Thursday, April 08, 2021


(Above:  Steve and me along the perimeter trails at Red Rock State Park outside Sedona, Arizona.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Many people have asked how I maintain such a prolific studio art practice.  The answer always revolves around Julia Cameron's The Artist Way. The Artist Way is more than a book, more than a 12-week program meant for artistic recovery, more than techniques and exercises aimed at jump-starting creativity.  It is a lifestyle.  I'm one of millions, world wide, whose life was transformed.  The Artist's Way changed me. It let me claim my true, artistic self.  I've been through the twelve weeks on two different occasions.

(Above:  Jasper Forest, an area in the southern part of Petrified Forest National Park.)

The Artist's Way works for anyone who really uses it.  Like most things, one receives the benefit of a program if one puts in the effort. The efforts for The Artist's Way can be boiled down to two basic actions.  First, one should write daily, stream-of-consciousness journal entries.  Julia Cameron suggests three, long-hand written pages.  During my second time going through the twelve chapters, I started cheating.  Of course I did!  Instead of hand-writing, I type my "Morning Pages".  I store them on my laptop, filed by date and organized into yearly folders.  I've been loyally doing this since 2007.

(Above:  One of the brilliantly colored sectional logs in the Jasper Forest area of Petrified Forest National Park.)

The other, basic part of The Artist's Way is the habit of going on a weekly "Artist's Date".  Well, I cheat on that one too.  I don't always want/need an hour every week just for myself.  Yet, I know this is important.  It is part of "filling the well" for inspiration.  So, I look forward to times when I can really, seriously, and gloriously step back from my life for more than an hour ... as in travel time ... as in a week away!  Going to Arizona was just this sort of occasion, a time to soak up nature, be in awe of ancient artifacts, eat different foods, drive through foreign looking landscapes, and feel the presence of God, the Great Creator. 

(Above:  Another amazing section of an ancient log, now petrified.)

Steve cashed in some of the frequent flier miles that were returned to us after a canceled 2020 trip and we flew into Phoenix.  Our first day was spent driving up and through Sedona and then taking the perimeter trails at Red Rock State Park.  We logged about six miles and later had a fabulous meal at Lumberyard Brew Pub in Flagstaff near where we stayed the night.

(Above:  Some of the sculptural formations of mountain and eroding stone near Jasper Forest in Petrified Forest National Park.)

The next morning we headed to Petrified Forest National Park, entering from the southern side.  We went to the Visitors Center for trail recommendations.  Why? Well, I really couldn't figure out the trail system.  We wanted to hike, not just walk a paved, wheelchair accessible, quarter-mile loop with nicely placed signage describing the intentionally placed sites.  The park's website was oddly unhelpful even though it listed routes under the title "Off the Beaten Path".  So, we asked the ranger.  Well, there's a reason for my confusion!

(Above:  Holding the photocopied pages showing images of landmarks along one of the "Off the Beaten Path" routes at Petrified National Park.)

The longer, more adventuresome trails really aren't trails at all.  The "Off the Beaten Path" routes are upon request. The ranger showed us all that are available.  We picked two:  Jasper Forest in the southern part of the park and Onyx Bridge in the northern area.  We were given two, photocopied pages for each route.  On the pages were short descriptions accompanying pictures of landmarks. The idea is that visitors walk from one landmark to another ... if they can find them.  We were warned that many people "get lost" ... but not to worry.  Off we went to the Jasper Forest Overlook and to the route that was supposed to be three miles in all.  We were okay for the first two images.  Then, we were "lost".  There was no need to worry though.  We walked for three miles into the vast landscape littered with giant petrified logs but at no time were we out of sight of the overlook.  We saw a deer running up an embankment, inspected all sorts of plants, and snapped pictures of colorful, petrified wood that seemed EVERYWHERE.  Our conversation swirled around "What is rare?"  Petrified wood is rare but it is also plentiful in Jasper Forest!  There's something truly profound on such a walk.

(Above:  The red hills between the cliff and the desert floor in the northern section of Petrified Forest.)

Then, we drove to the northern section of the park, to the historic Painted Desert Inn which was closed due to the pandemic but beside which our next "Off the Beaten Path" started.  We knew the initial section would be a descent of 300' to the desert floor.  From the cliffside, we walked through a maze of red hill mounds and out onto the flatter, desert floor.  We nearly got lost again but were determined to find the next landmark on our photocopied guide.  At last, we saw the cut-off butte. The picture was taken from close range ... when the ninety degree angle was obvious ... with sky behind it ...


 ... like it is in the selfie we took.  From where one stands after leaving the red hill mounds, it is nearly hidden in the rest of the mountain range ... far away ... as in over a mile!  There are only nine pictures for the route to onyx bridge.  The distance though is TWO WHOLE MILES.  We definitely felt like explorers!

(Above:  Onyx Bridge.)

We also felt quite accomplished in finding Onyx Bridge, an ancient, petrified log that once spanned a wash in the desert.  Feeling great, we turned around to head back ... and saw that at no point were we really ever out of site of the Painted Desert Inn perched atop the cliff!  Our hikes totaled about six miles.

(Above:  Mr. Maestas Restaurant in Holbrook, Arizona.)

We checked into a cheap hotel in Holbrook, showered, and headed to Mr. Maestas Restaurant.  It was filled with antiques, had great food, and an excellent staff.

(Above:  One of many old vehicles behind the restaurant.)

Holbrook, Arizona is a charming place of decay and memories of yesteryear.  I think every vehicle registered to someone living there is still there.  The rock shops sell petrified wood by the pound and have more than one or two fake dinosaurs to lure in tourists. 

(Above:  Packages of flavored, dried crickets.)

Before leaving, we tanked up the rental car.  Inside the gas station I found packages of flavored crickets for sale!  I asked if I could snap this picture.  "Sure", was the answer!  On the flip side, I read that they have absolutely no nutritional value, but the cashier assured me that lots of people just love this snack!

(Above:  One of thousands of giant saguaro cacti in Saguaro National Park outside Tuscon.)

We headed over meandering back roads leading toward Tuscon and to the eastern section of Saguaro National Park.  There, we hiked two more trails ... a total of another five or six miles but over rather flat surfaces.  I took lots of pictures of the giant saguaros ... both of alive ones ...

... and the wooden "bones" of the dead ones.  The weather was perfect.  There were very few people on any of the trails we took.

(Above:  A blooming ocotillo cactus.)

We checked into our Towne Place Suite room for a good night's rest ... because we planned on more hiking the next day in the western section of Saguaro National Park. 

(Above:  Along the Hugh Norris hiking trail in the western section of Saguaro National Park.)

We also knew that the hiking in the western section would be over much more roughed land.  At the Visitor Center we were recommended to take the Hugh Norris trail, a 2.7 mile hike up over 1000' in elevation to the junction with the Sendero Esperanza Trail ... and then turn around.  Well, we made it! But, we didn't turn around!  We went for a little distance on the Sendero Esperanza, took the Dobe Wash trail back down the mountain, and then had to walk almost two miles back along the unpaved loop road to our car.  We did it! A little over SEVEN miles!  There will come a day when we will be restricted to the simpler paths and the wheelchair paved walks ... but that day wasn't last week!  My soul is filled with inspiration, gratitude, happiness and a refreshed mindset for making more artwork.  That's quite an "Artist's Date"!  

The next day we spent four wonderful hours at the Sonora Desert Museum.  Reservations were made on line for an early arrival ... 7:45 AM.  We were there for more than four hours, arriving just in time for rattlesnake feeding!  WOW!  (Yes, the snakes swallowed whole, dead mice that were dangled in front of them on long tong-like tools!)  We also saw javelina, a wolf, a fox, an ocelot, lots of spiders, a great pastel art exhibit, fossils, minerals, a pool of stingrays, and lots and lots of beautiful plants.  Below are some of the hundred of so photos I took!  Enjoy!


O'Quilts said...

Thank you for this great post. I grew up in Phoenix and went to ASU. I am glad you were able to appreciate the state while still able to hike...Arizona is magnificent. xo

Anne Godwin said...

I've been there once and keep trying to get my husband to go. Such a beautiful, spiritual place. You took some gorgeous photos. Thanks for taking us along.

Ann Scott said...

I'm so happy to read about your adventures and the photos are wonderful. Safe and Happy Trails to you two!

Susan Lenz said...

Thanks so much for reading my blog post and especially about the nice comments on my photographic skills. Believe it or not, I took all these images on my iPhone. It is lighter weight than my camera and fits into my back pocket. Of course, I really shouldn't take credit for how nice they look. I'm rather sure the beauty is found in perfect weather over a most lovely landscape!

Sherrie Spangler said...

So glad you enjoyed Tucson! I just moved here last year and am continually amazed by the trails and desert plants. The Desert Museum is a real treasure.

Catherine - Mixed Media Artist said...

Love your artists' date - and as I scrolled some of your plant pictures, I could almost see a mandala unfolding in them...