Category Archives: Adventures

Video: Inspiration and Creation of “Favorite Trail”

Living in the Rocky Mountains, I spend a large amount of my life outdoors. Much of that time is spent being active; hiking, biking, skiing, camping, and backpacking are how I unwind and have fun with friends. Outdoor adventures are a huge part of what make me who I am, and the main inspiration for my paintings.

Last summer I shot several video clips of myself mountain biking the Colorado Trail outside Breckenridge. I literally pulled a frame from one of these clips and painted it a couple of weeks ago.

Check out the video here:

I feel so fortunate to live in such an amazingly beautiful place and to be constantly surrounded by inspiration. I bike as much as 5 days a week in the summer. Getting exercise and having adventures in the great outdoors is really important to me for both my physical and mental health. No matter how bad a day I’ve had, getting out on the bike at the end of the day clears my mind and makes me feel whole again.

I love depicting these experiences through my artwork. I hope that when you view my paintings, you feel the joy I feel when I’m out exploring the wilderness, and remember the happiness that you’ve felt in your own adventures.

“Favorite Trail” depicts a section of the Colorado Trail near my house in Breckenridge, one that I bike on a regular basis once summer is in full swing. The views are spectacular and the wildflowers are crazy beautiful. I love biking just before sunset, when the light is golden and rich, illuminating the landscape in a magical way.

“Favorite Trail” is oil on canvas, measures 36”x24”x1.5”, and is available for sale here.

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Painting a Favorite Local Ski Area – Arapahoe Basin

I’ve been skiing at Arapahoe Basin since I moved to Summit County, Colorado in 2004. I love how incredibly steep it gets, I love the massive views of the Continental Divide, and probably more than anything, I love the friendly locals’ vibe. This mountain feels more like home than any other.

I’ve always loved A-Basin, but recently I started experiencing it in a new way. I’ve been skinning up after the lifts close (and occasionally early in the morning, too). As the days have been getting longer, I’ve been able to start my skin before sunset, and watch in awe as Black Mountain and the East Wall light up with the evening alpenglow.

Usually when I ski I just have my phone for a camera, but a couple weeks ago I decided to haul my DSLR up too. I had tried taking photos in the twilight with my phone, but as you could guess, they didn’t turn out so great. The photos I captured with my DSLR still aren’t perfect (I didn’t bring a tripod), but they are more than sufficient for inspiring some new paintings!

Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll paint the one that gets the most votes! I’m super pumped to paint a new Arapahoe Basin painting and look forward to hearing which direction you think I should go.

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Arapahoe Basin after sunset

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Arapahoe Basin chairlift at dusk

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Ringing in the New Year with Art and Skiing in Taos

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This New Year’s Brian and I had planned to chase the snow, and Taos was getting pounded after Christmas. We were lucky enough to find last-minute lodging for a very affordable price, right in town. We missed the bulk of the 3-foot snow storm by a day, but we still made it in time to enjoy some of the soft stuff. It was gorgeous!

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Taos is a small ski town in Northern New Mexico. The mountain is steep and rugged, and the town is known for its artist community and slightly eccentric vibe. Two of my favorite things: challenging skiing and abundant art!

Even though I’d skied Taos before, I hadn’t previously spent any time in the town (it’s about 30 minutes away from the mountain). I was super excited to check out all the galleries. There are probably 2 or 3 dozen galleries, plus just about every bar, restaurant, and coffee shop displays original artwork.

After skiing all day Monday, I took the day off to wander around and get to know the town and its local art.

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I started at the Northern end of town and worked my way South.

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It was funny how at almost every gallery, the artist or employee present figured out quickly that I am also an artist. It wasn’t necessarily my intention, but I guess my questions gave me away! Steven Baumann, whose gallery is pictured above, pinned me as an artist as soon as I inquired about his training. I just love hearing other artists’ stories and how they got to where they are now in their careers!

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At Heinley Fine Arts, I discovered a new artist whose work really caught my eye. Jivan Lee is a 31 year old artist based in Santa Fe, who mostly paints Southwestern landscapes. It wasn’t his subjects, or even his use of color that drew me in, but his use of texture. He paints in THICK layers, creating a sculptural look. The gallery attendant told me his paintings can take 2-3 YEARS to fully dry! I personally don’t think the images on his website quite do the work justice – they just don’t capture the light and shadows created in the waves of paint.

Around the corner at the Earth and Spirit Gallery, I found Shari Ubechel’s work (and Shari herself!).

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I love her colors! I’m a huge fan of artwork that’s whimsical and fun; to me there is no reason artwork has to be serious all the time.

Some other artists I enjoyed were:

And I didn’t even finish getting to all the galleries…wow! I guess we’ll just have to plan another trip this winter or spring. Oh darn!

Visiting Taos for the New Year’s holiday was the perfect start to my 2016. I got to relax and explore a new(ish) mountain with my husband, and get inspired for art-making in the new year! To top it all off, we spent New Year’s Eve with The Neighbors bluegrass band at the Adobe Bar:

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The house was packed and we had fun people watching! Locals and tourists alike had fun dancing and celebrating.

We started traveling on December 16th (first visiting family for Christmas), so it’s been a while since I painted. We got home on Saturday, and I started a new painting this morning. There’s nothing better than the high of having 1,000 ideas and the motivation to execute them. Now I just need to find time to fit them all in…I can’t wait!

Aspen Alley Bliss

Last night I went out for a mountain bike ride right before sunset to capture the aspens on Boreas Pass in Breckenridge. It’s a good thing I went alone, because I think I spent more time shooting photos than actually riding!

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I parked at the ice rink and rode up Boreas Pass Road, then descended Aspen Alley, a singletrack trail just past the parking area where the road turns to dirt. Aspen Alley is one of my favorite little trails any time of year; it’s not too technical, but it’s a super fun downhill with lots of twists and turns – and as you can imagine – millions of aspen trees. So this time of year it is just spectacular.

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The evening sun was backlighting the leaves, making everything explode with color.

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I ran into Todd and Barb Rankin, the owners of Cornerstone Real Estate, where I had my solo show a few weeks ago. Barb’s blue shirt popped so dramatically against the golden color of the aspens, I had to shoot her as she rode up the trail:

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A future painting? I think so!

In case you haven’t noticed, I have a thing for taking pictures of my bike:

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Biking brings me such joy, and riding through the woods this time of year is pure bliss. Aspen Alley was a popular trail last night, and everyone I encountered had a huge grin plastered across their face. You can’t help but be captivated by the vibrant colors as you ride (or hike) through the groves.

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This last shot is of me right after the sun went behind the mountains. The light level dropped quickly, so my camera wasn’t quite fast enough to capture a crisp image of me speeding past. I guess I’ll just have to go back and shoot it again (oh darn!).

I’ve got a busy few weeks coming up with family visiting, a remodel project going on at home, a quick trip to California, and lots to do to prepare my art business for the holiday season. But I’m just going to HAVE to find time to paint these glorious trees. Sometimes you feel so inspired, you can’t delay acting on that feeling for very long. So I’m setting a goal to get out plein air painting before the leaves fall. I’ll be sure to post my work as I paint…stay tuned!

Backpacking the Lost Coast Trail

Backpacking the Lost Coast Trail has had to be one of the most inspiring segments of our California road trip so far. We hiked through so many amazing sections of the trail, I must’ve taken 500 photos…the problem now is going to be choosing which ones I want to paint!

Monday afternoon we arrived in Shelter Cove and picked up a few last-minute essentials at the general store, including a bear can rental. We reorganized our gear in the parking lot above the trailhead and hit the trail around 5:00 PM.

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The Lost Coast is a remote and rugged section of the California Coast about 2.5 hours North of Fort Bragg (about 5 hours North of San Francisco). Apparently they were going to build a highway here many decades ago, but the project was abandoned because the terrain is just too harsh. The mountains rise over 4,000 feet from sea level, and many areas of the coast are impassable at high tide because the cliffs are too sheer and there is nowhere to hike but the beach.

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We hiked the trail in an unconventional direction – most people hike North to South to avoid the Northerly winds. However, the majority of folks access the trail via a shuttle service, and every shuttle was booked. We packed enough food for 6 days and started at the South end of the trail. We weren’t sure if we were going to do an out and back, or hike up the beach 8.5 miles and then do a loop up into the mountains. We didn’t need to decide right away, as we could only make it to the first impassable-at-high-tide section before dark anyway.

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Walking on the beach was beautiful and serene, but slow-going. The terrain varies from sand, to pebbles, to bowling-bowl sized rocks and boulders. There isn’t much elevation change except for a few short sections that leave the beach and climb up onto the bluffs above. However, walking on the beach is hard work and very tiring. The first evening we did 3.7 miles in just under 3 hours.

Northern California is wild, and the Lost Coast is no exception. Along the way to our first campsite, we spotted bear tracks in a few different places:

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We were fortunate the first evening to almost have the beach to ourselves. We passed two other groups, but most of the time we felt like we were hundreds of miles from civilization.

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We set up camp close to a stream that flowed out into the ocean, with our tent right in the sand.

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We feel asleep to the sound of waves crashing just 100 feet away from the tent. I briefly wondered if a bear or another critter came to visit, if we’d even hear them over the sound of the ocean. I was so tired though, I quickly forgot the thought and fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning we got an early start to be sure we could finish the first 4.5-mile “impassable” section within a couple hours of low tide (at 9:00 that morning). The fog was dense as we left our campsite around 7:00.

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Fortunately the next section of the beach was a little easier, with damp, packed sand to walk on. We moved a little faster than the previous evening, and at about the 6-mile point we spotted some seals perched on some rocks off the coast:

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Around 8.5 miles we needed to make our decision about which route to take. After some back and forth, we decided to keep heading North on the beach. We figured even though we were doing the trail backwards, it was worth it to do the “classic” route. Plus we heard that the mountain loop was severely overgrown with poison oak, and we didn’t want to deal with that challenge. We decided we’d see if we would have any luck hopping on a shuttle that was dropping folks off at the North end of the trail. If not, we’d spend the night there, and then retrace our route back to Shelter Cove.

In the afternoon the fog faded in and out, making the landscape seem mysterious and deserted. Sometimes the sun would come out briefly and we would start to sweat, so we were thankful when we walked through fog again.

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At lunch we saw two sea otters fishing at the mouth of a stream (the one pictured above), in the waves crashing on the beach. We watched them for a while, but I knew if I approached them to take a picture they’d swim away. I didn’t bring my telephoto lens backpacking, so unfortunately I didn’t capture any photos of them.

Since we knew we had to cross another critical tidal area early again the next morning, we pushed on into the afternoon, even though our feet were screaming. Thankfully a lot of the rest of the day’s hike was on an actual trail, with firm ground and few rocks.

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We had planned to camp at Spanish Flats, about one mile before the second “impassable” section. However, this area was actually quite crowded, with lots of kids running around (I was impressed that kids that appeared to be as young as 8 years old were hiking this trail; I definitely wasn’t rugged or strong enough for something like this at that age).

We continued on for another mile, clocking a total of about 13.5 miles for the day. We set up camp next to Randall Creek, just before the part that you cannot hike at high tide. There were two other small groups, but they were out of our sight and earshot.

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It’s hard to tell from the photo above, but the wind was fierce that evening. Until now we hadn’t really experienced much wind at all on our hike, but at 6:00 PM on the dot, the wind started howling. We built a little shelter with our packs and trekking poles so that we could cook dinner in the wind. It worked surprisingly well!

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After dinner I walked down to the beach to capture a few shots just before sunset:

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The next morning we left early again to beat the incoming tide. The hike started out on the beach and was easy walking for a little while. It was sunnier than the previous day and we were glad to be partially shaded by the cliffs above us.

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But the beach soon became rocky, with rocks the size of bowling balls.

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Later we encountered some large boulders we had to scramble over – it sort of reminded me of hiking a 14er in Colorado (but without the incline obviously!).

About halfway through the critical tidal area, we stopped for a break at a stream. Some other hikers alerted us to a whale upstream! We hiked up to check it out – it must have gotten caught at high tide and then trapped when the tide went back out. It was dead of course, and really only recognizable by its whale tail. I’ll spare you the picture – it wasn’t a pretty sight.

Toward the end of the “impassable” section, there was no beach at all (just cliffs!), so we had to climb steeply up onto the bluffs to circumnavigate the area. It made for some pretty amazing views though:

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About a half mile later we spotted a large boulder out in the ocean, COVERED in sea lions. Well actually, we heard them before we saw them – their barking was loud and impossible to miss!

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An hour later, as we rounded the bend, there was an abandoned lighthouse up on the hillside.

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The last 2 miles were pretty brutal. The wind was ferocious, and we had to walk in deep, loose sand. I understand why most people hike this trail the opposite direction, but I really felt lucky that we only had to deal with these conditions for the last little bit of the trip.

After hiking about 7.5 miles for the day, we finally reached the Northern trailhead at the Mattole River at 2:30. There is a developed campground there, so there were a few people hanging out. We asked around if anyone was heading South, but no one was. It’s actually a 2-hour drive back to Shelter Cove, even though we only hiked 24 miles up the beach. The landscape is so hilly, the roads are extremely windy and steep.

We figured we’d keep an eye out for cars dropping off hikers and continue to ask about rides to Shelter Cove into the evening. We took turns napping and hanging out by the wilderness permit station.

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I was mentally preparing myself for embarking on the return trip on the trail in the morning, but at 5:00 PM, a van dropped off 6 hikers. Brian approached the driver. She seemed surprised to see us, but more than willing to drive us back to Shelter Cove. The shuttle is normally $200, but she offered us the ride at $150 (we gave her $175). I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed the hike back, but my body was aching and tired. Taking the shuttle also meant we’d have a little extra time to head even further up the coast before driving back to Colorado. It was money well spent to both of us!

We got back to Shelter Cove at 7:30, unpacked our backpacks and reorganized the car. The shuttle driver had driven us by a little fishermans’/dive bar in town, telling us we had to try the fish and chips. The fish was local and tasted amazing after eating trail food for 3 days! We spent the night in a BLM campground up the road and both slept like babies.

The Lost Coast Trail was probably our favorite part of our whole California road trip. It is such a beautiful and magical place, we will certainly remember it forever. How in the world am I going to decide which photos to paint first??

Mendocino Mountain Biking and Beach Exploring

Saturday morning after tearing down our camp, we drove into Fort Bragg, which is a few miles North of Mendocino. We wandered around some ocean bluffs and admired the turquoise blue water crashing into the cliffs below us.

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After securing a campsite at MacKerricher State Park just North of Fort Bragg, we stopped at a bike shop to inquire about local mountain biking. The trails app on my phone indicated there was some good riding in the forest East of Mendocino. We picked up a small guidebook at the shop, had a picnic back at the bluffs, and then drove back into the forest to search for the trails.

We picked a singletrack loop off 409, the dirt BLM road on which we drove in. The trail was smooth and flowy, winding through sections of old growth redwoods, as well as younger, deciduous trees.

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The forest was dense and shady, so much so that we both took off our sunglasses. I don’t like riding without eye protection, but the trail had so many forks (without signage) that we had to take it relatively slow anyways. Redwoods are so tall that their branches don’t usually interfere with riding, so after a little while I got comfortable not wearing glasses.

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This ride was definitely one of the best we have ever done. Brian even said it was in his all-time top 10 favorite rides. Riding through redwoods was a truly unique experience, so different from anything either of us had ever ridden before. Not to mention the trails were practically deserted; we only saw one other pair of riders in 2.5 hours.

Perhaps the best part was that when we finished, we drove 15 minutes back to the coast and had happy hour above the ocean in Mendocino Headlands State Park. We grabbed our camp chairs, drinks and snacks and took everything out onto a bluff. We basked in the sun as the waves crashed below us, feeling superbly relaxed after a successful day.

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As we were packing up to head back to the car, I heard an unusual sound. I looked across the top of the bluff, and there was a violinist playing in the middle of the golden grasses. It was almost as if he was playing for the ocean! It was a picturesque and perfect moment, so I dropped my things and captured him there, performing for the sea.

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(It turns out there was a music festival in town and he was part of a quartet who was having their photo taken at the park)

We headed back toward the campground, but decided to make another stop to enjoy the sunset. Years ago I had a client here in Mendocino, The Lighthouse at Point Cabrillo. At the time they were privately managed and had a small inn on the property. Now they’re managed by the state park system, so anyone can wander around the property from dawn to dusk (they still rent the home out on VRBO apparently).

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We walked around the lighthouse, then sat on a bench and watched the sun go down over the water. I had fun playing with my camera and capturing a few shots of the lighthouse just before the sun disappeared.

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Sunday morning we switched campsites to a shaded walk-in campsite after a whole bunch of other campers checked out. We had several to choose from, and preferred not to be right next to the bathhouse as we had been the previous night. We found a spot with a perfect hammock location, paid the ranger, and then set out for the day.

There is a nice bike path that connects the state park with the town of Fort Bragg, so we decided to take a casual ride down the coast to take in the views and explore the nearby beaches. Compared to yesterday’s ride, this one was quite leisurely. We did find a few short sections of singletrack – I’m not sure if thy were really meant for biking, but we enjoyed them anyway.

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Later we came back to some of the same beaches to explore them on foot. We saw kids playing in the ocean, which I cannot imagine doing without a wetsuit – it is sooo cold! It makes the waters of the mid-Atlantic ocean where I grew up seem like bath water. But these beaches are desolate in comparison. Only a few families dotted the sand, unlike crowded East coast beaches.

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In the afternoon we wandered around Mendocino for a little while. There was a small art festival I wanted to check out, which ended up being more crafts and jewelry than fine arts. I also checked out 4 or 5 galleries, but I was mostly disappointed with the caliber of art represented. Since Mendocino has a reputation for being an artsy place, I guess I had higher expectations (and it kind of made me wish we had spent more time in Carmel where there were LOADS of galleries).

For the rest of the day we lounged in our camp hammock, wandered around the park, and then later found dinner at the harbor in town. At a small, un-frilly restaurant across from the fish market, we ate local salmon with veggies and coconut rice. I didn’t even know there was salmon that was native to California, but it was some of the freshest and tastiest I remember ever eating. Delicious!

Today we’ll head up the coast again to the small town of Shelter Cove, where we’ll be starting our backpacking trip on the Lost Coast Trail. I am excited to get away from the world of family campgrounds and tourist traps for three days and experience California in a way few folks have. Hopefully the fog is minimal and we’ll have beautiful views the whole way!

Big Sur to Jackson State Forest

It’s now Saturday morning, Day 7 of our road trip. Wednesday morning we headed back to McWay Falls in Big Sur and took pictures with the other 200 tourists (did I mention I wished we’d done this at sunset the night before?). It was still beautiful, but it was foggy and overcast.

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We weren’t sure where we were headed next, so we continued up the coast. The views were still sweeping and dramatic as we approached the Monterey Bay, and we got out a few times to take pictures. Every campground we passed was full…we should’ve known that you have to reserve a campsite months in advance for an area as popular as this. No getting lucky today!

We rolled into the town of Carmel around 1:00. After an underwhelming lunch, we stopped at a bike shop to inquire about local trails. We could either head inland to a state park for biking, or continue to head up the coast to Santa Cruz, which is on the North side of the Monterey Bay. We heard they had a few mountain bike trails with big coastal views, so we decided to head that way.

Once we arrived in Santa Cruz, we wanted to be sure we had a campsite before biking, but after searching for one and fighting traffic for what seemed like forever, we struck out. On to Plan B – we decided to high tail it up to Napa and get a hotel room for the night.

At the outset of this trip we both really wanted to be spontaneous and “wing” it. It turns out it is VERY hard to wing it in a lot of California in the summertime. I guess we were naive to think this was possible in such a densely populated state…lesson learned!

Since we got in so late on Wednesday, Thursday morning we decided to book our hotel for another night and really experience Napa. After a leisurely morning at the hotel, we went to a local park for a short hike past some wineries. It was a beautiful day and I was surprised there weren’t more people out on the trails…I guess Napa isn’t a real outdoorsy destination.

After our hike we headed into town for lunch at the St. Clair Brown Winery’s tasting room. We sat outside next to the vegetable garden, admiring the Swiss chard and kale. Lunch consisted of fresh olives, house made hummus, freshly baked bread, marinated summer squash, and fresh burrata. Paired with a tasting of four wines, lunch was a dream!

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We considered riding our bikes to some wineries, but we had a dinner reservation at 7:45 so I didn’t want drink any more wine and be too drunk or tired to enjoy dinner. For me Napa is just as much about the local food as it is about the wine, and I wanted to experience one really amazing dinner. Instead we walked around town and then headed back to the hotel to shower and relax.

Dinner was at Lucy in Yountville, about 9 miles North of Napa. Yountville is home to many famous restaurants, including the French Laundry, which requires reservations two months in advance. I would’ve loved to have dined there, but of course they were totally booked (as was their sister restaurant, Bouchon).

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Lucy was lovely. We sat in their outdoor courtyard, which had a zen-like feel with reflecting pools and bamboo. We enjoyed greens from their garden, scallops, ahi, lobster risotto, and halibut. All the dishes were small plates and all included at least one veggie and/or herb from the restaurant’s garden. And of course we had more wine. We lingered over our meal for 2 1/2 hours, and finished with a decadent coffee-chocolate torte.

Friday we packed up the car and drove a few miles to Skyline Wilderness Park to do some mountain biking. We made a loop biking up the Lake Marie Trail and then dropping down onto the Skyline and Buckeye trails.

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Riding here is so different than back home in Colorado. It almost reminds me more of East Coast riding with its twisty oak trees and rolling hills…except it’s so dry in California right now everything is covered in dust, and the meadows are all a golden brown. It’s still gorgeous, though.

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After a having picnic lunch and taking inventory of our food, we stopped at Trader Joe’s on our way out of town. We also made a stop in Santa Rosa (about an hour away) at REI and Safeway. We continued North toward Mendocino, a town on the coast I have always wanted to visit after having several clients there.

Before we dropped down in elevation toward the coast, we caught the sunset on the side of the road. In the distance you could see the clouds creeping up into the forest as the sky above them turned pink and orange. In some places it was hard to tell if we were looking at clouds or ocean.

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Thirty minutes later we easily found a campsite in a primitive campground in the Jackson State Forest. What a relief after fighting the crowds of the central coast! The forest is mostly redwoods, so it was extremely dark when we arrived.

This morning as I write, the sun is starting to break through the clouds and filter poetically through the redwoods. I’m sitting in the hammock as Brian prepares our breakfast. This place is just about perfect, as long as the mosquitos I hear buzzing don’t start biting!

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We’ll probably try to find another campsite closer to the coast if we can (we’re still about 18 miles away). I’m looking forward to exploring this forest and the coast today. Mendocino is known for its artist population, so I can’t wait to go wander around town and discover some new galleries. We’ll be here at least one or two more nights before we start the backpacking portion of our trip along the remote and rugged Lost Coast.

Breckenridge to Big Sur, CA

Today is Day 4 of the road trip we’re taking in California. We’ve already covered over 1300 miles – the first two days were all driving, not much sight seeing or adventuring. We did see some beautiful things along the way though.

Colorado is known for its abundance of road work projects in the summer, so we were prepared to get slowed down by a few. We got stopped by one in Glenwood Canyon, about 90 miles from our home. I’ve driven through this canyon literally hundreds of times, but this was probably the first time I was stopped and didn’t feel annoyed. Since we are on a road trip, I reminisced about the road trip my family and I took to in 1994, when my parents first introduced me and my sister to the American West.

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As Brian and I sat waiting for the construction delay to end, the Amtrak train whistled loudly, coming around the bend in the canyon and into our view. It was on this train that my family and I traveled from Denver to Grand Junction 21 years ago, kicking off the 3 week journey that all four of us regard as one of the best trips of my and my sister’s childhood. That trip opened me up to a world of unfamiliar and amazing places, and I yearned to one day explore many of them more deeply. I felt nostalgic and vaguely homesick for my family as I watched the train pass by, but it also reminded me that I was setting off on a new journey. On this trip (and in my adult life) I’m living my dream of revisiting the magical places I first saw at age 13, this time having the opportunity to explore them in my own way and at my own pace.

We carried on and stopped at REI and Cabela’s in Grand Junction. After a quick dinner, it was evening by the time we crossed into Utah.

There’s something romantic about driving into the sunset just about anywhere, but it’s especially true in Utah. The red rocks light up with the evening light in seductive ways, and every direction you look is awe-inspiring.

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Sunsets are fleeting though, and we drove on into the night. Finally at about 11:00 PM, we pulled off near the intersection of I-70 and I-15 at a little campground at Fremont Indian State Park. After setting up our camp for the night, we both fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.

The next morning we woke up to find we had slept amongst scrub oaks and juniper trees, with stunning cliffs just to our East. There’s something I love about pulling into a campsite late at night, having no concept of our surroundings, and then waking up the next morning to discover all the beauty that was hidden in the darkness the night before.

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I could’ve probably spent the whole day here, but we needed to hit the road. We didn’t get as many miles under our belt as we had hoped on Sunday, so it was time to make a push for California. After a short stop in St. George for supplies and a trip to the post office, we crossed into Arizona for a whopping 29 miles, then into Nevada. We passed Las Vagas and pretty soon the car’s thermometer read 109 degrees, by far the hottest temp it’s ever registered in its high altitude life.

The next stretch of road was probably the least inspiring section of highway of the whole trip so far. The Mojave Desert is desolate and brown, very unlike the desert we know and love in Western Colorado and Eastern Utah. We noticed as soon as we exited Las Vegas that the highway was suddenly heavy with traffic, presumably since I-15 is the main artery that connects Las Vegas and L.A.

After nearly 10 hours of driving (including stops) we arrived in Ventura and the Subie saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

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After being stuck in the car all day it was so refreshing to get out and feel the breeze, smell the salt air, and enjoy the sunshine. I climbed over the rocks on the side of Highway 1, dipped my toes in the surf, and watched a fisherman cast his line.

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The magic faded quickly though as we started our quest for a campsite. I have an app on my phone that locates nearby campgrounds, and I had one called Emma Wood in mind. It sounded perfect – beachfront, just a couple of miles from where we landed on the coast; and the app’s pictures of campfires on the beach were something out of a daydream. Unfortunately, when we arrived we learned the campground was full – a disappointment at first, but when we saw about 50 RVs each parked within five feet of each other, we weren’t as bummed.

We drove North along Highway 1 and stopped at about 5 or 6 campgrounds that were very similar. My fantasy of camping on the beach, enjoying our new camp hammock with a glass of wine in hand, all while watching the sun slip behind the ocean, quickly faded. We eventually settled on driving up into the hills above Santa Barbara and camping at a small campground among oak trees. We did get to try out our new hammock after all, even though it was dark by the time we got settled in.

The next morning we packed up and headed back down into Santa Barbara for breakfast and wifi. We came up with a ball plan for the day and a list of possible campgrounds for the night. I was excited for Brian to drive the famous coastal highway that I traveled with my family so long ago.

We were extremely lucky to have sunny weather all day as we drove up the coast. The California coast, especially the further north you go, is notoriously cloudy/foggy in the summertime. Usually if you go just a few miles inland it will be hot and sunny, but the beaches are usually cool and overcast. Not the case this day – it was warm and beautiful all day for us.

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At about 3 PM we had driven about halfway through the famous rugged area known as Big Sur. Although we hadn’t really planned on looking for camping yet, we noticed a camp host taking down a “campground full” sign at the Limekiln Creek Campground. This campground is right on the ocean, and unlike the RV parking lots of the Ventura and Santa Barbara areas, this campground actually has some vegetation and privacy between sites. We snagged one of two available sites and within minutes the other site was taken as well. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

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Although the campground was gorgeous, we were both itching to get out and explore after being in the car for 3 days straight. After setting up the tent and having a snack, We headed into Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park and did a 2-hour hike on the Ewoldson Trail. The route started through tall redwoods, and quickly progressed steeply up into the hills.

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After about 45 minutes of hiking, we reached a ridgeline and had a clear view of the ocean. By this point we were only about 90 minutes out from sunset, so everything glowed in the golden evening light and the ocean sparkled. It was such a cool feeling to have climbed above the redwoods, trees that seem so tall they could touch the sky.

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After descending I was able to grab a few photos of the cove by McWay Falls, which seems impossibly blue for a place that’s not tropical. We decided to wait until morning to hike out to the lookout point for the falls.

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In retrospect I wish we had – the sunset light was so spectacular on the dramatic cliffs and waves, the photos would’ve been stunning. Not that the ones I captured weren’t; I just didn’t get any of the falls itself. I’m still really excited to possibly use these photos for some future paintings.

Instead we headed back to our campsite, a good 30 minutes away, and cooked ourselves a pasta dinner and enjoyed a fire before heading to bed.

This morning, as usual, I woke up before Brian. I decided to check out the beach just below our campground. I was surprised that there actually is no legal access to the beach, but there was a clear path that I decided to explore anyways. It was a little sketchy, but nothing more dangerous or exposed than anything I’ve hiked in Colorado. Today the coast is socked in with clouds, but there’s something mysterious and mesmerizing about the waves crashing into the rocks and cliffs when it’s like this.

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The beach is cool and breezy, and I didn’t see another soul for miles. I wandered North for a little while, and sat on a rock for a bit watching the seagulls looking for breakfast. Despite this being such a popular destination, I felt a quiet solitude I didn’t expect to find in central California.

Later today we’ll continue up the coast and see where the wind blows us for tonight. I’m not sure we’ll be so lucky as to find another stunning oceanfront campground, but who knows!

Drawing Inspiration from the Desert

We’ve been in Moab, Utah this week as Brian teaches a wilderness EMS class along the Colorado River. It feels refreshing to my soul to be in this place – not just because the weather in the high Rockies has been absolutely disgusting lately (and it’s beautiful here) – but because the landscape is so inspiring here. Southeastern Utah is most definitely unlike any other place I’ve been. The rock formations here are so mysterious and strange, and the colors are amazingly vibrant everywhere you look.

Yesterday morning I got up at 4:45 to drive into Arches National Park. I wanted to get well into the park before sunrise so I could find a good spot for shooting. One trick I learned from taking a digital photography class a few years ago is that if you want successful photos, shoot when the light is really magical. The light is almost reliably so right before and after sunrise and sunset. When I started driving, I knew it was going to be a beautiful morning since there were just enough puffy clouds in the sky to create some drama and color as the sun rose.

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Unfortunately I didn’t think to bring a tripod with me to Utah, so I had to shoot at a super high ISO, which results in graininess. However, I was on a mission to capture images for future paintings, not to necessarily take jaw-dropping photographs, so it worked out. I think I was able to capture the essence and the magic of sunrise in the desert, which was my main goal. I love the clouds in the above photo!

Here are a few more:

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I’m pretty happy with what I was able to capture…definitely plenty of inspiration to draw on when the weather is gloomy back home in Colorado. Ironically I didn’t shoot any actual arches, so I’m going to need to go back!

After working on some other projects back at our rental condo, I did a quick painting in the afternoon. This was my first time painting a desert scene, so I kept it simple with just some cool orange rock formations and blue sky:

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Like my other recent paintings, I pushed the color boundaries a little…the colors are still realistic, but maybe a bit more vibrant than in real life. I like doing this because I think it creates the feeling of awe you experience as you gaze up at these huge rocks in person.

I’m really excited to keep gathering photos while we’re here and to hopefully paint another painting or two before we leave on Friday. And yes, I’ll be shooting some bike photos while I’m here too! Stay tuned…

Remembering Costa Rica

Over the holidays, Brian and I were fortunate enough to spend 3 weeks in Costa Rica. If you missed the blog posts from our trip, you can read them here:

It was a truly amazing trip, one that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. I’ve been wanting to do some paintings based on photos I took on that trip, so I took a break this week from my skiing themed work to focus on this magical place. We spent most of our trip on the West Coast, so we got to enjoy lots of gorgeous seaside sunsets.

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 Costa Rica Palms
4″x6″, Acrylic on Canvas

 

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Dominical at Dusk
4″x6″, Acrylic on Canvas

 

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Tropical Twilight
4″x6″, Acrylic on Canvas