Wet Feet, No Ponchos and A Forest of Burls- Olympic National Park, Washington

We decided to head up to the Pacific Northwest region of the US on almost a whim. By the beginning of June the stress from spending almost all my free time studying to pass the Salesforce Administrator Certification exam had reached an all time high and like I told the bf, “If we don’t book some kind of getaway for next month I think I’m gonna end up running away to become a hermit in the wilds of Alaska.” Needless to say he was supportive of helping plan something and after some consideration we decided to head up to Seattle and possibly make a day trip to Vancouver as well since we’d never been to that part of the US before and I was very enthusiastic about the idea of heading to cooler climes.

By the time the trip rolled around I had thankfully successfully passed the exam (hooray) and we headed out on 5 days of adventure with enthusiasm and only haphazard plans of what we were going to do- which is pretty standard for us, because who needs plans?

The first day there, out flight touched down around 10am and after grabbing our rental car, we headed east towards the coast on HWY 101. Living in North Texas really makes a person eager to see the ocean, breathe in fresh salty air and hear the crashing of waves so off we went, no actual destination in mind apart from just the vague idea of driving until we couldn’t go further.


A leisurely winding 2 hour drive from SeaTac later found us gassing up at Queets and entering the outer reaches of Olympic National park, and we started seeing signs for trails with beach access. We planned to grab some snacks (and coffee!) at Kalaloch Lodge and then park and walk down to the easy access beach there but, I was curious about those other trails and convinced the bf to have us go back and take a look at where they might take us.

The trail for Beach 2 proved much too muddy and slippery for us, as unprepared as we were to do any kind of hiking, but the trail at Beach 1, the Spruce Burl Nature Trail, while having no cars parked at the trailhead looked level and relatively straight forward and and so, we started on our way.

We had no umbrellas, ponchos or hiking books and there was a steady misting rain coming down on us but we had the trail that leads through the woods, across a wooden footbridge and onto the beach all to ourselves, not another person in sight as far as you could see, just the sound of waves and the water rushing up the sand. It was perfect and though we were pretty soaked through by the time we headed back to the car, I don’t think I’ve been as carefree and happy as that in a long time.

(Fun fact- Neither me nor the bf had ever seen burls as big as these on trees before and there was both wonder and slight fright at the number of burls on these Sitka spruce trees in these woods.)

Instead of heading back the way we came to make it to our hotel in Silverdale, we decided to head north because per the GPS it would end up being the same length of time and we figured, why not see some more of this Olympic peninsula area? Funny enough we had completely forgotten that the town of Forks (used as the main setting in the Twilight books) was situated here and we pass right through and then doubled back to take a photo of the town sign because it was too fantastic an opportunity to pass up.

With that photo souvenir taken, we settled in for the rest of the drive back to our hotel, rain still lightly coming down and the almost everything around us surrounded by lush greenness.

~m

A Dream of Canyonlands- Finished (Finally, dear gods)

Truth be told, i’ve had this finished for almost a month now…i’ve been just been procrastinating on actually posting about it. Why? That lovely thing that is artistic conceit that gets you thinking that if you just keep tweaking at it and adding just-one-more-thing, it’ll be perfect.

Thankfully work, life in general and planning for my upcoming trip to Europe (more on that soon) has kept me from turning the finished piece into a messy jumble trying to achieve unknowable perfection. I’m actually…pleased, with the way this turned out. When I first started it, i’d never done a landscape drawing that wasn’t just mountains, mountains and more mountains but I was so enamored by the landscape of Canyonlands NP that I knew I just had to try my hand at it.  It started with the rough sketch of graphite, then entered the inking stage I love so much and thats where I paused because I didn’t know if I dared to dip into color, and if I did dare, what route should I take? Bold reds and oranges, what you would expect of this Utah landscape? Muted browns and greens for a more traditional feel? Those all sounded like good ideas but they weren’t me, and after I had done color sketch after color sketch, I finally found myself at the completely other end of the spectrum I had started on, holding purples, blues and pinks in additional to the predictable browns.

I’ve already started sketching out some ideas for the next project, either an Arches NP one or a Joshua Tree one (i‘ll post those a little later) but for now, i’m happy with the way this one turned out and I like that every time I look over at it i’m reminded of the way I felt when I first saw this park- like I was on another planet, a whole otherworldly experience of pure wonder.

~m

A Dream of Canyonlands- WIP

There’s a fair number of National Parks i’ve visited at this point now and even more that I plan to visit soon.. but I think Canyonlands NP in Utah will forever remain in my top 3 favorites. I visited last October and there are still days where i’ll be at work or getting ready for bed and some memory of it will flash across my mind and i’ll want to drop everything to go visit again now, soon. This is where the inspiration for this piece came from, the memory of my visit and the photos I took there.

I want to say I started this in…mmm….middle of March?And it was meant to be a weekend project but then that didn’t quite happen and now it’s July and i’m still not done with it. Which i’d love to say isn’t what usually happens but that would be a terrible lie. To be fair to myself though, I generally only get to work on any art projects of mine every other weekend or so and by “weekend” I mean about 4 hours on either Saturday or Sunday after I chugged my iced coffee and am feeling productive.

Materials:
Faber-Castel PITT artist pens
Prismacolor colored pencils (currently debating on splurging for some Faber-Castel colored pencils but haven’t decided if i’m feeling that artistic just yet)

I’d very much like to finish this one up soon so I can start on another that i’ve in mind- this time from a photograph that I took in Arches, but we’ll see how that actually goes. For now i’m just hoping the weather keeps giving me sun filled weekends and the bf keeps making me excellent iced coffees.

~m

p.s Don’t mind the fantastically low quality of this iPhone photo, I just didn’t feel this work in progress was worth hauling out the actual camera for, not yet.

Outtakes- 2017 Colorado Edition









As always, it takes me good while to get to the end of posting about a trip- between editing all the photos and just life in general, i’m actually pretty surprised it didn’t take longer. But, here we are! Two months from the end of the trip and i’m finally done and onto planning my next trip.

Getting the chance to explore these parts of Colorado more in depth was a perfect vacation and while I don’t see myself returning any time soon, I know i’ll be be back. Whether it’s to go hiking in Rocky Mountain NP, finally make it to Lake City, see the night sky at the Great Sand Dunes NP or just relax in the quiet of South Fork, Colorado is a state that holds too much not to be worth a visit for anyone with a sense of adventure.

All The Posts:
First Post, Overview
Rocky Mountain NP Pt1
Rocky Mountain NP Pt2
Caribou Ghost Town
Gem and Minerals at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Gem Carvings of Konovalenko at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Denver Museum of Nature and Science , Last Part
Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain NP
Garden of The GodsBachelor Loop, PT1
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Pt1
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Pt2
Sunset at Great Sand Dunes National Park and PreserveBachelor Loop Pt2

I’m taking a break from writing any blog posts for the month of June to give myself time to focus back on neglected art projects, finish up the editing for the novel i’ve been writing, catch up with friends and above all, plan my next trip. I bought a ticket to Paris back at the end of March and i’ve yet to really settle on an itinerary (or get my passport in order) so hopefully by the time I get back on here, i’ll be able to share some kind of travel plan. Or beg for suggestions.

Either way, i’m wishing everyone a fantastic start to their summer and much luck in their adventures!

not drowning in my coffee cups yet,
~m

Point of No Return- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, CO









We made it to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve just a little after 1pm, a warm box from Pizza Hut resting on the bfs lap and my eyes fixed on the horizon. It was that kind of overcast afternoon where you can’t help wondering when those distant rain clouds are gonna overtake the sky and ruin your plans. It was a mildly chilly day, the sun dipping in and out of sight and we were shivering a little as we sat ourselves in the picnic area near the dunes to eat our lunch and plan out our afternoon.

Just driving up into the park had been an experience in and of itself, the whole area it’s own corner of nowhere in Colorado. It’s the kind of place you have to really aim to go to, you can’t  just find yourself there accidentally, and I think thats part of the charm. The crowds were minimal and they completely disappeared once we headed out on the unpaved road towards the Point of No Return (seriously, what have I said about national parks and their inclination towards dramatic names).

We had a good few hours to kill before the sun set and we wanted to wait a little before tackling the dunes themselves, so after eating lunch and getting caffeinated again, we decided to take the small hike up to the Dunes Overlook. It’s a fairly easy hike, just 2.3 miles (3.7 km) roundtrip and i’d definetly recommend it not only for the excellent view from up above the dunes but also for the beautiful views and scenery on the way up. Once you make it up to the overlook, you can either sit on one of the many convenient benches like the bf did to catch your breath, or you can be like me and run around all over exploring the many view points. We somehow lucked out and managed to get the overlook all to ourselves and I can honestly say it was with great reluctance that I eventually let myself be led back down.

Once we made it back to the car, I crossed the road to go check out the area just on the other side, where the Sand Pit is. The bf stayed in the car to clean his shoes out (lots o’ sand, obviously) while I trudged my way slowly over the small ridge, my camera slung heavy over my shoulder. The thing I most vividly remember, apart from the incredible view of the mountains with the sand dunes just off to the left, was the calm quiet. The wind whipped around me constantly, but never harshly, and the coolness of it was welcome on my warm face. I could feel the gritty sand in my boots as I stood there looking out at the landscape while surrounded by beautiful and unexpected vegetation and it felt more like a gift than anything else, a vivid constant reminder of where I was.

Eventually I replaced the lens cover on my camera and walked back to car, intent on making it out onto the dunes themselves.

~m