Outdoor creativity

The outdoors is my creative space. I’m not sure if it’s because of nature inspiring me or because hiking stimulates my mind. It’s likely a combination of both.

Writing

Ever since I started walking outside on my own as kind in my parents’ cow pastures, I found the experience enlightening. A lot of times I think out story ideas and put them to paper. I haven’t published any of these, but you might see something in the near future.

I have also written a poem inspired by nature and how it offers peace. I layered with the scariness of cancer and compared it to a dirty city.

Where the Prarie Meets the Sky

Cankered walls of urban blight,

Doors of other’s lives closed and boarded.

Trapped in my own barred cell,

My dreams and future disregarded.

Dreams, where the prairie meets the sky,

Rolling mountains, benign tumors

kept safe by the Snake River,

Winding around in health and humor.

Sitting in the dark and damp,

my heart longs more

for gentle Ticklegrasses that caress

my cheek while swaying in warm air

Running barefoot through the plains

straight to water’s edge,

Looking for a pale mutated face,

Instead a smiling, friendly sketch

And a sudden splash from salmon,

The river thrives and provides

healthy growth seen in the tallest conifers and aspens,

Bringing life to my insides.

Mule deer and rabbits graze,

Growth where it is supposed to be,

encouraged by the compassionate sun,

Never scourged by acute disease.

Pulled away from the harmless world

I relapse into the state I’m in,

The reality of my evil plague,

There is no remission.

Photography

I’ve also thought of art ideas. One of the more obvious ways to express art in the outdoors is through photography. I love to have a camera when I’m hiking. Since I graduated high school I’ve used a Nikon D3000.

Since moving to Wyoming one of my favorite photography subjects has been the Indian Paintbrush. I’m fascinated how it grows in both desert and alpine climates and how it looks different in those two environments.

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I also love the landscape of Wyoming and have taken many pictures. It’s been fun to use my camera in manual mode and learn different techniques, like depth of field and shutter speeds as well as adjusting ISO.

 

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Painting

This summer I tried a new experience, painting outside. In the past my paintings have consisted of acrylic and replicas of animal pictures I found on the internet. Last winter I picked up watercolors for the first time since high school and found my love for the medium. I love how the water reacts with the paints, and you’re never one hundred percent how it’ll turn out.

Once I find a medium I also start following several Instagram accounts of artists to learn skills and techniques. One watercolor artist is Nikki Frumkin, who operates the drawntohighplaces account. Nikki lives in Seattle and often paints Mt. Rainier as well as many other mountain landscapes. One of my favorite things about Nikki is that she paints her landscapes while she’s actually there. She’s so dedicated to her art, she even goes out in the cold winter months. I recommend everybody follow her on Instagram to see how the paints freezes on the pages. Check out her website too and you’ll see her prints, calendar and stickers.

Being inspired by her method, I decided that I was going to start painting outside too. It’s a unique experience that gave me a new appreciation for the wild places I visit. I searched the landscape and enjoyed every piece of it instead of focusing on my trail and what was ahead of me. The experience helped me realize details I was oblivious too months before. It also gave me new purpose in protecting the lands I love because I noticed every beetle killed tree spotting the landscape.

Tips and tools for getting started:

53287794_486006698884826_3313731186290851840_n– For my birthday my boyfriend got me water brush pens. These allow you to bring your brushes anywhere. You don’t have to worry about using your drinking water supply for carrying an extra water container. The water sits in the brush handle and is ready at the squeeze of the handle.

– My boyfriend also got me a travel mixing palette that I filled with greens, blues and browns. Mine has ten wells and a slot for a pen or pencil.

– You’ll also want a small watercolor notebook. I got mine from Mossery. Mossery is a Malaysian company. It sells planners, sketchbooks, notebooks and other stationary supplies. My sketchbook has a cardboard type outside that I had personalized with my name with 28 sheets of watercolor paper.

– You can also pack a paper towel or some other material to soak up excess water. It’s also nice to have so you can switch colors without changing brushes or ending up with muddied paints.

– One of my first tips for getting started is to not get discouraged. I wasn’t thrilled with my first painting as you’ll see further down, but I’m proud of my second one. Painting what you see in real time is difficult and takes practice.

– Use nature as a tool. I don’t mean as your subject, but explore how the elements can influence your art. As I mentioned earlier, the Drawn To High Places art has cool examples of how watercolor reacts to freezing temperatures. Let dust react with your work. See how the breeze at the top of the mountain affects your work.

– The next is actually a tip from Nikki Frumkin. If you paint in freezing temperatures, use vodka with your paints instead of water.

My experience:

53752183_503744573364966_978161690514292736_nMy first venture with the watercolor journal was on Kennaday Peak in the Medicine Bow National Forest on August 11th. I am a part of the Platte Valley Jaycees, and we were hosting our annual Snowy Range Duathlon. It’s a biking and hiking/running race that starts near the Lincoln Park Campground, summits Kennaday Peak and ends back at the starting point.

I volunteered to station the summit with the intent to try watercolor painting outside for the first time. Once I got to the summit I picked out a rock that would allow me to get a view of the landscape and keep an eye on the racers.

The sky was smoky that day from the Badger Creek Fire that was burning about 60 miles away. This resulted in a hazy mountain background that I attempted to capture in my painting.

I’m not a huge fan of the painting that came from this excursion, but I didn’t let it discourage me.

 

The next time I brought my watercolor painting outside was a little more than a month later. In Carbon County there is a famous grove of aspen trees called Aspen Alley. Fall enthusiasts can find this treasure traveling west of Encampment on Highway 70. Travel about 25 miles to Deep Creek Road, which is Forest Road 801. From there, travel north for .8 miles.

I went on September 29th. The trees are often in full color by this time, but this past fall many still had green leaves.

I picked a spot off the size of the road to do my painting. To keep the paper from buckling, I used painters tape to hold about five sheets together.

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First I sketched in the trees with a pen. Then I moved to the paints starting with the road and then filling in the trees. The sky and background mountain were last. I’ll admit I took creative liberties, but I liked the outcome. The cool part about this painting is that many cars were driving past me, stirring up dirt from the gravel road. I can still feel the dirt when I run my hand over the page.

With these two paintings under my belt, I’m excited to get back outside with my watercolors. Sitting outside in the cold freezing my hands off isn’t my idea fun, so I’ll leave the winter outdoor art to @Drawntohighplaces. My outdoor art will have to wait until the spring. I learned a new technique to paint deciduous trees, so I’ll return to aspen alley or travel someplace in the Midwest.

 

Here are two paintings inspired by the outdoors but were completed inside.

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My Goals for 2019

I don’t typically take part in New Year’s Resolutions because you shouldn’t limit yourself to a new year to make changes in your life. If you discover an area where you need to grow on December 23rd, you should start on December 23rd. There’s no reason to wait.

Having goals, is different. Year-long goals are a good measure of what you want to do in 365 days. You can also have shorter or longer term goals, like three month goals or 10 year goals.

 

I’m using the SMART Goals guideline to outline the things I want to do this year.

Specific – What exactly will you do?

Measurable – How will you know if you meet your goal?

Achievable – What steps are you going to take to reach your goal?

Relevant – What about your goal makes it important to you?

Timely – When do you want to complete your goal?

 

I’ve decided to share my goals with you, so you can all hold me accountable. I plan to provide you with updates with my accomplishments. My hope is also that these goals will inspire you to develop some plans for 2019 as well.

 

Goal 1: Go on my first solo backpacking trip

I plan to go to Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area in Sweetwater County to complete this goal. I went there with my best friend for my birthday last year. I loved the landscape and saw some even cooler looking landscape off in the distance. We were car camping, so the far off land wasn’t accessible. I plan to park my vehicle at the end of the dirt road. From there I’ll hike south and backpack in Monument Valley.

adobe town

I plan to get a one person backpacking tent to make traveling easier. About a month before my trip I’ll take my backpack out on the trail,  getting to the weight I’ll need for the trip. I will complete my goal this spring or summer.

 

Goal 2: Take a Wilderness First Aid course

Because I spend a lot of time in the outdoors, it’s important that I take the NOLS wilderness first aid course. Plus, I’m planning on getting involved in a program that requires this course (can’t reveal what it is yet). I plan to take the course in April.

 

Goal 3: Catch a fish on a fly rod

I got a fly rod last summer, but never caught a fish. It’s hard! I’ll try to get out to one of the many lakes around me or to the North Platte or Encampment River at least once a week. I’ll also let my boyfriend teach me more techniques that may help me. I want to complete this goal by July.

fly fishing

 

Goal 4: Updating this blog twice a week

I plan to update this blog with a weekly update on what’s happening to lands and conservation in Wyoming and US. I also want to publish posts that are a little more fun, like this one, on a weekly basis. Doing this helps me to connect and share what’s happening in Wyoming. I’m also invested in the lands in this state and want Wyoming’s quietness to have a louder voice when it needs protection. I’ve already planned and written five other blog posts to get me started. As the year progresses I’ll continue writing and paying attention to the news around me.

 

Goal 5: Backpack the Encampment River Trail

I love this trail. It is my absolute favorite! But I’ve never hiked the whole 15 miles. I plan to change that this summer. I’ll do this with a group. I’ll prepare myself for this hike the same way I’ll prepare for backpacking in the Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area.

encampment river

 

Goal 6: Hike a new trail in the Medicine Bow National Forest.

Two summers ago I worked hard to hike as many trails as possible in the Medicine Bow National Forest. While I knocked a few off my list and discovered some new favorites, I have several trails left to wander. I have a few trails in mind that I’d like to tackle. One is the trail to Medicine Bow Peak from Dipper Lake. It’s the least common route to the top, and the only one I haven’t done. I’m also interested in the Medicine Bow Rail Trail.

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I have a guide book that is specific to the Medicine Bow National Forest, so I’ll use it to plan my adventures. These trips will take place sometime between July and September.

 

Longer term goals

One of my lifetime goals is to travel to every National Park in the United States. So far I’ve visited Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the Badlands National Parks. I have a long ways to go. I’m hoping to be able to visit Voyageurs National Park in August, but I’m not sure I’ll make it there this year. I don’t currently have a timeline of when I’d like to do this, but I would like to complete it by the age of 50.

Another lifetime goal is to hike to the highest point in every state. This one will be a bit harder because to do so, you have to figure out how to get through private property. To date I’ve only made it to the highest point in South Dakota, which is Black Elk Peak.

I have another highest peak goal, which is to get to the highest point in every county in Wyoming. Wyoming has a total of 23 counties, and I believe I’ve made it to the highest point in one. There’s some debate over what is the highest peak in Albany County. I’ve heard it’s either Medicine Bow Peak or Laramie Peak. The guidebook I have says Medicine Bow Peak has about mile of elevation on Laramie Peak. If anybody knows which is higher for sure, let me know! Medicine Bow Peak is 12,013 feet in elevation, for reference. I might make it to Bridger Peak this summer, which is the highest point in Carbon County at 10,950 feet.

 

What are your goals, short or long term?