Travel Journals, 2006 & 2007

For ten years beginning in 2006, when mid-August arrived in SoCal, it was time to pack my little Scamp, my painting gear, and head out to explore ... until the first whisper of fall when I'd turn back to the west and find other roads, often banked by blazing fall colors, much of the way home. I am known to say ...'I may have been on every back road between home in SoCal and Wisconsin' ... while falling in love with back road meandering.

Once when a call got through, the question was, "Where are you?" I replied, "Near the southwest corner of Minnesota, somewhere below the North and South Dakota border, and not too far from northeastern Nebraska." This caller replied: "Oh, I get it. You are 'nowhere!'" Yes, Nowhere was exactly where I intended to be--for in these far away corners of our country there is much beauty and wonder to experience. On a few of these trips I kept a small travel journal filled with watercolors.

In 2006 I camped from Claremont to Taos, Kansas, Wisconsin, and home via Northern California.

Northern New Mexico has always drawn me to the gorge, the mountains, the high desert,and especially the people. Camping nearby the famous mountain--the Petronal-- Georgia O'Keeffe painted so often, I had to catch a quick watercolor sketch of the well known shape and the alluring light of the Southwest.
Camping along a stream and a classic Central Kansas wheat field, I took out my brushes and paints to capture not only the heat of the day but the beauty of the last rays of the summer sun.
In Missouri I stumbled across these lovely poppies in a friend's flower garden.
Resting along one of the many tributaries to the grand Mississippi River, I was thrilled with the way the colors, light and shadows played along the water. Doesn't this little watercolor sketch just say "oh, a lovely lazy summer day?'
Upon the flatland of northwestern Wisconsin the sky changes dramatically as the late summer storms roll through. On this day the frightening wind, rain, hale, lightening and thunder were followed by huge double rainbows. What a day! I painted this just as the final raindrops fell and the sun fell from the sky.
This image represents how the road--all roads--can call out to me. One early fall I took an entire month following the Midwestern Rivers to the West. The Missouri and Niobrara rivers have etched lovely little valleys and hills in this area for the wonderment of those who lust for the beauty and leisurely pace of back roads.
Tucked into every little valley amid the Nebraska sand hills you can find an abundance of wildflowers. Nebraska's rolling hills have a unique beauty among the Midwestern landscapes and also terrific state campgrounds.
Being on this back road in a Wyoming state park was as if I was at the top of the world. I was looking for a trailhead for an afternoon hike and en route found this amazing high mountain road taking me across a field of wildflowers that spread out as far as the eye could see.
Eventually I made my way into Northern California where the amazing California Live Oaks stand and gracefully spread their sturdy arms out over the golden meadows and hills. This particular tree can be found in the hills north of Sonoma.
And in Southern California, anywhere there is a bit of water, you can find calla lilies many months of the year as if the season is always meant to be 'spring.' Today my art studio is filled with paintings of these lilies, but this quick little watercolor was the first . . . as I arrived at my new home in Pilgrim Place, Claremont, California.

2007, From home in Claremont, CA to Taos, NM, Lindsborg, Kansas, and back to California through Utah.

In a terrific campsite in the Prescott National Forest of Arizona a small trail leads off into the tall Ponderosa pine mountainside. It was a lovely place to explore the forest that surrounded me.
A campsite close to the rim at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon provided easy access for a wandering artist. Every evening that week I painted as darkening shadows moved throughout the canyon. It was here one evening I had my first sighting of a California Condor. I held my breath as the huge bird rode the updrafts over the canyon in front of me, the wing span almost beyond belief.
In another campsite this little rascal pecked a few small holes in my fresh water carrier thus allowing her to fill the small depressions on the top of this huge rock for her drinking pleasure. She worked her bit of engineering genius while I was away for a morning walk.
La Veta is a gem of SE Colorado. The beauty of the nearby Santa Fe Peaks forms an awesome backdrop for this little mountain village. The back road from there to Trinidad is lovely as it winds around and beneath the unique rock formations known as the Devil's Staircase. On this day the valleys were filled with late summer sunflowers.
Kansas State Fishing Lakes are favorite camping spots. I camped at this one in the southwest part of the state on a very hot late August evening. The sky was beautiful and the lake as smooth as glass reflecting the nearby grain tower and the early evening colors of the sky.
In this area of Kansas, nearby Lindsborg, a series of small mountain-like hills rise up off the prairie floor. From the top views are beautiful in every direction. This view looks down across the planted fields and a small lake, all the way to the western horizon. I had come to Lindsborg to be the Artist-in-Residence for the month of September at the well-known, Red Barn Gallery. In and around this small town there are about 40 working artists, making this spot a great art destination in the Midwest. I loved it so, I would return for the month of September in 2008, and 2009.
But as October arrived, with Colorado snows threatening, I needed to get across the mountains. After a quick visit with family in Denver, I crossed over Loveland Pass as an early, light snow was falling. From there, in eastern Utah I picked up a back road following the Colorado River toward Moab through winding canyons and rock formations. The BLM campsites, where I camped, along the river provide beautiful scenery which I tried to describe in this small watercolor sketch of the sun setting over the river road.
Between Moab and Bryce Canyon are the amazing national parks --Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef. I stayed several days in each of these before reaching Bryce Canyon National Park. Sitting on the Sunset Walk at Bryce, I sketched the late afternoon sun casting its final rays on the ancient formations and hills beyond. An artist from the Czeck Republic stopped to visit and invited me to come paint with her in Prague!
ZION National Park is one of my favorite parks. Here are a couple of many sketches I made during my week camping amid those colorful rocks and the river, dressed in the vibrancy of a golden, late fall day.
There is just no place like Zion National Park. On this day from my campsite I had taken the bus--up and up--to the end of the road then hiked up river to the place known as 'The Narrows.'
I sat on a small rock in the middle of the river at the entrance to "The Narrows" to make this watercolor sketch. And when I stood up to leave, took a misstep and fell into the river--holding my small painting canvas bag over my head to save my sketches!