Posted on 4 Comments

Road Trip Colorado and Utah

I’ve been making a trip to Colorado every year for the past 4 years. Michael and I lived there in the 80s and I really miss parts of it. It’s so beautiful but like Michigan, where I am originally from, I don’t want to be there in the winter. I visit my friend who was a woodworker and also owned a gallery for 40 + years.

This years trip took us to Glenwood, Aspen, Grand Junction, Moab, Telluride, Crested Butte, Denver, and Boulder.

On the way west I saw this sign during a pitstop in Frisco. It’s really become a neat little town.


And we made a quick stop in Vail at the Betty Ford Alpine Garden. It was founded in 1985. And always have to stop at Piece Art Gallery, used to be Pismo when I knew the owner, a beautiful glass gallery. We carried some of the same artists but the main reason I stop there is to see the work of Stephanie Trenchard. She does this amazing cast glass sculpture. Here is an example. I met her years ago at an ACC show in Baltimore. She had this piece that was 6 feet tall of a lady. I’ve never forgotten it. At the time I could not afford it. There have been a few pieces of art I wish I would have gotten through the years and that piece is probably #1.

This is a crevice garden, I’ve been taking photos of these whereever I’ve seen them, like Botanical Gardens in Montreal, the Bronx, Plants Delight and Denver and plan to make one at my new house. I love the way the rocks are on their edge. It’s what we always called a rock garden but the difference is the rocks on edge I guess.
Columbine, the state flower of Colorado

Glenwood Springs

We always start our trips with a soak in the hot springs in Glenwood Springs, it’s probably the part I miss most about our time living there. It was especially neat to go in the winter with snow all around and steam rising off the pool. There used to just be the old springs but in 2015 they opened Iron Mountain Hot Springs. This year we just went to IRON Mountain because it was really hot out and they have shade. They also have 16 small pools, each with a slightly different temperature, and one larger cool pool. AND they have a bar although I can’t imagine driving home after soaking in hot water, in the sun, for a couple hours, and drinking on top of it. We did not partake!

We stayed at Four Mile Creek B and B owned by a jeweler, and a musician. They both owned a gallery with the friend I was traveling with, A Show of Hands in Cherry Creek – Denver. The rooms are full of art, as is the yard, and the food is really good.


An afternoon drive up Hwy 82 gave me my Aspen fix, I love that town and enjoyed the 6 years we lived there. A lot was still shut down from Covid but we walked around and enjoyed the beautiful city. I always love seeing the Maroon Bells, just look to the right as you begin to enter town.

Hotel Jerome

But before we got to Hwy 82 we took the back road to Carbondale – thats Mount Sopris ahead, we could see it out our window from Aspen, from the other side of it obviously.


On the way to Aspen we stopped in Carbondale at True Nature Healing Arts. They have an amazing garden, restaurant, and labyrinth. Did you know there is a website that shows the location of labyrinths around the world? They list 6150 worldwide and 166 in North Carolina, including the one Martin made on Guion Street here in New Bern.

We then headed off towards Utah, stopping in a gallery in downtown Grand Junction. It’s been about 35 years since I’ve been there and they have done a lot with their downtown. It’s full of sculpture and thriving businesses. My favorite part is they took their very wide Main street and made part of it into a park on each block, traffic still goes two directions and there is parking but also now trees, shade, benches, etc.


On the way to Moab we took US 6 off of I-70 to visit the wide spot in the road, the town of Cisco. It’s a very funky tiny village but seems to have become a tourist attraction, the official population is 4. It was a railroad town but in Eileen Muza started an artist residency. There can’t be more than a dozen buildings and most might best be described as shacks.

From there we passed Fishers Towers, this is where you first get a glimpse of what eventually becomes the Grand Canyon.

This is an amazing area of some of the tallest freestanding towers in North America.

Just before you get to the towers you cross the Colorado River. Up until 2008 there was this neat bridge over the Colorado River called Dewey Bridge.

It was destroyed during a brush fire so just its skeleton is left.

Remains of Dewey Bridge

I generally don’t like bridges but for some reason I liked this one. It was a suspension bridge, one way, and the decking was wood planks that bounced up and down as you drove over them, so disappointing that others don’t get to experience it.


Moab was next, I usually go west in the fall but this year I went in June, It was 109 degrees the three days we were there! I LOVE Arches National Park but we didn’t hike too much because of the heat but were able to see most of the major arches and just seeing the canyon walls is breathtaking.

The next day we got up at 5 am to drive into Canyonlands National Park, the road to it is almost across the street from Arches. We got up early to see the sunrise at Mesa Arch. It was a fairly short hike from the parking lot, we weren’t the only crazy people to be there that early, there were probably 40 other people there too. A lot has changed in this park since we were there last, the roads were all dirt and the signage was limited, I don’t think there was a visitors center either.

On that trip we were in our 1969 VW bus and were tooling along when three big horn sheep ran in front of our vehicle, they might have been going 10 miles an hour! In unison they came to a screeching halt and turned to look at us.

This year there were some fires so everything was a little hazy. We didn’t actually see a fire or where the smoke was coming from until we headed south out of town. Don’t know what people do that live where there are fires and have respiratory issues, three days was enough for me to be coughing and having a runny nose.

In this photo you can see the plume of smoke.


Telluride was our next stop, visiting all the galleries and shops. The beautiful waterfall is Bridal Veil Falls, a 365-foot waterfall at the end of the box canyon overlooking the city. Hiking and off-road trails pass by the falls and it has a hydroelectric power plant at its top. In winter people actually climb up the frozen waterfall. I say NO WAY.

Ophir, Ouray, and Montrose

North of town we drove part way over Ophir pass, as far as the little mining town of Ophir which has a population of 193. The towns elevation is 9700 feet. I was impressed with the flowers on the utility poles in town and I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo of them or the lemonade stand we stopped at. I said to the girls that they probably didn’t get much traffic (dirt road, over a high mountain pass, 11789 feet), but they said they did pretty well! We did drive all the way over the pass years ago when we had an old Land Rover.

We stayed in Montrose, visiting their botanical gardens, THEY have a crevice garden too!. Montrose isn’t all that pretty but it is the shopping hub for the whole area.


Ouray is another mining town north of Montrose and over the mountain from Telluride. It also has a hot springs. We were going to soak in it but it was too hot, and there is no shade. So we just gazed at it longingly. Lots of nice shops, lots of restaurants and some galleries, all packed with people.

I remember doing a drawing of this Hotel years ago

A Trip over Red Mountain Pass was hair raising with logging trucks, no guard rails, and steep dropoffs. You pass Yankee Girl mine and a host of others. There are no guard rails because the road is open all winter, the road is narrow, and the snow plows have to push the snow off the edge.

There is a parking lot across from the Yankee Girl that has signboards talking about the history of the mines and the railroads.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Leaving Montrose it’s just a short drive to the south rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It’s interesting because there is a lot of red rock around but the cliffs in this canyon are black, or at least appear black due to the fact that it is narrow and is in shadow most of the time. This canyon is one of the best exposures of ancient (nearly 2 billion years old) Precambrian-aged rocks in the world.

A quick stop at a coffee shop in Gunnison, the Tributary, kept us going – then we went up the Gunnison Valley to Crested Butte.


Crested Butte

I used to do an art show in Crested Butte every year. One year I drove the VW bus over Cottonwood Pass, it’s remote and the summit is 12126 feet, only to lose my clutch half way over it. I managed to make it to Crested Butte and some guys helped me find someone to fix it while I did the art show. These were the days before cell phones. Thinking back I had some very interesting experiences roaming the mountains by myself. I could have gotten out of the jams easier if I would have had a cell phone. Of course who knows if I would have had service. I could do a whole blog post about those experiences! Losing the fuel pump in the middle of an intersection in St George after being in the desert alone miles from humanity; blowing a piston through the top of the engine between Grand Junction and Glenwood where there is NOTHING for miles and miles and hitching a ride with a guy with a gun laying on the backseat; helping people get unstuck on Independence Pass at the narrowest section and being the last person to make it down before they closed it for the winter ; then losing the clutch, yikes!

Crested Butte seemed a little more touristy than it used to be but it was still nice to be there. We ate in a great Thai restaurant, Ryce Asian Bistro, visited all the galleries, and stayed at Elevation Hotel and Spa where we swam in the pool and soaked in the outdoor hot tub.

Front Range

Back on the Front Range we went to the Farmers Market in Boulder, visited downtown Louisville, and looked at murals in Denver.

The mural program in Denver is called Crush Walls, it’s been going for a dozen years. Each year they paint over some of the murals. Last year 80 murals were painted. I don’t know how they decide which ones to keep. These are some of my favorites.

Our last treat was to visit the Denver Botanical Gardens. It’s a beauty.

Then I zoomed home to finish cleaning out East Front Street house, work on new house, and get ready for my next RV trip to the northeast in late summer. And get some artwork done – the Artists Studio Tour is coming up the first Saturday of November – my new place will be one of the stops and then I’ll be the featured artist for November at Carolina Creations.

Stay tuned and stay safe!

Posted on 8 Comments

Road Trip 3 Florida State Parks, bats, and butterflies

In May I took my RV to Florida to visit 3 State Parks meeting a friend with her RV. We started at Paynes Prarie Preserve near Gainesville. The park itself covers 21,000 acres, there are hiking trails, biking trails, a large lake, an observation tower, free roaming horses and bison, lots of birds and alligators. The shower in the campground was one of the best I’ve been in and each campsite had a buffer between it and the next one.

One of my favorite things were the American Lotus. Along I-75 you can see them and from the road that goes from the Park into Gainesville.

Frankly the alligators I could do without but we did have an amazing encounter with one on the La Chua Trail which is in the NE part of the park. There is a board walk that goes around a large sink hole called the Alachua Sink, that was filled with hyacinth and gators. As we walked along we could see an alligator here and there along the edge and all of a sudden a plane passed overhead and they all started bellowing. It was really something to hear!

As we were standing on the boardwalk all of a sudden a giant (14 footer) alligator attacked another one that was right in front of us, probably 15 feet ahead. The one being attacked obviously was in the spot the big one wanted to be in. All of a sudden this giant guy came straight at us, and stopped underneath us under the boardwalk we were standing on. We could tell how big he was because the boardwalk was 8 feet wide and he stuck out 3 feet on each side. What an experience! He sat there underneath us (fortunately the boardwalk was about 6 feet above him) for about 10 minutes then continued on his way to another hole.

My friend is also an artist, taught art and science, rides a trike, and owned a gallery for many years, so we have a lot of common interests. I’m more apt to want to see the towns than she and she’s more interested in the alligators than I am but that makes us each go see things we might not otherwise.

We were both interested in seeing 500,000 bats fly out of the bat houses at the University of Florida! Why do they have these big bat houses? Well it turns out bats had taken up residency in a stadium at the University and the smell and mess they made caused the school to take action. They built the bat houses but it took a few years before the bats started to inhabit them. At dusk every night people gather near the houses to watch the bats emerge.

Another thing we enjoyed at the university is the Butterfly Rainforest, a 6,400-square-foot screened exhibit. It was the best butterfly house I’ve visited and I’ve been to a few. The thing I found most interesting is the extensive research lab associated with it. They have one of the world’s largest Lepidoptera collections, representing most of the world’s 20,000 butterfly species and many of the estimated 245,000 moth species. The laboratories focusing on molecular genetics, scanning electron microscopy, image analysis, conservation and captive propagation of endangered species.

I had driven through the little town of Micanopy before, but never knew how to pronounce it – Mick-a-no-pee. It’s just down the road from the State Park, this town is the perfect example of old Florida. There is a great coffee and pastry shop in a typical Florida cracker style house, Mosswood Farm Store & Bakehouse. We talked to one of the owners a bit and told her that we had both been retailers and complimented her on the shop, the merchandise, the way it was displayed, etc. We said the only difference was if our stuff didn’t sell right away we didn’t have to throw it away. She said “we never throw it away, our husbands Hoover it up!”

We took several drives through the countryside and one of the sites we passed was the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park, she was the author of the Yearling. It’s in the tiny village of Cross Creek, another “Old Florida” town. The live oaks in the area are amazing. And we saw this turkey and chicks.

We discovered two plants I had never seen before, the White Prickly Poppy, and another called the Tarflower. I am seldom in Florida in May which is probably why I’ve never seen them before.

We rode a bit on the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, where we were was a bit hilly so we didn’t ride far. Trikes are not known for going up hills easily! But it IS a beautiful trail, we just picked the wrong part of it to ride.

There was a lot more to see in the area that we didn’t get to like the Botanical Gardens, the Museum of Art, the Solar walk, Planetarium, History Museum, lots more trails to hike, and Primate Sanctuary just to name a few things.

Highlands Hammock State Park
From there we moved to Highlands Hammock State Park near Sebring. We didn’t like the campground as much, it was wide open with no buffer between sites but the bathrooms were nice. There are also wilderness campsites in the park. It was, however, a great place to ride our bikes and there is even a bike trail all the way into town and you can ride around Lake Jackson.

CCC Museum

This is one of Floridas oldest parks and the CCC did a lot of work there. In fact there is a really nice CCC museum in the Park. There are 8 hiking trails and a wonderful 3 mile paved loop through the hammock. In many respects, the CCC was actually responsible for the creation of the Florida State Park system in 1935, allowing the state to take advantage of federal labor and funding to improve conservation lands. In all, eight Florida State Parks were developed under the program. The CCC set up the first of its 86 Florida camps in Sebring in 1933, and work in the park began on roads, bridges, the concession building and a visitor center.

Highlands Hammock State Park is home to more threatened or endangered species of plants and animals than any other state park in Florida, and many of these species play important roles in the ecosystems of the park.

One example is the gopher tortoise. These tortoises get their name from the long, underground burrows that they live in – like gophers. Many other species rely on these burrows for shelter, especially during fires.

The only animals we saw in the park were wild boars, an alligator that had obviously been fed because he made a beeline to us when we set up our easels to paint, and a couple deer.

This park is full of old growth live oaks dating back 1000 years.

There is a lot of shopping in Sebring, the Sebring International Raceway, Military Sea Services Museum, a live Theatre, a beach, Childrens Museum, airboat rides, a winery, fishing, and it is just south (30 miles) of Bok Tower and Lake Wales. I visited there last November, my favorite part was the tower and the lily pads.

Lily pads at Bok Tower

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park
The campground at this park is quite small and this Park is pretty remote and you might say there is really nothing there. It’s touted a a “dark sky” place where you can see the milky way. Yes there were a lot of stars but I was a little disappointed having seen the skies in places like Steamboat Rock in NW Colorado where there isn’t a streetlight for a hundred miles or more. That being said it’s quiet and seeing the wind blowing over the prairie grass is pretty relaxing.

I know you can see the Milky Way from the Park, but conditions have to be right, no full moon for one thing!

Of the three this was my least favorite and would probably not go back. We did ride around Lake Okeechobee and would have ridden our bikes on the trail but at the time many sections were closed.

The neatest thing we saw here were the CaraCara falcon and great sunsets.

This photo is from the Audubon Society, mine did not turn out this good.

So in my opinion Paynes Prairie was the winner! Next up – A trip to Colorado in June.