8/1/22 to 8/5/22
We won the lottery! Well not really, but we felt that way because we wanted to visit Glacier National Park but didn’t have camping reservations or a permit to drive the Road to the Sun (a famous road that crosses the park). Low and behold Ross had been checking the reservation website and 4 nights became available on the exact nights that we needed. And then to top that off, we found out if you have a camping reservation it gives you unlimited access to the Road to the Sun.
We drove into the park, set up our campsite and because it was too hot to hike and leave Buddy in the Airstream we decided to hop in the truck and drive the Road to the Sun to familiarize ourselves with the park and see the highlights. It was a spectacular drive! Coming from Colorado, we are pretty accustomed to large mountain ranges, and these did not disappoint. The mountains are dramatic peaks and glaciers dot the landscape of them. What was most striking was how many waterfalls and lakes existed because of these glaciers.
The views were beautiful and the road was an engineering feat!
We were able to spend a few hours on the West Side of the park (we were camping on the east side at St. Mary’s) allowing Buddy to play in Lake McDonald, Ross to go for a swim and for me to do a quick watercolor painting. It was a perfect way to spend a hot afternoon.
The first morning we got up early to beat the heat and the crowds. We decided to hike the Three Falls Trail which was a 7 mile out and back trail that takes one along the edge of St. Mary’s Lake to Baring Falls, St. Mary’s Falls and then up to Virginia Falls. It was the perfect first hike and a great way to experience Glacier. The waterfalls were beautiful and very refreshing in the heat. It was a hot and windy day which seemed to be the pattern for the next three days.
Sue had hoped to paint in the afternoon but the winds were too strong to make it enjoyable. We did explore and found a historic Ranger cottage and barn from 1913 that had been restored which would make a great painting.
Our second longer hike was out to Lake Grinnell (below the Grinnell Glacier) in the Many Glacier area of the park. One starts the hike at the Many Glacier Lodge which is an old historical lodge in a gorgeous setting.
We hiked along Swiftcurrent Lake to Lake Josephine and ultimately to Grinnell Lake. One of the things that was so striking is how dense the vegetation was. The trail winds through marsh lands where the trail is partially on boardwalks, has swinging bridges and if you are not able to hike you can take some boats across the lakes.
We had our breakfast on the shore of Grinnell Lake all to ourselves and then when we decided it was time to head back before the crowds started to file in.
We were so thankful that we made the early start since we past crowds of people coming in. On the way back we came across some fellow campers (ironically parked right next to us at St. Mary’s) who spotted a moose with a gorgeous rack. Unfortunately the moose was lying down so this was the best picture that I could get.
The views were beautiful and we once again were graced with some great wildflowers.
The winds were getting stronger so it was time to retreat to the camper which gave us time to catch up on the blog, emails and phone calls. The forecast was calling for even stronger winds the next day so we took a walk over the Visitor Center to see where the best sheltered hikes would be. The ranger gave us a few suggestions and fortunately they knew what they were talking about. The following morning we did awake to some high winds so we headed out to hike the Beaver Pond Trail. The hike starts right near the historic ranger hut and we hiked it in counter clockwise direction. The trail begins as a climb up a hill along the south edge of St. Mary’s Lake. Wild raspberries were growing so we enjoyed them as a pre-breakfast snack before the bears could get to them. As the trail continued we went through an old burn zone (2006) which was interesting to see the old burned out trees and the newer re-growth, up to the pond, through Aspen trees and some gorgeous wildflowers. The winds were strong at points but overall it was a pretty sheltered spot.
We spent the afternoon prepping for the next section of our trip which was to head towards the Beartooth Highwayy in southern Montana just outside of Red Lodge.
7/21/22 to 7/30/22
Arriving in Driggs, Idaho to attend the Driggs Plein Air Festival was very exciting. Our first task on arrival was for Sue to have all her blank painting canvases stamped at the Festival office. All the festival artists must have their canvases stamped so that the organizers know that everyone is starting with a blank canvas. The next task was to find our camping spot at the Big Eddy on the Teton River about 6 miles out of town. This primitive beautiful little spot would be our home for the next week. We were very fortunate to have a few friends that live in the area so we had some inside information about where to camp. We boondocked (camped without hookups) in a beautiful location called the Big Eddy (Rainey Bridge). Just as we were pulling in and trying to decide where to park another camper pulled out of what we deemed as the best spot. We had views of the Teton Mountains from our dining room window and were parked next to the Teton River which provided a much needed cooling off spot for us and Buddy.
After getting set up, Sue set out to find potential painting locations. Driggs is a rural community with lots of farming and surrounded by big mountains including the Teton National Park. After a few hours scouting the area Suzanne was ready to splash paint onto paper.
The first morning Sue got up with the sunrise and started a painting of the Teton river at the Big Eddy. The lighting and reflections on the water were beautiful and it was fun to watch all the paddlers come by. What started off as peaceful, turned into a bit of a mosquito fest, so she packed up and went back to the safety of the trailer.
The days were quite hot and unfortunately Driggs has very few trees to provide shade while painting. The afternoons were often spent playing in the river and relaxing. In the evening Sue, Buddy and Ross headed out to a location that had caught Sue’s eye in a nearby ranching town called Tetonia. This scene caught her eye because of the old grain elevator with nice lighting and the Tetons as a backdrop. As most painters know, there is almost always an ugly stage to every painting and Sue almost threw in the towel on this one, but fortunately pushed through. It ended up being a piece that sold and several buyers wanted it.
The second morning Sue got up to finish the painting called Morning Paddle and fortunately the mosquitoes were not as bad. The lighting was very different which created a challenge.
It was a very hot afternoon so Sue went into town to scout out potential painting spots for the upcoming quick draw in downtown Driggs. Generally she will do a few sketches and take photos to prepare for the painting and make sure that she thinks the composition will work.
That evening as the temperatures started to cool, we all went out to a shady spot where the view of the hay bales in the fields captured a nice evening light. Sue wasn’t able to finish the painting, but after studying the painting some more realized that this scene would be better with morning light and the shadows going in the other direction. So the following morning it was another early rise and return to this painting location to finish up the painting called Summer Hay Bales.
That afternoon we took a break from painting and went to downtown Driggs for the official opening night of the Plein Air Festival where each artist had 4 paintings hanging in the art gallery. The festival’s live band and food trucks made for a fun and relaxing evening, and seeing all the fantastic artwork, highlighted the caliber of painters in attendance.
The next morning was a very exciting one because the organized paint out was 45 minutes away at the top of the Grand Targhee ski resort. So Ross and I took the ski lift up to the top of the ski resort with all my supplies and scouted for a location to paint. The skies were a bit hazy due to some fires in Northern Idaho but the views were still great.
Unfortunately for Sue, this painting, although it started off well, didn’t end up to her satisfaction. Sometimes it is hard to simplify landscapes and not take on too much. In this case, her vision was too much for such a short amount of time to paint, so this one will have to be finished off in the studio.
The evening was spent with a friend and her husband having dinner at their house. It was such a nice way to spend the night and find out more about the local Driggs scene.
Tuesday morning was another early start. Sue needed to be downtown and signed in to the quick draw at 7am and ready to start painting at 7:30. On a quick draw everyone has 3 hours to paint something within a 3 block radius area and then have the painting framed and turned in for the jury and sale. I had planned this location and had done a sketch earlier in the week so I had a good idea of what needed to be done. I loved the bright yellow umbrellas, crisp blue sky and great flowers in the old wine barrels. I also had intentions of painting the American flag hanging from the nearby light post but time got away from me. I was happy with the result but may make some quick changes at home in the studio.
In the late afternoon all the participants were invited to the world renowned Scott Christensen’s art studio and home. His work is incredible and it was a huge treat to be able to see his paintings and art studio. I definitely had studio envy! It was amazing to hear him talk about his process and learn that his large paintings take a year and a half, and sometimes he hangs them to look at for years, before finishing and selling them. He shared with our group that he only does plein air paintings as studies for his larger paintings. It is something that I would like to start working on in the winter months. He had a few paintings that I could not take my eyes off and here are a few of them.
This plein air festival had two quick draw events which was unusual but fun. The 2nd location was not pre-announced so that no one had an advantage of pre-scouting the site for painting ideas. The night before they emailed everyone to say that check-in was at 7am at the Hapi horse rescue. There was a lot of subject matter including barns, horses, hay bales, trees, and long vistas. I walked around and decided to paint a portion of the barn with good lighting and some hay bales. I got about 45 minutes into the painting and was very unhappy with how it was turning out and decided to throw in the towel and change subject matter before it was too late. I turned my painting upside down and used my existing colors as a base color that would come through on my new painting. I did a quick sketch of some nearby trees with nice lighting and what we artists call “sky holes” in the trees. Sometimes I find when I think less and go more with my emotions and use my palette knife I like my painting better. In this case, I think it worked out and I painted this painting quickly. I like how the colors from the first painting come through in areas and I like how my trees turned out.
It was another hot afternoon so Ross, Buddy and I decided to go back up to Grand Targhee ski resort where it was 10 degrees cooler to do a hike. We wound up hiking through some beautiful aspen trees and into the wildflowers. It was great to see the ski runs and Ross was very excited to return in the winter.
In the evening I decided which paintings to submit for the final competition and framed them. I did not win any awards but I was happy with what I created and the competition was fierce. I did sell a few paintings and was so surprised that my painting called Serenity in the Tetons sold quickly and several people approached me to repaint it as a commissioned piece for them.
For the last two evenings we moved the RV over to another friend’s land in nearby Victor. He was a good friend from Boulder 20 years ago and it was fantastic to catch up with him and meet his new partner. We even got in a quick bike ride just like the old days.
On Friday morning Ross and I played golf with our friends in Driggs on a golf course that allows dogs. It was a great golf course and we played well, but it was fantastic to have our trusty companion Buddy with us and spend more time with our friends. Buddy LOVED running on the grass and taking advantage of all the ponds, creeks etc.
The Driggs Plein Air Festival was a lot of fun and was made even more special by spending time with friends! If you would like to see the art created by all the artists during the week the link to the gallery and sale are here.
We now head north to Glacier National Park, Montana for some hiking and hopefully a bit more painting of beautiful scenery.
7/16/22 to 7/20/22
Although this trip is a trip heading North, we decided to make a slight detour to Crested Butte because the wildflowers at this time of year are spectacular. This is our 3rd time to take a trip to Crested Butte at this time of year, and it did not disappoint. Interestingly, in town and near our campsite at Lake Irwin, we felt like the flowers were a little less amazing than normal. Each year varies due to the amount of snow fall and temperatures. The first day we did a hike on the Budd Trail which is in a valley just outside of town. The trail climbs up a hillside through some great Aspen groves and wildflowers.
Unfortunately, it was very hot, and Buddy looked like he was not enjoying the hike and certainly not up for a longer walk. We made our trek a smaller loop and then went into town for a coffee at a super cute coffee shop. The town was packed with tourist, so we retreated back to Lake Irwin to take a dip in the lake and lounge around our campsite.
The following morning, we got up early to head to West Maroon Pass trail. Amazingly on our drive, a bear crossed the road in front of us (which I had secretly wished for). I didn’t have time to get the camera out, but we loved the start of our day. The drive to the trailhead is a bit gnarly on a very narrow and rutted dirt road, but through a stunningly beautiful valley.
We started our hike very early in the morning to beat the heat and were blessed with gorgeous early morning lighting on the most amazing wildflowers we have ever seen. We ended up hiking to Hazely’s Ridge which was about 2.5 miles in and was almost entirely filled with the densest and most abundant varieties of wildflowers. The last time I had done this hike there were wildflowers but mostly areas of a single type of variety whereas this year they were mingled in together like a gorgeous bouquet. We climbed to the top of the ridge and enjoyed breakfast with a magical view.
The afternoon was a relaxing afternoon with a little bit of watercolor painting of some columbines and a dip in the lake. I was trying a new technique that I recently learned on watercolor where I layered the background greens, slowly building up the greens from the lightest to the darkest to create depth.
We packed up at Crested Butte and began our two day drive north to the Driggs Idaho Plein Art competition. Overnight we stopped at Meeker Colorado, a cute little rural town with a fantastic RV parking setup in their Town Park. It was the perfect stop over with all the amenities, as well as a beautiful park, river, and some trails.
Continuing north we deliberated a few different routes and decided to go with the quicker route which was 2 hours faster than the RV route suggested. Well, we found out why. The roads were gorgeous but ended up being two lane roads that at points turned to dirt. It was an adventure but worth it! The variety of terrain that we drove through was amazing and ended up taking us north to Pinedale, Wyoming where we spent the night in a campsite with wide vistas and a great sunset. Next stop is Driggs, Idaho.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. https://azstateparks.com/kartchner/
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.