Plein Air Painting on the Trail – A Gear Shakedown

gear review, on the outdoors, painting

Inspiration strikes everywhere on the trail – on the summit of a mountain or in the depths of a canyon, in the middle of the day or when the sun is quickly setting. A painting kit that’s light enough to carry, tough enough to endure the trail and quick enough to deploy on snack breaks or when the light is fading is essential for plein air painting on the trail! Here is my set-up:

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Discovering Strength at the Grand Canyon

on the outdoors

I dreamed of traction spikes crunching into ice and snow gracing the soaring geology of the Grand Canyon in winter. It was a dream we rush into reality as my pregnancy moves along into the fifth month. The frigid air nips at our unacclimated faces on the porch of the Yavapai Lodge as we disembark to the South Kaibab trail. Herds of elk meander along the rim while condors freewheel overhead, striking the clear blue sky through with their imposing black wingspan. There is no snow despite the cold. The brutal series of switchbacks decending into the canyon peals away layer after layer of breathtaking scenery of the Grand Canyon’s interior.

Calling it Quits on the Trans-Catalina Trail

on the outdoors, painting

They cut my abdomen open and gave me cabin fever when I birthed my son. A c-section is major abdominal surgery. Combined with the residual pregnancy-complication related back and hip pain, I spent the first few weeks of my son’s life teetering around with a cane. I was a postpartum wobbly tornado of stir-crazy eagerness.

Needless to say I wasn’t in the most reasonable mindframe when I swore that I was going to solo trek the Trans-Catalina Trail at three months postpartum.

I’ve done this trail a few times before. There really is no excuse for not knowing better. The trail traverses the length of Catalina Island just off the coast of southern California. Its unmaintained, meandering singletrack follows the coastline and diverts deep into the interior of the island where there is no refuge from the unrelenting sun and arid conditions. The harsh climbs and off-trail wanderings around bison are the price paid for beautiful campsites on the beach.

I’ve seen this trail wreck athletes with ultralight packs and trail runners with support.

I board the boat and set off for Catalina Island anyway.

Creating Home

on the outdoors, painting

Introducing my good friends to the Bridge to Nowhere trail was something I anticipated with great joy. I knew they’d fall in love with its calming waters, riparian greenery and imposing geology. The weather was warm and the hike itself was simple as we cooled off in the river and found one of the many small camps where we put up the hammock and enjoyed the peace offered by the San Gabriel Mountains.

The brutal summers take a toll on the river. The sunken levels mildly reroute the trail and expose banks of sand and granite that would be otherwise hidden. I painted as my friends skipped rocks across the shallows. I’ve been hiking and painting this trail for years, but this particular season was disconcerting. I have never seen the river so low. This painting is aptly titled “The River Survives”, done in oil on 10 x 8″ canvas panel.

Living on the Edge of Depression at the Grand Canyon

on the outdoors

Still and quiet is not something familiar to a person who battles anxiety, depression and PTSD daily. Half of my mind is running on the toxic nitro fuel of fight-or-flight fear. The other half enduring the contortions of a mind that wants to die in a body that fights to live. It was spring break, my companions and I standing at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, our pent up road trip energy quieted at the edge of such splendor. Just one day ago I was a stressed out, lapsed ex-artist, over-achieving college student, an abuse survivor, an alcoholic, dependent on a dangerous combination of pills and booze for three or four hours of sleep, and tediously suicidal.

There, staring down through layers of strata and time, following the blue-green ribbon of the Colorado River, I was only human. The chaos of my mind stilled for a moment and allowed me to be a person instead of an illness. I think that was my first time really knowing peace.

Gear Review: Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 Pack

gear review

featuring Granite Gear’s super simple, super sturdy 60 liter backpacking pack.

Painting Point Reyes National Seashore from Coast to Sky – Trip Report!

Trip Reports

At Point Reyes National Seashore we hiked vast open spaces, towering trees, wooded meadows and sundrenched chaparral with an amazing view of the rugged shoreline.

The Creative Value of a Zero Day

Trail Stories

Zero Day: A term coined by through-hikers, a zero day is a day where you cover zero miles. Camp stays up, pack stays down. It’s a rest and recharge day.

8 Tips on Creating on an Adventure (AKA how do you get all this crap done?)

Plein Air

There may be 24 hours in a day, but the number of usable hours depends on when the sun goes down. They don’t call 8 PM “Backpacker Midnight” for nothing.

Soloing the Trans-Catalina Trail through Sketches, Tips, and Photos

Trip Reports

Out of the boundaries of Avalon and Two Harbors, the mostly isolated Trans-Catalina Trail (TCT) travels along exposed mountain ridgelines, deep into canyons, and leads to cliffs that meet the emerald and sapphire ocean far below.