Tag Archives: nature

Hiking the Gila: Purgatory Chasm

Snow covered tree in the Gila National Forest

A couple of weeks ago it snowed here in the Gila National Forest. We had to go into town that day and while I was thinking, “we should take the long way home so we can see the snow”, Aaron was saying “do you want to take the long way home so we can check out the snow?” He’s really good at reading my mind. Not always, but sometimes we are just on the same wavelength!

I can’t resist a texture photo! Plus, I like the footprint!

Rather than coming home the regular way, we headed north on hwy 15 out of Silver City. It was so beautiful! Snow everywhere! We stopped a couple of times so I could snap pics of nature covered in the cold, white powder.

Looking back at the opening to the chasm canyon

By the time we got to the split with hwy 35 and started heading south in the Mimbres valley, the snow was gone and the sun was starting to peek out of the clouds. We decided then and there to stop at the Purgatory Chasm trail head. It’s a short trail very near Lake Roberts that we had never been on. I believe it’s a 1 mile loop. It’s one of those tourist type trails, short, level and gorgeous!

I’m also a sucker for a reflection pic! 😜

About a 1/2 mile in there is a split where the loop trail begins. We picked the left fork and shortly after we came to the chasm. The rock walls seem to pop up out of nowhere and suddenly, you are in a very narrow, tall canyon. The rocks on the canyon walls form hundreds of faces! It’s almost as if you can feel the eyes of the ancient ones staring at you and hear their whispering as you walk through.

And then there was sun…

We didn’t make it all the way around the loop trail. Somehow, we lost the trail and ended up looking down at the canyon. It was getting close to sundown, so we decided to play it safe and turned around to go back the way we came in.

The sun/shadows make the rocks POP! Can you see the faces?

That was about the time the sun came out and made the rocks really POP! So, even though it LOOKS like these photos were taken on three different days, it was all on the same day. You know what they say about New Mexico weather? Wait 5 minutes, it will change! Just for fun, I’m throwing in a photo I took at Emory Pass after the most recent snow on the mountain. I love the heart in the clouds!

This is the heart in the clouds, taken from the look out at Emory pass.

Hiking the Gila: Rocky Canyon

Tree holding rock

I love the way it looks like this tree is holding up the rock! In reality, the rock is an overhang of the cave behind me and the tree seems to have grown around it.

It’s been too long since I’ve posted a hiking blog. That’s mainly because it’s been a while since we’ve been hiking on a new trail AND had the camera! I always say, that’s why I’m not a professional photographer, I ALWAYS forget the camera when I should have it. Last weekend we hiked for a couple of hours on Saturday and picked up a load of firewood on the way home. Let’s just say it was an exhausting day.

Rocky Canyon walls with grass growing on top of moss

Rocky Canyon walls with grass growing on top of moss

This time we drove a bit further into the Gila National Forest and hiked on the Gila Wilderness side of the forest. In case you are unfamiliar with the Gila, there are two Wilderness areas within the Gila NF. The Gila and the Aldo Leopold. There is one main road that takes you up through the middle of the Gila NF, this road is what splits the two wilderness areas. Main road is a bit deceiving as this is still a dirt forest road. In fact, it’s recommended that you take only a high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicle on FR 150. There are some hairy areas, but we have taken our Subaru on the road with no problem.

Mountain stream in Rocky Canyon

Mountain stream in Rocky Canyon

Rocky Canyon is the hairiest part of the road. There is a campground and a hiking trail that heads east from the campground. We had driven by the location before, but this was the first time we stopped for a look around and a hike. Every single other time we have driven through the canyon, it was bone dry. This time? Water literally everywhere! The canyon stream was running full force and there was water seeping from rocks as well as swampy areas on the trail. I cannot tell you when the last time was I saw this much water in the Gila! We have received a ton of rain this year, thank goodness!

Small ledge cave hidden in the rock canyon

This small ledge cave was hidden in the side of Rocky Canyon. It was just big enough for us to climb into, though it was filled with mouse droppings, so we jumped right out!

I probably took over 50 photos that day. There was so much green and so much water, the forest was gorgeous. There were rocks with fresh, green moss with grass growing from the moss. The bright green of the moss on the rocks was so cool.

Faces in the rocks

One thing I’ve noticed about the Canyons in the Gila, there are faces everywhere! This one even has a moss beard!

The Gila is located in the desert southwest part of New Mexico (again, for those who don’t know). It’s an oasis of trees, springs and wildlife. When it’s dry, it’s beautiful, but when it’s wet, it’s an amazing paradise! It’s one of the many reasons New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment. It’s also one of my favorite places in the world. I’m so grateful to call it home!

Painted rocks

This rock wall looked painted, but it is actually the colors left from water streaming down the Canyon walls.

 

Hiking the Gila: Back to Spring Canyon

Aaron in the middle of this photo gives you an idea of the scale of the canyon, awesome!

Aaron in the middle of this photo gives you an idea of the scale of the canyon, awesome!

Sunday we went back to Spring Canyon to hike further up the trail. What a gorgeous canyon, though calling it a trail is a stretch. The trail is marked on the Gila National Forest map, but there are no markings on the road to let you know it’s there. We like trails like this, because we are usually all alone hiking them. You can tell the trail was washed away years ago. There are places where you can see the trail that once was.

Looking up at the rock face from the same spot in photo above, we still had a little way to go!

Looking up at the rock face from the same spot in the photo above, we still had a little way to go!

There is a lot of climbing over dead trees and bush wacking to get up the canyon to a awesome shear rock face with a stream of water running down. Next time, we will have to go without the dogs. Osa slipped several times and with her bad knee we decided it would be best to explore further without the dogs.

The water was spiraling through this bowl in the rock, I couldn't resist the sparkling of the sun in the water!

The water was spiraling through this bowl in the rock, I couldn’t resist the sparkling of the sun in the water!

Another reason I love these hidden gem trails? No trace of man having been there. No discarded Bud Light cans (it’s ALWAYS Bud Light) or cigarette butts. Who smokes and drinks while they hike? Seriously.

It feels like you’ve walked through a wardrobe into Narnia, a place where there is no time. It could just as easily be 1878 as it is 2018. It’s these hidden places where I feel most grounded and connected to nature. Nature in it’s most pristine state of being.

I could have spent all day photographing the multiple crevices in the stream where old logs have become part of the waterway. Ahhhh, nature!

I could have spent all day photographing the multiple crevices in the stream where old logs have become part of the waterway. Ahhhh, nature!

I use photography as a source of inspiration for my art. Lately, I’m visualizing landscape still life snapshots as abstract paintings. I must have hundreds of photos like the one above. I love how nature composes these perfect little abstract works of art. Installations of logs, rock, mud, grasses and flowers, waiting for someone to come along and appreciate their unique beauty.

This area had a large forest fire burn many of the trees about 5 years ago. Even in this state they are majestic against the deep blue sky.

This area had a large forest fire burn many of the trees about 5 years ago. Even in this state they are majestic against the deep blue sky.

Places like this are what gives New Mexico it’s name the “Land of Enchantment”. I’m so grateful to Aldo Leopold for preserving the Aldo Leopold and Gila Wilderness areas for future generations. I pray it will continue to be preserved for generations to come.

Back to work!

Window in to the past, Gila cliff dwellings

Window in to the past, Gila cliff dwellings

Summer break is officially over now. Aaron went back to work yesterday. We had company visiting, so I’m starting back today. I haven’t painted on canvas since June, but I did paint the house! We spent Aaron’s Summer break working on the house and exploring our new home. We hiked many miles and found some really beautiful areas. Mountain streams, lava flows, old dead trees, and an abundance of birds and wildlife. I probably took a couple hundred photos! We are settled in now and enjoying our new home to it’s fullest. I’m grateful to be living the dream!

Dusty hiking

Dusty hiking in Spring Canyon

I keep going back and forth about keeping my studio here at home or finding a place in town (Silver City) to rent. After searching town and making a few calls, it seems there isn’t much available and what is available is a bit overpriced. For now, I’ve decided to keep my studio at home.

On the scaffolding, painting the back side of the house

On the scaffolding, painting the back side of the house

With all the hiking trails in the area, I’ve decided to start blogging about our hikes on a regular basis. My goal is to blog 2 times per week. One will be about hiking the Gila and the other will be my art update for the week. Fingers crossed I can accomplish this goal! Our internet connection is spotty out here, so it will depend on how reliable it is on the days I blog.

View from atop the Black Range Crest Trail

View from atop the Black Range Crest Trail, this trail goes through a forest fire area from the Silver fire in 2013

Hiking is a walking meditation for me. There is nothing more calming or inspiring. My footsteps and breathing create a rhythm that takes me to another plane of perception. The trick is keeping that perception after the hike is over. Most of the time, it leaves as soon as I hop back in the car after a hike. My wish is to get to a point where I can keep that feeling while sitting here in my studio.

On the trail

On the trail

During our hikes I have been thinking a lot about writing. Words flow to me during my hiking meditations and I would love to get this flow down into words. That is what I’m working on. As a visual artist, words can be difficult. Putting what I see into words is not an easy task.

Another view from the Black Range Crest Trail

Another view from the Black Range Crest Trail

That said, the urge to write is becoming stronger than my aversion to writing.
I don’t know that what I have to write/say is important to the world in general, but it’s important to me and perhaps someone else will get something from it too.

View from the CDT trail

View from the CDT trail

Series: Living in the “Land of Enchantment” (New Mexico) Bandelier

Looking up one of the several ladders at Bandelier National Monument

Looking up one of the several ladders at Bandelier National Monument

This series came about after a realization I came to a few years ago. I grew up in Southern New Mexico and now live in Albuquerque in Central New Mexico. I live in a state that is a very popular tourist destination. I am blessed to live in a place people dream of visiting someday. I live, as an artist, in a place artists have been drawn to for centuries for the quality of light, the gorgeous natural landscape, awe inspiring sunsets, great outdoor opportunities and I could go on and on.

Growing up I didn’t see New Mexico in this romantic way, in fact, I had dreams of eventually leaving. I left three times before I realized how much I loved it here.

When I returned to New Mexico the final time, we moved to Albuquerque, the largest city in the state. We’ve been here ever since (16 years) and I have come to really love my home state.

Part of the reason for this love is the many road trips we’ve taken to explore our state over the past 20 years. New Mexico has millions of acres of National Forests, National Parks and Monuments, State Parks and Wilderness areas, thousands of miles of hiking/biking trails, several ski areas, ruins from past civilizations, modern cities filled with numerous art galleries and museums and did I mention those sunsets!?

Ironically, many people in modern day America don’t realize New Mexico is one of the 50 states. It’s an ongoing local joke. New Mexico became the 47th state on January 6, 1912.

Rocky Mountain landscape with cloudy sky at Bandelier National Monument

Rocky Landscape in Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier is just outside Los Alamos, New Mexico. From the National Park Service website; “Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years.  Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities.”

Carved wall of rock, petroglyph carvings and holes

Carved wall of rock, petroglyph carvings and holes

It’s been almost 7 years since we visited Bandelier National Monument. The photos in this post were taken then. Sadly, in June 2011, over 60% of the park was burned in the Los Conchas fire and then later, heavy rains caused flood waters that tore through the Frijoles Canyon and Bandelier National Monument. Many parts of New Mexico were burned by massive forest fires and then flooded during that time over several years of drought conditions.

Deer running in front of Bandelier cliff dwelling ruins

Deer are everywhere in New Mexico!

It will be years before these burn scars are covered with new growth, but it doesn’t take long for new growth to start. Looking back at photos from trips we’ve taken over the years, it’s difficult to forget all the favorite places that were changed by fire and flood over the last decade. Luckily for New Mexico, we’ve since had several years of good precipitation. The fire danger never goes away completely in the high desert mountains. After living here most of my life, it’s something you learn to live with as it’s the forest’s way of regenerating herself. Change is constant in the wilderness.

Frijoles Canyon from the cliff dwellings above at Bandelier National Monument

Looking down into the Frijoles Canyon from the Cliff dwellings

On a brighter note, I’m happy to have these photos and memories of the way Bandelier looked before the fire and I imagine eventually you won’t be able to tell there was a fire there at all.

Cave Kiva and ladder in the Bandelier National Monument Ciff dwellings

This is me at the top of the ladder to the “Cave Kiva”. Ladders were how the ancestral pueblo peoples accessed their cliff dwellings.

On this trip, we were playing tour guide to a friend who was visiting from California. We hiked the Main Loop trail up to the cliff dwellings and climbed all the ladders, even the super long, high ladder! It’s such an amazing place to visit, I always feel like I can sense the spirits of the Ancestral Pueblo people who once made this place their home. These special New Mexico spots have always felt sacred to me. They are sacred to most native New Mexicans.

Climbing the long ladder up to the kiva entrance. Not for people afraid of heights!

Climbing the long ladder up to the kiva entrance. Not for people afraid of heights!

When you visit, make sure you have comfortable clothes and shoes. Always, always, always bring plenty of water, a hat and suncreen, especially in the summer!

Kiva entrance in a cave at the top of the long ladder

Kiva entrance in a cave at the top of the long ladder

 

Image

Today’s Artsy quote: Nature

curly grass with quote

First post of 2014!

acrylic painting on 12" vinyl

“Beautiful”, acrylic paint markers on 12″ vinyl, SOLD

I just realized it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post. Time got away from me, or more accurately, the holidays interrupted my regular schedule. I was feeling a bit of the bah humbugs this year. Not really feeling the Holiday spirit. At all.

acrylic painting on 7" vinyl

“Nature”, acrylic paint markers on 7″ vinyl, available for $45

It’s now 2014, really? I cannot get over this fact. It seems so surreal. 2014 is the FUTURE. Not NOW! But it IS now. I still cannot get over it. Feeling my age this New Year. Not that that is a bad thing. I love being the age I am now. I have learned so many valuable lessons. Though I still struggle at times, I feel like I have hit my stride. Like my life truly is where I always wanted it to be. Sure, there are still goals to reach for, change is inevitable. For the first time in my life I feel like I have all the tools I need to REACH my goals.

acrylic painting on 7" vinyl record

“Lovey Dovey”, acrylic paint markers on 7″ vinyl, available for $45

Now, I realize there will always be new lessons to learn and obstacles to overcome, but I feel equipped to handle these situations now. I feel like I KNOW what I need to do next. I even feel MOTIVATED to do those things!

acrylic painting on 12" vinyl

“Faith”, acrylic painting on 12″ vinyl, work in progress

I have a lot of work to do this week in the studio. This Saturday I am hosting an open studio at my art studio space, Chroma Studios. It’s not just my studio that will be open but several other artists will also open their doors. I’m excited because it’s been at least a few years since I’ve opened my studio to the public. Come to think of it, I don’t remember the last time I opened my studio to the public. hmmmmm….. I’ll have to think on that for a bit!

"Love", acrylic paint markers on 7" vinyl, work in progress

“Love”, acrylic paint markers on 7″ vinyl, work in progress

I’ve been on a roll with my painted records the past couple of weeks. Still visualizing my next series of paintings. I’m planning a series with quotes and sayings, writings of my own and in collaboration with a good friend of mine. Once the open studio is past I will dive right into that series. My plan for the New Year is to continue my weekly blog posts and maybe even get in a couple extra posts every week. I’m still working on goal setting for this year, so much to think about and do! I’m super excited about this new year and what’s in store for me and my creative path! Stay tuned! 🙂

Living My Life Backwards

Aaron and Paula hiking in the Cibola forest

My husband Aaron and I during our most recent hike in the Cibola National forest, NM

I have always done things backwards. When I was 16 I gave birth to my first son, THEN I got married when he was 4 months old. Divorced by age 25, I found the love of my life when I was 26. Graduated college at the age of 30. Raised all three of my sons by the age of 42. Now at almost 43, I’m living the life of a 20 something! Playing music and making art, no worries in the world. Traveling, taking risks, life is good.

I have often heard people say “youth is wasted on the young”. I agree! When I was in my 20s I was so serious about everything. There was no time for fun and games! Now that I’m in my 40s, my body doesn’t always agree with the active life I lead. If only I could have appreciated my young body instead of being so self condemning. Looking back it’s always easy to see your mistakes and misperceptions. Do you think that will stop me? Heck NO!

A few years ago at one of my art shows, I met an 80 something woman who was such an inspiration. She told me how her “kids” were disgusted with her for acting like she was in her 20s. She was enjoying her golden years, taking trips around the world by herself, but her kids were worried for her safety. I mentioned something about “growing old gracefully” and she corrected me by saying, “I have no intention of growing old gracefully, my goal is to grow young disgracefully”.

Her statement has stuck with me all these years. That is exactly my intention! I plan on using up this body completely, and enjoying every minute of it! I have had many senior citizen friends throughout my life. I LOVE old people! They aren’t afraid of what other people think about them. They do what they want, when they want, and how they want. They have so many great stories to tell. The healthy ones stay active, live life to it’s fullest! It’s the key to a long, happy life, staying active.

My dad never made it to his senior years, he died the day before his 65th birthday. I plan to live way past that, but you never really know when it will be your time to go! My dad was another role model for this way of life. To celebrate his 50th birthday, he went skydiving! Not long after that, he cashed in his retirement fund, bought an RV and traveled around the country for 2 years until the money ran out. Looking back, I’m so happy he did that! He eventually went back to teaching, but he never got to enjoy his actual retirement because he died 2 months before he was set to retire.

view from the top, aspens changing color

View from the top of the mountain, looking across to the opposite peak where the Aspens are changing colors

That’s why my husband and I are working on a plan to put our belongings into storage, buy an RV, and travel around the country, playing music and selling art as we go. We may even backpack across Europe, after we hike the Continental Divide Trail (3,100 miles long!) LIVING LIFE TO IT’S FULLEST! EVERYDAY! THAT is what life is all about. Stepping out of the comfort zone of a boring, everyday life and doing the things you have always dreamed of doing. NOW, before it’s too late. Life is too short to spend it saying “someday”. NOW is the only time you ever really have.

The Experiment is Over

photo of a New Mexico mountain meadow

New Mexico mountain meadow, who says NM isn’t green?!

We spent 13 months without a car. It was a great experiment! I really enjoyed riding our city buses and walking everywhere. There were only two things we knew we would miss about not having a car, 1. day trips to the mountains to go hiking and, 2. having a way to haul things. Number 2 was taken care of by the generosity of our parents letting us borrow their cars once or twice a month. I believe we were able to get a hike in only 2 or 3 times during the year, and that was what made us finally break down and buy our truck. We still plan to use the public transit and walk as much as possible, but it sure is nice to be able to hop in our truck and take a trip to the mountains.

Sun shining through the Aspens

Sun through the Aspens

We bought our “new” truck last week and spent the next few days fixing up a few things on it so we could go out on Tuesday to HIKE! I’m so happy that we did! We bought a 1987 Ford Bronco II, 4×4. On Tuesday, we took off north of Albuquerque to the San Pedro wilderness in the Santa Fe National Forest. We hiked a portion of the Continental Divide Trail, something we have been fantasizing about for months as we saved to buy our truck. The truck gets the same gas mileage as our old van, but the bonus is, we can go much further into the wilderness with 4 wheel drive!

photo of large aspen grove

We hiked at least a mile through a large Aspen grove, some of the trees were at least 80 years old, judging by the carvings on them from 1934!

On the way up the mountain, I was looking out at the forest and enjoying the scenery, trying not to pay much attention to the CRAZY 4 wheel drive road we were on, high up in the mountains with no guardrails! Luckily, my husband has lots of experience driving those types of roads. Still, it was better if I didn’t look ahead of us! Anyway, while I was watching the forest roll by, I could SWEAR I saw what could have possibly been a BIGFOOT! I so wish I would have had my camera out! What I saw, clear as day, was an upright, tall creature, yellowish brown colored, run through the trees to our right. By the time I asked my husband if he saw what I saw, it was gone. We were DEEP in the forest, on a 4 wheel drive road that had obviously not been traveled in a LONG time. We didn’t run into any people on our hike or anywhere on the 3 separate forest roads we drove on that day. If you have never been to the northern New Mexico wilderness, this is REMOTE country. FREAKED me out! To say the least!

photo of our pooped puppies

Juju and Raven at the end of the hike, Raven was pooped, but Osa was nowhere to be seen, she was having way too much fun chasing squirrels!

By the time we got to the trail head though, I had forgotten all about it. We were going HIKING! The dogs were THRILLED! We ended up going on a 4 hour hike through some of the most beautiful forests I have seen yet. There was at least a mile long Aspen grove with trees that had been carved by people (I hate it when people do that!) as far back as 1934! I love imagining the first people who walked through the forest, perhaps they marked the trees so they could find their way back the way they came.

photo of aaron and his truck

Aaron and his new “baby”, he even got to splash through some mud!

My husband was in heaven, driving his new 4×4 that switched very smoothly into 4 wheel drive and then back out again once we got off the mountain. What a wonderful day! Just the first of many to come!

photo of me with Juju at the end of the hike

Me with Juju at the end of the hike! I was standing on a tree stump, but Aaron cut off my feet in the photo!

YAY Spring!

The past couple of days have been so amazing! Temps in the high 60s, sunshine! Finally coming out of that “last days of winter” funk! Being reminded of why I love living in central New Mexico. We have 4 seasons that pretty much stick to the days on the calendar. Winters are usually pretty mild and short with plenty of sunny, warm days thrown in. So, needless to say, I have spent the last couple of days outside as much as possible! Walking the dogs, hanging out in the back with the chickens, riding the bus/walking around town running errands. So, though it’s been fun, it’s time to get back in the studio and get some work done.

I found out on Monday that my bid was accepted for a mural project. The mural is for a church preschool and will be my first mural ever! I’m so excited, cannot wait to get started on it! Below is a rough sketch of the idea. The preschool is called “Lambs of Grace” and hence the lambs in the meadow. Work will begin on the mural as soon as it’s warm enough to paint outside, so hopefully very soon!

colored pencil sketch lamb mural

Preliminary sketches for Lambs of Grace mural

Today began another weekly art auction, as always starting bid is $9.99. In celebration of Spring, this week’s painting is one that I painted during a cold front at the beginning of December, “Cold Blows In”.

original oil painting on canvas board flower cold

"Cold Blows In", 8 x 8" oil on canvas board, $9.99 starting bid