Camp Hale and Aspen

9/21 to 9/25

Fall leaf season in Colorado is here so Ross and I headed up to the mountains for our annual trip to see the Aspen leaves.  We were a bit early on our timing, but it was still beautiful.  We started our trip with two nights at Camp Hale near Leadville, CO.  Camp Hale is a historic area where they trained the Army in the 10th Mountain Division to ski so that they could access the mountains in Europe during World War 2.  Ross is a bit of a history buff and had been reading about this special group and area and wanted to visit.  The Camp Hale campground had beautiful scenery and it was empty. We pulled in, set up and went out for a peaceful hike around the campground with views of Aspen trees, ponds, rivers and the valley.  The next day we got up and hiked part of the Continental Divide trail that runs through Colorado. We had the trail to ourselves and enjoyed fantastic views and wonderful fall colors. The Aspen were changing color, the sky was a clear blue, and the chaparral in the valley were various colors of orange, reds and greens. A painters paradise! 

We set up some camp chairs after the hike and I attempted a watercolor painting.  The weather started changing (as it often does in the mountains in the afternoon) and I rushed to get a sense of the scene down on paper.  I spent the rest of the afternoon back in the trailer touching it up. 

Fall at Camp Hale

Our excitement for the afternoon was a moose sighting on our way back to our campsite.  We were able to sit and watch him walk through the meadow for quite a long time. They are amazing animals, massive in size and strength, and he had a huge rack of antlers.  We felt like it was a perfect day.

The following two days we spent at the Difficult Campground outside of Aspen.  I think we were a bit early for the majority of the trees, but some had started to turn color.  The campground is fantastic, and our site was beautiful and private.  The location is also a huge plus since it is close to the town of Aspen but also has some hiking trails that head out of the campground.

We spent the morning hiking the Difficult Trail which is a solid uphill climb. We passed through evergreens and aspens and ultimately reached a great view of the valley and the rushing Difficult Creek.

The afternoon I spent painting the Roaring Fork River.  I have been wanting to work on my painting skills in regards to water so this was a great exercise for me. 

The Roaring Fork

This short trip got us even more excited for our upcoming adventure in October and November.  It is now time to get serious about packing and organizing for this journey west.

Turquoise Lake in Leadville

Panorama View of Turquoise Lake

Our goal for this trip was mostly to get out of town and to escape the heat of Boulder.  When we pulled out of Boulder it was 95 degrees which is way above my comfort zone. After researching various locations, we decided it would be best to go up into the mountains to a much higher elevation, and so we ended up in Leadville, CO which is located at about 10,000 feet.  Our first night we camped at Mt. Massive Golf Course which is part of our Harvest Host membership.  We arrived around dusk and got set up just in time before a thunderstorm pulled in. 

While looking for nearby hikes for the following morning, we discovered that there was some dispersed camping sites right nearby.  For those of you new to this, dispersed camping is free camping off of dirt roads in National Forests with no bathrooms, services or hook ups. It also means Buddy doesn’t have to be on leash which means freedom for all of us. Fortunately we are now self supporting with water tanks, solar panels and a generator. We got up in the morning and our dog walk led us through the dispersed camping available and we found a fantastic site..  There were about 100 sites on a variety of dirt roads with some majestic views.  We packed up the Airstream and moved to a new site. 

That afternoon we played golf at the Mt. Massive Golf course which is the highest golf course in the US. It wasn’t the most manicured golf course, but considering it is located at 10, 152 ft it isn’t surprising.  Ross and I both had a great round of golf (maybe because the golf balls flew farther at this altitude or maybe due to skill).  As is typical in the mountains another thunderstorm rolled in just as we finished the 9th hole and headed back to camp.  The skies cleared after a nice BBQ which allowed me to do a quick watercolor painting of the beautiful evening light from our campsite.

Evening Light

Poor Buddy had a rough night and wasn’t feeling great, which was our first experience of having to get up several times in the night to let him out.  I had visions of running into a bear in the dark, but fortunately that did not happen, but it did mean we had a slow morning on our second day.  Because we were concerned about leaving Buddy alone in the camper after not feeling well we decided not to play golf and instead we spent the day at Turquoise Lake.  There is a beautiful trail that follows the shoreline and links to lots of campgrounds.  After exploring the campgrounds for future visits, we both felt that our current camp spot was a much better option for future days.  There appeared to be lots of hiking, biking and beautiful vistas to paint, so I’m sure we will come back.  The daily afternoon thunderstorms rolled in which meant that the light for painting wasn’t very inspiring, so we spent the afternoon reading and relaxing.

Our last morning, I really wanted to paint at the lake while the sun light was low.  It was a cool beautiful  morning, the water was flat and it was so peaceful.  Ross sat on beach and read while Buddy thoroughly enjoyed playing in the water. 

Morning Light at Turquoise Lake

We headed back to camp, packed up to head home and return to the heat.  If you are an RV’er you can appreciate when everything goes smoothly including  finding a good dump station.  This was one of those trips.  We felt as if finding our camp spot was easy and were pleased when we found out that there was a dump station about 5 minutes from where we were and on the way home.  We had a good laugh because we were hooked up and draining our black and grey water (aka sewage) when a few other campers pulled behind us.  Just as we were about to pull out the driver behind us got out of his RV to tell us that he liked my art and blog.   Who knew that you could get a new follower from having our website on the back of the Airstream at a dump station…The moral of the story is: May you find beauty wherever you go.

Lake Dillon, CO

We made another quick escape from the heat and headed up the mountains to Lake Dillon in Frisco.  We got the last available campsite for the nights that we needed at Peak One campground. We would highly recommend this campground  since we had a beautiful camp spot with views of the mountains and were close to lots of hiking, biking and access to the lake.  We were there for two nights and three days and were able to get in a few nice hikes, a bike ride around most of the lake, a few get togethers with some friends and a bit of artistic time as well.

The lighting for the first two days was very flat and did not inspire me to paint so instead I decided to focus on some watercolor pencil sketches.  I am currently teaching a watercolor pencil class via zoom to a few people and as they always say, “The Best Way to Learn is to Teach”.  In my class we have been discussing how to draw a tree by looking at its massing, shape or leaf/needle groupings.  I decided to analyze the tree nearest our campsite and draw it.  It was dusk, and I only had about 30 minutes to draw which was great, because it really forced me to look at the tree and capture its essences quickly. 

One of the students requested drawing rocks as our next assignment so I spent the following morning drawing a large rock in our campsite.  Again, it was a great lesson for me to step back and really look at the shape, coloration, veining etc. 

So here are the two studies that I completed.

The last day was absolutely beautiful.  We went on a morning hike, packed up the trailer and drove over to the day parking access area so that I could spend the next few hours painting on the lake.  The winds were up, so the water was a bit choppy and I had to be careful with my easel.  It is always a bit of a challenge when you are painting on a warm and windy day since the paints dry very quickly both on the palette and the canvas.  Ross was able to enjoy some reading time on the beach and Buddy loved playing in the water and contemplating life (see the picture below).

This painting was a particular challenge for me since there were so many variations of green in one scene.  Greens are notoriously difficult for painters because they can become either garish or too similar in value.  I had to mix several different green mixtures and had to grey them down as well, but ultimately I think the painting turned out to be a success. 

It was another great few days escaping reality and now it is time to plan the next outing.

Vedauwoo, WY


It was time for another quick escape from reality so we headed up to Vedauwoo, WY. We had passed by Vedauwoo last year on our way to Utah and had heard great things about it.  Since we had a few days off of work we decided to make a run for it. This was one of our easiest trips so far with a quick 2 hour drive, easy set up and no real problems with the Airstream.  We arrived and were setup by noon on our first day.  So we set out on a beautiful hike that circled around Turtle Rock which was the large rock formation nearest to our campsite.  The hike wound through dense aspen forest, past some marsh areas, wildflowers and through some great rock formations.  It was a perfect start to the trip.  

That afternoon I took advantage of the calm weather and painted Turtle Rock from our campground. This rock formation is immense and quite intricate with various formations, cracks and crevices.  I decided to paint this scene with my newer style of a colored under painting, and then layer a painting on top and scrape through to the base for a more impressionistic painting with more emotion and color. Ironically, some campers nearby came over to see what I was doing but only saw the first base layer.  I’m pretty sure they thought I was crazy and had no talent at all.  I encouraged them to come back in an hour for a better view which fortunately they did so I got to restore my reputation.

The next day and half we explored the area both by car and by foot.  The area is large and has a lot of dispersed camping options.  We explored those areas with the hopes of coming back in the future with a few other friends.  Unfortunately both days had high winds which made it almost impossible to paint.  So both Ross and I enjoyed sitting and reading and relaxing.

Hope you enjoyed the photos and until next time.

Escaping the house and getting back to Nature

After being stuck at home like everyone else for way too long, we decided to take the Airstream out and meet some friends for a socially distant camp get together.  Finding a camp location with availability for 3 RVs was impossible. Thankfully a friend told me about a website called HipCamp in which people who own large plots of land allow you to pay to camp on their land.  Off we went to the Twisted Sisters 60 Acre lot in Florissant, CO.  This trip was not about a destination like most of our trips, but all about some good quality social time and emotional rejuvenation.

I can’t even tell you how great it felt to be out of “civilization” and to be surrounded by good friends and the great outdoors.  It was fantastic to be away from TV and the news, and to pretend that there wasn’t drama going on all around the world.  We had some great conversations, meals, dance parties and hikes as well as getting in some painting time.

Our very first evening while we sat and had drinks and dinner, the sun was setting.  It was a beautiful vista so I jumped up and painted an impressionistic sunset.  I captured the feeling but I knew it could use some refinement.  The first photo shows what I did out in “Plein Air” and the second photo shows the same painting with a few alterations made at home. 

On our full day in Florissant we went for a walk into town which had a few cute buildings but not much more. We then hiked up the mountain behind our campsite to get a little more exercise and to see the view.  Just as we were descending  a huge thunderstorm rolled in to add a little bit of drama to the campsite.  The rain broke conveniently in time for happy hour and a dance party.  Our evening sitting around our campfire sharing stories was exactly what I needed to feel some deep connection which I have been missing.

I awoke the next morning early and went outside to beautiful lighting in the small aspen grove behind our Airstream. I started off this painting with my new technique using a layer of vibrant colors as a base layer. After letting it dry for a few minutes I then painted over it and scraped through to let some of those colors come through. 

Morning Light

Before heading out that afternoon to return to Boulder we made a fast trip to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.  We hiked into the monument, and enjoyed the scenery and cloud formations which were amazing.  This area is known for its petrified redwood forest remnants which occurred do to volcanic flow 34 million years ago.  The volcanic lava covered about 15 feet deep of the base of the redwoods and now after erosion the petrified wood can be seen.  In some of these pine trees are growing out of these old redwood trunks.

It was a short sweet and much needed trip!  We are looking to a few more in the near future.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Staying in place

Sadly, the Airstream sits parked in Boulder just as everyone is else is parked in their homes as well.  All our trips are cancelled and on hold until we can get back out there, so I thought it would be a good time to share my latest painting series that I am working on in the studio. 

Something I discovered long ago is that I generally prefer to paint while I am happy.  This is unusual because a lot of well-known artist painted in turmoil or sadness to express their emotions.  When the Corona Virus really started to ramp up here in the US, I was in Mexico at my happy place (Rancho La Puerta) where I usually go once a year to recharge.  This trip however was cut short and I flew home early to the pandemic, the stress’ of new life, no socializing (which for an extrovert is a huge struggle) and snow.  Yes, my first few says back at home were utterly depressing and I could not get myself to paint. 

I sat down and painted (and started a few now unfinished paintings) of my happy places.  It was nice to bring me back subconsciously to those fonder moments and feelings.  One painting is a half done watercolor scene of Italy (where I lived for 9 months) and the other is seen below from my last walk that I did at Rancho La Puerta the morning that I left.

I decided in this painting to play a little bit more and make the painting more whimsical and happier to express how I feel at that amazing place while focusing on the glorious trees.  I find that I am freer and looser in my painting when I am working with my palette knife instead of my brushes as is shown in this painting. 

Magical Walk

The next few days we got dumped on with snow. As I begrudgingly took our dog for a walk, I found beauty.  I stopped and took photos and really looked at the scenes to try and record mentally my feelings, colors, and movement that is lost in photos.  I came home, set up my easel and took an old painting that I did not like and decided to paint over it.  I have found it is very freeing to paint over old “bad” paintings because I have nothing to lose. I decided to try a new way of painting by putting in a base painting with darker, brighter colors and then paint over that.  When I do this technique, I scrape on a variety of colors with a very loose idea. I then step back often see something that I did not expect.  In the case of this painting below, I saw the abstract purple mountains in the distance.  I decided to keep those even they do not exist in that location and used my palette knife to start creating the more impressionistic scene.  This painting is called “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” which I think not only symbolizes the weather but also my hope that these will be an end to the Corona Virus sooner than later.

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

The sun did come out and my mood improved. I decided to keep experimenting with this technique since I really like how the above painting came out.  The base of this painting was originally some Italian Villas (as can be seen in the rusty orange and maroon).  As I continued to add paint I saw mountains, streams and trees and voila the painting “Hidden Valley” came to be.

Hidden Valley

I was so inspired that I grabbed another old painting from my stash of rejects and started scraping left over paint from my palette onto a canvas.  I stepped back and could see a landscape with a waterfall.  I went through my gazillion photos taken over the years and found a few photos of waterfall and stream scenes and built on that.  This painting grew and changed and is purely a figment of my imagination but ultimately grew into “Winter Run Off”.

Winter Run Off

The following week we again got an unusual amount of snow for April, but the sun came out quickly and it was magical.  I bundled up and headed out the door with my trusty dog Buddy and headed for the trails of Boulder.  On our drive to the trails I had to pull over many times for photos.  It was one of those strikingly beautiful days in Colorado. There are a few old barns that I have always admired on my drive out to these locations, and with them covered in fresh snow and glistening light I had to stop.

I came home excited and ready to paint.  I started this background with scraping on colors that are more complimentary (opposite on the color wheel) to what I was going to paint.  I knew that when I started to cover up the background with my image I could scrape through the acrylic paint to get hints of color.  I also wanted to really accentuate the roughness, colors and lighting on the barn so I added copper paint and added some darker blues. Here is a photo of the base layer and some of the steps along the way as well as the final painting.  I was so pleased with the result that I had to create another one which is one the easel now.

After The Storm – The progression of the painting

I think this new series of paintings really reflects some of my agitation with being “locked” inside our home while being surrounded by beauty.

I hope you and your loved ones are all healthy and staying sane.  Enjoy my visions and if you have any questions or feedback about my latest paintings, please feel free to share them with me.  I’d love your thoughts!

Sedona and Santa Fe

Ross’ new truck…we are on the road again

Life is like a puzzle…..fitting pieces together to make the big picture beautiful.

I like to believe that things happen for a reason.  We had planned to get the truck repaired and on the road by midday on Jan 6th but by the time we left Scottsdale we realized that we were not going to make our original destination in New Mexico.  I suggested to Ross that we stop in Sedona since we had to cut that portion of our trip short on the way out. Harvest Host had a location at the Oak Creek Country Club golf course and it was available.  What a blessing that turned out to be.  We pulled in just before sunset and were surrounded by magnificent views.  The red rock formations of Sedona are breath taking and with the lighting of the sunsets and sunrises they are magnified. 

We woke up the next morning and were told that we were able to walk the golf course path with Buddy before the first tee time.  What a great way to start the day. 

The rest of the morning Ross spent hitting golf balls and I sat and did two quick paintings of the rock formations.  I wasn’t entirely happy with the outcome of the paintings, but I think I can use them as preliminary sketches to bring back to my studio.  I think these rocks might be better painted in acrylics than watercolor.  When I get back to Boulder I will make another attempt.  The late afternoon was spent playing 9 holes of golf on the beautiful golf course.  What a fantastic day, for a day that was not originally planned.  We both have really grown to love the flexibility of traveling on the road with a RV….. you can be spontaneous and go with the flow.

The following morning, we got up at sunrise and again walked the golf course with Buddy.  If we didn’t have to get back to Boulder in a few days, we would have stayed longer to paint more and enjoy Sedona.  It will definitely be on our list of places to return to.  The rest of the day was on the road making the trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.    We have found that a great way to past time on the road is to listen to Ted Talks and then discuss them.  I have also taken up knitting…so beware you may all be getting scarves from me if we continue on these long road trips.  My first attempt has a few holes but it has kept me occupied in the car and Ross says the he will wear it with pride. It is another fun creative outlet for me.

Starting a new hobby

Our day in Santa Fe was primarily spent at Meow Wolf.  I had read about Meow Wolf and had heard that it is something not to miss. For those of you who don’t know what Meow Wolf is, I’m not sure I can even explain it.  The best description that Ross and I came up with is: An experiential art exhibit, by a collaboration of avant-garde artists, who are trying to tell a story mixed with a playful hint of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  One enters what looks like a standard Victorian era house, and then as you wander through each room, there are secret doors that lead you to other magical fantasy like rooms.  There is an underlying story that people are supposed to discover but would take days to figure out.  The rooms have clues to read to help decipher what happened.  Even without getting through the story we were mesmerized.  We had some favorite rooms and the best adjective that I can come up with to describe it is Fantastical! Photos do not do Meow Wolf justice so we highly recommend if you are in the area to stop by.  Fortunately for us they are building a Meow Wolf in Denver and is scheduled to open in 2021.

Our intention was to head to Taos to go ski for a few days but the weather started to turn and so we made a game day decision to pack up and drive back to Boulder.  So we are now back in Boulder tucked inside our warm home.

We both feel like it was a great adventurous trip and a fantastic way to start the new year.  We are energized and excited to see what 2020 has to offer. The time away gave us lots of time to reflect on 2019 and to plan and set goals for the new year as well as discuss a few other road trips. We hope to have some exciting posts in the coming year.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year in which you live your dreams!!! May you have more success than Buddy in putting the puzzle pieces of life together.

Scottsdale and Surrounding Areas

Sonoran Desert

Our life lessons continue, but hopefully the stars will align and we will be back on the road again tomorrow afternoon.  It is a long boring story about the truck, so we will skip that, but we can say that the people of Scottsdale have been extremely helpful and friendly.

Since we had more time in Scottsdale than we had planned, there have been a few benefits.  First of all, we have been enjoying all the hiking that is around Scottsdale and have covered way more trails and miles than expected(60 miles in a week).  We have also been able to play a few rounds of golf and more importantly for me, have been able to paint. 

On a few of our quieter evenings I sat down and painted from a photo that I took at Dead Horse State Park.  The composition of the painting ended up being weak, but there were several individual elements of the painting that I liked.  I love working in watercolors because I can crop and cut a painting.  The end product was able to capture the snow on the rocks as well as the light in the valley and some of the colors of the background.

Sunlit Rocks

There were a few stops that we had originally planned before the truck breakdown, so we decided to make them day trips from Scottsdale.  Our first day trip was to the Sonoran Desert National Monument.  One would think that with a name like, that there would be some substantial infrastructure, but that is not what we found.  We drove to the location based on a GPS system and found nothing but an empty trailhead sign. 

Ross trying hard to read the trail map 😉

We are still not sure that we were at the correct main entrance but hiked in along a trail.  It was extremely quiet, not a soul in sight and beautiful in its starkness.  When we got to a good spot we settled in and I spent the next two hours painting while Buddy and Ross enjoyed some quiet time.  It was great to test out my new travel stool and painting palette and to find that they are a good addition to my plein air painting tools.  I was happy with this painting since I feel that it captures the simplicity of the landscape, the quiet and the colors of the desert and the mountain backdrop.

Sonoran Desert

The next day trip was the Lost Dutchman State Park. This state park has the striking Superstition Mountains as a backdrop.  We enjoyed a beautiful hike through the Cholla Cactus and several other varieties.  After a long hike we sat down at the day shelter and I pulled out my paints.  I wanted to experiment with a little bit different technique for the mountains. The goal was to paint the mountains with a looser style and more color.  I have noticed while hiking through the “red rocks” of Utah and Arizona that there are some beautiful colors in these rock formations.  I completed this painting in an hour and was pretty happy with the outcome.

Tomorrow we hope to be heading North East to New Mexico for some new scenery. 

Monument Valley/Sedona/Scottsdale and the trials and tribulations of traveling in an RV in winter.

The Cactus of Arizona

What will this day be like….I wonder?  Ross and I have a few quotes from movies that we reference, and this one comes from the Sound of Music when Julie Andrews is leaving the monastery and is going to the VonTrap Residence.  Well this phrase seems especially apropos for this segment of our blog.

On the last blog we left off excited to see the sunrise at Monument Valley.  Anyone who has RV’d knows that part of the RV experience is being able to roll with the punches.  I like to think of it as a little bit of a Buddhist practice of living in the moment and being open to all the experience has to offer.  It is also a lesson in letting go of control of situations that you can not control.  So that being said….we awoke to 3 inches of snow and no view at all of Monument Valley.  We were okay with that because the snow on the rocks surrounding our camping spot were beautiful and we felt fortunate that we drove in the day before and had the views we had. 

The bigger issue that morning was that we also woke up to no heat.  Our furnace stopped working around 5 am and we had no idea why, and our fear was that our pipes would freeze up.  Fortunately, we turned on our oven for awhile to heat up the interior and then got on the phone with Brian (our new best friend) at Airstream in Scottsdale Arizona.  He trouble shot over the phone with us and low and behold after unscrewing a few things and resetting some buttons we had heat again.  I can’t even tell you how happy we were, and when we got to Scottsdale Brian got a visit and chocolate from us!

Life is a learning experience, that might be our motto for this trip.  The other realization that we had on this trip is that it is not feasible to boondock (go off the grid) in a cold climate.  The first night at the Alpaca farm our heat also turned off because our batteries had drained in the cold and because the heat cycling on and off so often killed the batteries.  So unfortunately that means we are going to have to buy a generator in order to boondock during this trip if we are in cold weather.

Next stop was Sedona to visit a real estate client of mine in her new second home.  We loved seeing her, and Buddy thought he had died and gone to heaven, since she has two dogs and dog toys all over her house. It was wonderful to see her and Sedona is a beautiful location however, the temperatures had been lower than we had hoped for and that last two days wetter than anticipated.  So with that, we changed our plans and instead of staying in Sedona for a few days we headed further south to Scottsdale.

Buddy getting spoiled in Sedona

Our main purpose for traveling to Scottsdale was to visit with my brother and his wife who were there for a quick vacation.  Our camping spot was for sure one of the least beautiful we have ever stayed because we were at the Westworld Event Center.  We were basically set up in a parking lot with RV hookups (meaning electricity and water), because the location was close to my brother and very centrally located. There was a horse show going on as well, so we enjoyed watching the horses and an event or two. Once again we felt like the smallest trailer around.

After getting set up we headed out for a hike in the close by mountain trails.  Cactus were everywhere and it was so interesting hiking through them instead of hiking through the trees of Colorado.    

Over the next few days we did several more hikes, a bike ride and were able to visit Taliesin West.  Taliesin West was Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home as well as an architecture school and is now a Unesco World Heritage Site.  Having studied about it in Architecture school I was thrilled to see it in person.  He was truly a genius in working with local materials, using great lines and transitioning spaces from small to large as well as from interior to exterior.

On our final morning in Scottsdale (or so we thought) we packed up to go and we thought “What will this day be like we wondered? “  As we started to drive out of town Ross’ truck’s engine light came on so we drove over to the RAM dealership and low and behold the fuel injectors on the truck had failed.  Ah, the powers to be were sending us another test. It was Dec 30th and it now appeared that we were going to be staying in Scottsdale for awhile longer.  We are hoping that by January 3rd we will be back on the road again.

In the meantime we are making the most of our time here.  We have had several great hikes, played some golf and been able to spend more time with my brother and his wife. 

It is New Year’s Day and we both looked at each other and have said, What will this day be like? And What will this Year be Like…I wonder?  Here is to hoping that 2020 is a great year filled with lots of good health, happiness, great travel adventures and some art as well.  Happy New Year to you all!

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