.  We drove all the roads, and the dirt roads are best if you have a sturdy car since there are some ruts etc.  The dirt roads wind through amazing canyons of immense rocks but are narrow. The end of these roads have small parking lots for the trailheads but not enough spaces for everyone, so people are parked randomly along the sides of the roads which makes it even more challenging. Once again there were a few too many people for our liking. 

After having been to Zion and Bryce, Capital Reef didn’t feel that spectacular.  As I said to Ross, if this had been our first park location we would have been blown away.  It is beautiful and has some amazing Red Rocks the lead to massive rock formations as you get farther into the park.

We decided that we would get up early to beat the crowds and hike the Golden Throne Trail. We have found that if you get out early and do the more difficult hikes, you can get away from the crowds.  It was a beautiful trail that climbed up through the canyons and switched backed up to the base of the Golden Throne.  The trail gave us great vistas of the canyon and the massive rocks. On the way up we only passed 4 people and had the top to ourselves.  But as we descended the masses were starting to come up the hill.

View of the Golden Throne

 We did have the pleasure of running into some young big horn Sheep.  It is amazing to watch them scramble up rocks like it is nothing.

One thing to note about Torrey (where we were staying) is that the winds were pretty strong and consistent.  I was a bit disappointed since I would have loved to paint our view.  However, with the winds that we had, my easel would have blown over, so instead we relaxed in the afternoon.

We left Torrey and started our journey back to Colorado.  We drove East from Torrey along Hwy 24 and then Hwy 95.  Both these roads are designated Scenic byways and are absolutely well worth that designation.  The vistas are incredible and we felt like we went through such a variety of terrains.  This is a highly recommended road from us.  We stopped for lunch at an overlook of Hite which is located off of Lake Powell.  The views were spectacular and made for a perfect lunch spot.  Unfortunately due to the drought the Colorado River/Lake Powell were extremely low.

Buddy enjoyed the view too!
Lunch spot….no reservations needed.
A 360 degree video of the viewpoint above Lake Powell and the old town site of Hite

We had no official plans of where to stop for the evening but decided to pop into the Natural Bridges National Monument.  What a pleasant, unexpected surprise that was!  It turns out that this park had 3 amazing rock bridges.  Some interesting trivia for any fellow nerds is that Bridges are formed by erosive action of water, and arches are formed by other forces such as freeze/thaw. The first bridge one sees is Sipapu bridge which is the second largest natural bridge in the world.  It is 220 feet high and spans 268 feet wide and 53 feet thick. You have to look carefully to see it since it blends with the other rocks in this lighting.

The second bridge is the Kachina Bridge (considered to be the youngest bridge of the park) which is thicker and more massive (210 feet high, 204 feet span and 93 feet thick) because it has not eroded as much as the others. 

The last significant bridge (they say there are others throughout the park) is Owachomo which means rock mound, and is named that way because of the mound on the top left of the bridge.  Owachomo is 106 feet high, spans 180 feet wide and 9 feet thick. If you look closely on the photo below, you can see people under the bridge to help you with the immense scale.

We were so excited to see these that we decided the spend the night nearby at a boondocking area (free camping off the grid) so that we could go back early the next morning to hike down into the canyon to see Sipapu up close and personal.  We had a mellow evening with a stunning sunset and then rose early. 

The trail down to Sipapu Bridge was fantastic.  We climbed down over rocks that  had stairs carved into them, down three wooden ladders made of old tree branches, a couple of flights of metal stairs (that must have been airlifted in), across rock ledges and under sheer walls of rock. 

A little rock hugging for appreciation

Since we were the first ones on the trail we were able to have the trail to ourselves and stopped to enjoy some breakfast on a rock out cropping over looking the bridge.

The size of the bridge is impressive.  Another fantastic and memorable hike in the books.

And now to climb back up….

On the hike back to the top we must have been getting hungry because we saw these two rocks and named then Cupcake Rock and BLT Rock.

Onward to Southeastern Colorado!

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