Saturday, December 24, 2016


       The Grand Oak | Pastel | 12x12

I fell in immediate love with this giant oak!  It presides over a gorgeous forty acres in the nearby town of Loomis, Ca.  Beloved by the former owners who have recently sold it, the property will become a new equestrian center. My challenge was to figure out how to depict the green sameness of the huge canopy of the tree.  I looked up Maxfield Parrish paintings of trees and studied them, loving his dark blue skies and colorful foliage.  As the tree progressed, I became increasingly excited, loving how it came out! Getting high off painting is an acceptable indulgence! I was so excited, I could hardly sleep. 

Painting Notes:  I used one of my dwindling supply of Wallis Warm Belgian Mist paper which I cannot get anymore.  It performed beautifully, allowing me to apply multiple layers of darks, and sky, applying fixative in between layers. I'm loving using Spectrafix as it allows me to layer areas as I paint. The only downside I can find to it is when using it for plein air (on site paintings), it takes a good 12-15 minutes to dry which can eat up valuable time if the light is rapidly changing in the early mornings or late afternoon.  

Sunday, December 11, 2016


       Cliff Notes  | Pastel | 8x6

There was just enough light left in the day. As I came up the hill, I saw the giant eucalyptus was backlit and the three cliff receding into obscurity.  I parked and set up quickly.  As is usual for this time of the last light of the day, the scene changed in me at least five times in the short hour I painted.  I put it away and later, in the studio, made a few adjustments to keep the foreground and background consistent for the same time of day.  We call it 'chasing the light' in plein air terms and it is one of the reasons why on-site painting has such a fresh look to it.

Painting Notes:  I pulled out my Sennelier Irridescents for the pampas grass, convinced they would give the plumes the glow I wanted. After applying two light colors of them, I found I got the glow from putting a 'regular' light for their finishing touches.  The whole idea behind the scene was to capture the glow of evening.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


     Fence Shadows | Pastel | 8x6

On arrival day for this year's Capitola Plein Air, I had just enough time to scout out a few places for possible paintings during the 4 days we were given to paint.  I recalled liking the scenes from the River Walk and headed there to find the late afternoon shadows streaming through this fence attracted me.
I loved the bridge faintly in the background with just a hint of the River. In the foreground, the pink mophead hydrangeas leaves had all turned autumn oranges and yellow, giving a nice analogous reverberation off each other. I loved that I could create so much depth in such a small painting.  I was thrilled to later, at Sunday's show receive an Honorable Mention ribbon for it! And it sold shortly thereafter! Double bonus!!

Painting Notes:  I chose Fisher 400 pastel paper for this small guy. Its texture is similar to UArt 600, both of which I prefer for my smaller paintings. Putting the sunlit slits in the shadows of the fence posts was fun and I wanted them to be crisp and prominent.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


    Opal Sea | Pastel | 9x12

Painting in Capitola Plein Air last Friday, i discovered a locked gate and small park that local Capitolans pay $100/yr to have access to a great surfing spot. The gate monitor allowed me to come in to check out the view of the north facing side of Capitola's famed Opal Cliffs and then to set up and paint on the highest deck of the staircase down to the sea. I thought the sun was getting to me when I kept seeing a kaleidoscope of colors -a prism- appearing on the water's surface just before the white of the wave break! Then a local told me that since the recent red tide, this phenomena had been readily visible especially at high tide. Way more than the cliffs reflection, all the colors in the rainbow were like glass on the surface. It was mesmerizing and I tried to capture a bit of it in this painting.  

Painting Notes:  I knew right away this would become a good painting so I used one of my last few pieces of Wallis Warm Beige pastel paper.  We've all had to find other papers to use since it's withdrawal from the market but the two hours I spent with it renewed my love for its surface!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


     ASPEN GLOW | Pastel | 6x6

I still GLOW when I think of this magic little lake in Utah we spent one of our last nights on our two month trip across Canada and back thru the US.  The turning leaves were peaking and they just shimmered in the last light of the evening. I grabbed a buttery oakley Chardonnay and called to my husband to come join me for sunset. The moment was pure magic as we watched in awe till there was no more light.

Painting Notes:  Painting reflections in water is a delight using pastels.  The method I use is to make a corresponding mark in the water (using a shade darker/duller) as I make my mark above the water. The reflective mark is done looser as well. When I'm done with the land marks, I fill in and correct the water marks, then put on my finger cot (a bill counter turned inside out) and make a smooth downward stroke from the waterline down off the page, wiping the cot after each stroke. Once I've done this across all the water, I make a few horizontal swipes to indicate ripples and voilá, c'est fini!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


   Nevada City's Broad Street | Pastel | 12x9

Saturday was a fun Paint Out for the local chapter of the California Art Club in Nevada City, CA.  This is a wonderful vintage town filled with Victorian architecture and fun shops. I picked a street scene to try and hone my skills at doing one. I found it difficult to simplify but still enjoyed the experience. It was challenging to get the perspective correct as the sidewalk in front of me was descending.

Painting Notes: I used a soft textured paper from England called Fisher 400 that I've come to enjoy. The drawing took two times or more longer than a 'normal' landscape as the need for some accuracy was important.  I gridded the paper and used Value Viewer to make my drawing as accurate as possible due to the perspective challenges that most street scenes have. Getting the figure accurate in its placement and height to other features was critical. I saved the cars til last and spent a while doing thumbnails again to see if I could delete them altogether but realized they are an essential element to this Composition. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


        CAPE BRETON ESTUARY | Pastel | 11x14

The Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia is made up of rugged pink granite and inlet after inlet of the next inlet!  I took a photo of this particular inlet on the fly, leaning in front of my husband while snapping a pic thru the windshield. Not to worry as, before painting it, I will alter the shapes...and the values...oh! and the colors! It's all about that license thingy.

Painting Notes:  I used a resurfaced, scrapped, sprayed and regritted with Liquitex Gesso paper. No idea what it started out as, but love the abuse it took!  Today was the first day of listening to Bryan Mark Taylor's The Master's Mind and I took Lesson One on Composition and Dynamic Shapes to heart by doing three thumbnails which resulted in me changing the major shapes - some drastically - and sure 'nough, made the design more pleasing. 

Monday, October 17, 2016


         Canoeing to Sunset |  Pastel | 6x6

We drove up and up into the hills over miles of bumpy dirt road.  The terrain went quickly from the maritime flatness of the banks of the St Lawrence River to boreal forest. After setting up at our campsite, we walked down to the lake.  The light was at its evening's best, luminous and shiny as tho touched with silver. A young couple came out of their cabin, walked to the shoreline and got into a canoe. They paddled across the lake heading straight for the setting sun.  We could feel the romance of the moment and set down on the beach to enjoy the sunset from our vantage.

Painting Notes:  The smoothness of Fisher 400 paper is why it was my choice for this silky water painting.  I gravitated toward using highlights from a recent purchase of Sennelier Iridescent pastels.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


         Peggy's Cove | Pastel | 9x12

It was a dark and stormy day as we headed to the infamous Peggy's Cove on the isle of Nova Scotia. In the US, we have Rockport in Massachusetts as our iconic New England coastal village. In Canada, Peggy's Cove is the equivalent. As we drove toward it we realized everyone on our small road was headed there.  Passing the sign stating 'Welcome to Peggy's Cove Provincial Park', the urban landscape abruptly disappeared.  Rolling rises of granite rocks wove in between countless inlets. Arriving at the harbor, I threw on my rain gear and went out into the chilly bluster, snapping photos madly, as for me, this kind of weather is the true Atlantic shore.

Painting Notes: Finally, a use for a sheet of La Carte light blue gray! I took classes for years from pastelist Reif Erickson who loved sanded La Carte paper. I quickly remembered its virtues - it takes a light touch and doesn't require a heavy use of ones pastels. Subtlety is its virtue and it keeps me from noodling the form to death! It was perfect for depicting this foggy gray day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


     The Forest thru the Trees | Pastel | 6x6

Aspen are my current passion!  On our recent trip thru Colorado, we hit a stretch of 30 miles deep inside a forest of them. Each trunk has such an individual personality, I was tempted while painting these to give them each a name. Ah! But I know a grove of Aspen are all from the same root, making them the largest living organism on our planet. Studying them, some seemed to have eyes looking back at me. Many seemed to have scars and wounds and there were a lot of stretch marks. In my imagination, I could make up a story about these sisters just by looking at their trunks!

Painting Notes: I drew this one in carefully, putting the dark markings on the bark first. Then the background color choices - the darkest colors in each shape - went it. First I worked the upper background, then I went straight into the individual trees, saving the grasses and trunks for last as they needed to weave into each other. I relied heavily on my Rembrants for the grasses and got to use the new Terry Ludwig set of Yellows extensively.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


        THE WINDING ROAD | Pastel |  6x6

It was a gorgeous Kentucky morn, crisp and clean from recent rains.  In September, we were visiting my cousins in Glendale Ky, formerly Walker's Station. A town grew up around my great-great grandfather's store on the railroad line that to this day runs trains through the town right in front of my grandparents lovely vintage home and Pappa's Hardware Store, now an Antique Mall. I love to tell folks how the population of Glendale is only 400 and I'm related to 300 of them!  As an Air Force brat who moved every three years, I adopted my Dad's Glendale as 'my home town' along with Elizabethtown just 12 miles away where Mom was from.  The businesses in the town until faded until, in the mid 1970s, a fabulous Kentucky cook opened a restaurant right on the corner of Main Street by the tracks.  Soon thereafter, lines would begin to form and people were willing to wait hours for a table. Townspeople quickly opened antique & gift stores to keep this captive audience entertained while they waited for some Old Kentucky ham & biscuits with gravy and sweet tea!  In October every year, they hold the Glendale Crossing Festival which gets upwards of 80,000 folks through it on a given Saturday!!  I'm so proud of my home town and delighted in visiting it again on the return of our trip across eastern Canada.

Painting Notes:  I set out painting this with the intention that I would spend some quality time on it as I want to submit it to the Randy Highbee 6x6 show coming in December.  I put in the background underpainting last night, smoothed it in with a PanPastel sponge (great tool!!) and sprayed it with ISO alcohol.  I got so caught up in the excitement of painting it today that I have no idea how long I spent on it - probably an hour and a half, but 1 1/2 hours where I was purely in the zone!  I use the sponge lightly on a couple of parts where my marks were too 'dit-dot' and love how it knocked it back just enough to keep the emphasis on where I want the eye to go.

Thursday, October 6, 2016


     Into the Wild | Pastel | 14 x 11
We drove to Estes Park Colorado where we entered Rocky Mountain National Park. Driving from east to west, the road and vistas were awesome! We arrived at Timber Creek Campground where we found a great site looking out into the wild around us!  We walked over to the river and started hearing this haunting metallic sound. The elk stags were bugling as the rut was on! To the left, one would utter his cry only to be answered immediately by one to the right! This most special body of water is the head waters of the mighty Colorado River!!

Painting Notes: I chose a larger size as I'm determined to up my 'quick draw' sizes during this October 31 ptgs in 31 days challenge. Sure enough it took me only slightly longer than my itsy- bitsy 4 x 6 last night. I cut an 11x14 piece from a Canson Mi-Teintes sheet I bought for a Gil Dellinger 'Working Large' Workshop I attended several years ago. It is just rough enough that I have not liked this substrate for my 9x12 and smaller formats. But it worked great for this larger size and I was pleased with the gritty surface.


     Mountain Flames | Pastel | 6x8

Our neighbor from the campsite across from us greeted us as we arrived at Cabe Lake Campground just 10 miles east of Ely Nevada. From Las Vegas, he, his wife and mother were staying there for a week or so as it is one of their favorite destinations.  The next morning I set about to paint a scene I had picked out the day before and Donnie drove by just as I was finishing. Later he queried my husband as to whether I would sell it. When I joined them I told him IF we were staying and IF he caught a couple of fish I would have been willing to trade some trout for the painting. Just so happens he had two freshly caught trout up in his freezer! The deal was made and we enjoyed a half hour of sprightly conversation in which we found he (my age) had been stationed during the Vietnam war at Uban, an airbase close to Nakon Penong (NKP) where my Dad had been the vice commander just two years earlier than him.  Henceforth i shall refer to this painting now as my 'two trout painting'!

Painting Notes:  Knowing time was short to paint the next morning, I drew the scene in the night before, covered the surface with the darkest shades for each of the big masses and sprayed it with Spectrafiz so it would be ready to paint on the next morning; thereby shortening the process by a half hour.  I'm really liking Spectratone fixative but en Plein air it takes too long to dry (+15-20 min) so I will use Isoprophyl alcohol at 90% usually on location.

Sunday, October 2, 2016



Monday Sept 26
From the reservoir at Taylor Park, we head west down a lovely canyon to Almont in central Colorado where we
turn right on Rt 135 heading north for Crested Butte. 
Just outside Created Butte, we encounter a road repair delay where we must wait for a half hour to pass thru a mudslide they are repairing near the top of the Kebler Pass. On the other side, we pass thru the most awesome aspen forest for 30 miles. Keyhole shots of Mt Gunnison at 12,719 are breathtaking. 
We both take photo after photo of all we see, hearts singing the whole way! At one stop, I pull out my sketchbook and briefly sketch an inspiring vista. That evening I play with my watercolors on the sketch.
The loveliness just continues all day long!
I definitely have paintings of aspen trees in my future!
Heading south towards Rt 40 between Montrose and Gunnison, we see the Black Canyon of the Gunnison (River) National Park. A drive in takes us to a steep chasm craved by the massive volumes of water and magma instrusions. 
Years ago, I had a fear of heights that went on for ten or so years until I finally grew out if it. Looking down brings it right back as it is so dizzying for me that my stomach flutters and my hands shake!  
We head a bit east to camp along the huge reservoir east of Gunnison called Blue Mesa Reservoir. We find a campground that has two sites- a single site we take and then a gated large group campsite along the stream filled with beaver dams. 
An hour later, a fellow on bicycle (it's obvious by his gear that he is doing a cross country trip) comes by. Dong is from Tianjin, China (China's third largest city after Beijing and Shanghai) and has been traveling the world by cycle for four years!! His story is amazing and we invite him to share the campground, talking into the darkness about his wondrous journeys thru South Africa, New Zealand, Iran, Tibet, and now the Americas! An IT technician, he periodically returns home to work to finance the next trip. But the road keeps calling him and soon he is off again. He's 35 and carries a load of apx 100 lbs. He has several equipment sponsors- his bike and panniers- and uses his iPhone with ATT (best coverage he says) for his route maps and instant translations from Mandarin to English. There are several bike routes for crossing the Americas on the Internet.  He's been principally following the TransAmerica Route since leaving the Midwest.
Tuesday Sept 27
We spent the day driving around Ridgway and Ouray in SW Colorado and looking at properties for sale. We are so struck by the awesome vistas of the two mountain ranges of this valley. Ahead looking south (right) are the San Juan Mountains with 3 peaks over 14,000 in close association near Ouray. 
To our left (SW) is the Cimmarron Range. 
We are in agreement that the vistas here are the prettiest to we've ever seen. But vistas come at a steep price and we realize after some inquiries and that suitable housing may be out of our range! One lovely 13 acre property with an 800' log cabin rented thru VRBO, a small pump house and a couple of small outbuildings, and a stream running thru it is asking $650,000! That's $50k/acre with no suitable house on it! Yikes! 
We console ourselves with dinner in Ridgway at the True Grit Cafe where said film used Ridgway as their setting back in 1969. Photos of John Wayne line the walls!
Hard to see but that's Collin on the balcony just below the yellow orb talking to another diner.
We camp at Ridgway State park where we have a lovely view of the Cimarron Range and a shower the next morning (equally important!)

Wednesday Sept 28
Our tire pressure is low on the back right tire so we return 23 miles to Montrose Big O Tires for repair and again head south on the 550 to Ridgway then Ouray. We stop to walk the short walk up Box Canyon to see the slot falls.
Box Canyon Falls
From there, it is on up and over the alps. One overlook has a large sign stating 'The Switzerland of America'. Having lived in Switzerland back in the '60s I have to agree with them. 
Above 9000' we pass thru Silverton. Mines are everywhere and we also see two moose.
Turning off apx 20 miles past Telluride, we hope there is a campground down the way as there was a tent sign. Seeing a fellow unloading his tri-pod to photograph, we stop to ask. He tells us of a lovely CG just a few miles further. I notice he is wearing a t-shirt I recognize. It has an old airplane on it and says 'Plein Air'. Sure enough, he is a fellow Plein air artists who bought the t-shirt at the 2013 Plein Air Convention in Monterey I also attended! Great talking with Mark Simpkins of Carbondale CO who followed a friends advice to move to Colorado 7 years ago because of his love for painting and photographing mountain scenes. We stay at the lovely Woods Lake CG that evening. It's magic and I hope to paint tomorrow morning but rain all night dashes that hope.

Thursday Sept 29
We missed going into Telluride yesterday so we head back up the 20 miles to see it. The town ends and the road goes on for a short distance into the box canyon at the end. 
Barely discernible in the photo above is a long waterfall streaming down the cliff. A white building next to it has an interesting history of having originally been a hydro plant, then purchased in the 70's by a fellow who changed it into his home, living there until the 90's, when it resumed its uninhabited status and became part of state govt property.
From Telluride we head basically north towards Grand Junction along the Uncompahgre Plateau. Two years ago, my friend Suzi Long and I drove to Albuquerque for the biennial Pastel Convention (IAPS) and took this route. It was one of the best parts of the whole trip so I have convinced Collin it is an essential route (pretty easy).
At one overlook, we stop to read about the Hanging Flume that is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2006, it was listed in the World's Most Endangered List.
The terrain becomes red rock canyons filled with startling buttes and mesas. Suddenly- poof! - we are at Gateway Canyons, a five star resort miles from anything. It was built by the founder of the Discovery Channel and houses his Auto Museum- filled with cherried-out vintage cars, including a +$2 million highest car ever sold at auction! 
To cap off another day of awesome sight-seeing, we camp  at Colorado National Monument's Saddlehorn Campground. High on the plateau, surrounded by hoo-doos and balancing rocks, we look down over Grand Junction, Colo, near the border of Colorado and Utah.
Friday Sept 30
Reluctant to leave Colorado, Collin suggests we head north to Dinosaur National Monument and the Green River which later joins the Colorado River to go thru the Grand Canyon. 
From there it's over towards Vernal Utah. We are blessed with another mountain range of flaming aspens!
Outside Ephraim Utah, we head up a canyon to find a small 12 site campground on a gorgeous little lake - Lake Hill CG. Grabbing a bottle of Chardonnay, two small glasses and our chairs, we perch lakeside listening to a strange drain sound. Collin explores to find the lake is fed by a spring which has a metal filter around its tap. 
As the sun sets, I snap close to 20 photos of this view and wake up early to paint it the next morning!

Saturday October 1
Collin takes a hike while I dive into the scene. I love it when the name of the painting occurs to me while I'm creating it.  This one is called 'Dancing Aspen'.
Realizing our journey is almost over makes me sad. Not one day of these 8 weeks has been without seeing beauty, wondering about something unfamiliar, moments of sheer ecstasy in a view, and just riding on and on, always seeking what's around the next corner! 
Today we head into the High Desert of  western Utah and Nevada. Going west, this next 450 miles to Carson City, NV is all Basin and Range - a seemingly endless series of north/south ranges interspersed with great wide basin valleys, all formed by the North American and Pacific plates clashing together. It extends all the way from the Sierras to the Rocky Mountains.  Years ago Collin read and passed on to me John McPhee's fascinating account of this phenomena entitled 'Basin & Range'. It is a fabulous read. McPhee was a writer for the New Yorker Magazine for years. A story has it that his fellow writers felt he could make interesting any topic so they challenged him to write about a topic of their choosing. His book 'Oranges' on Florida's orange industry was the result and indeed proved the man can make any subject interesting!
At one of my favorite parks, Great Basin Ntl Park, we decide to go thru Lehman Caves. Too bad because on This Particular Saturday they are having an Astrological Festival and all cave tours are booked. On we go to Cave Lake Campground just 10 miles before Ely. There we find another excruciatingly cute mountain lake. I pick out a scene to paint the next morning as I have now decided to commit to another painting challenge - 31 Paintings in 31 Days, this one hosted by the Facebook Group 'How to Pastel'. I missed September's online one I usually do because it wasn't compatible timing with our trip but as we will be home day after tomorrow, I can still do my daily Little Gems - small size painting that I post online and sell unframed.

Sunday October 2
Brilliant sunshine and fluffy clouds greet us at daybreak. Collin takes a bike ride while I paint a scene at Cave Lake CG. Instant title again while painting - 'Mountain Flames'
When we pulled in yesterday, we met our camping neighbor, Donnie Grogan from Las Vegas. After I finish the painting, I walk down to the lakeshore where he is fishing and talking with Collin. Formerly a professional photographer but always a marvelous story-teller, I remark to him that IF we were staying another day and IF he were to catch some fish, I would happily trade my painting for a couple of trout. So happens he has two from yesterday in his freezer! It's a deal and we head back to camp where I exchange the painting for tonight's dinner!  
Donnie is an Air Force Veteran disabled during the Vietnam war by Agent Orange (non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for 10 yrs now-and doing surprisingly well from his look and spirit!). My dad was Air Force and  we discover they were based close to each other in northern Thailand (Uban & NKP) but during different years. We spend a glorious half hour swapping stories and reluctantly leave as we have +300 miles today to reach my sister Jo in Genoa (catchy phrase!) where we started this magnificent trek on August 10th. Between us and her lie ten plus ranges and an equal number of basin valleys. 

Tomorrow we will drive the final two and a half hours to our home in West Sacramento.  At about four weeks into this Bucket List Trip, we were both road weary and claimed we may never go out for more than three weeks. Now, having passed thru that phase, we are both sad and happy to return to 'Normal Life'!  Already we are talking about the places we want to go - which just goes to show - THE JOURNEY NEVER ENDS! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Wednesday Sept 21
I expected Kansas to be boring having heard cross country tales of Kansas and Nebraska having so much sameness. Instead, by sticking to secondary freeways (Rts 36 & 50) we got to see a great deal. Roadside banks were covered with a 'new' bright yellow flower which a little research turned up to be a Maximillian Sunflower. Sunflower is the state flower of Kansas. 

Equally ubiquitous are the wind farms and parts of the huge wind turbines. We drive past one area that had acres of parts! Fields of turbines follow in Spearville Kansas.  
Near Dodge City, we pass 
acre after acre of feed lots brimming with cattle being fattened before the kill. Once in Colorado, near the southern town of Lamarr we encountered a solid mile long of feedlot after feedlot, filled to capacity. This is no small farmer operation but a corporate one. No signs!  We pull into the John Martin Reservoir State Park outside of Lamarr where we choose the upper campground on the reservoir. It is deserted except for us, all the electric sites being below the dam. Alone, we watch a spectacular sunset followed by thunder storms that flash and light up the sky for hours to the south. 

An hour later, I understand why it is deserted - thrips & mosquitos invade our space. Armed with a Citronella candle and a fly swatter, I declare war. Hours later and over a hundred dead bugs littering our surfaces, I concede as somewhere the little buggers are getting in the van and the task is never ending. We sleep with the high pitched zings in our ears.

Thursday Sept 22
We are in SE Colorado and heading for Denver today and an evening with my other Kentucky cousin Bobbi Walker. Since it is only a 3-4 hr drive, we decide to take the long way thru the Rockies.  From Salida north, every mile gets better! We peak at Leadville (literally) where piles of lead stacked to their 'angle of repose' line the road at 10,200'.
Our destination in Denver is Walker Fine Art, Bobbi's gallery of fifteen years. She specializes in abstract paintings and sculpture, installations and corporate art. Her dedication to her dream coupled with her determination, never-quit attitude, and masterful layered marketing has paid off! I'm in awe at the pieces she has on display. One artist has cut and dipped in resin books into three pieces unlike anything I've ever imagined! 

Working closely with her artists, Bobbi's counseling has paid off for both parties. This is the kind of relationship most artists yearn for with their galleries. Bobbi is a size one powerhouse who lights up any room she walks into. She is an active participant in the Denver Art Community and her gallery is declared one of the Top Ten in Denver!
We stay overnight in her home of 25 years, an art-deco era building with original woodwork, chandeliers and pewter door knobs! We walk to an excellent restaurant where we dine al fresco.

Friday Sept 23
More nostalgia in the morning for me as we head to Boulder where I attended college at Dear Old CU - Univ of Colorado - from 1966-1970. We drive thru the campus that has augmented by over 5 times! I recognize little but the lovely sandstone they use for all the buildings. I knock on the door of the Pi Phi House, my home for Soph- Senior years. I'm let in and allowed to freely roam the three stories of this, the largest Pi Phi house west of the Mississippi. Little has changed but for updates to the baths and kitchen area. The girls are super friendly and I talk with several for a while. 

Our destination today is Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
As we travel along the 3/4 loop of the park road, we are in awe and Collin remarks that it is every bit as grand as the Road to the Sun in Glacier National Park. 

We find a campsite at Timber Creek CG on the west side of the park. A front is coming in as we wander across the meadow to the Colorado River's beginnings. It is the rutting season for the elk. We hear the haunting ethereal bugling of multiple elk across the valley as we wander along the stream.

As we approach camp, we encounter a small group of five elk just 15 yds from the CG. No one else in the campground notices them and we tuck away our private memory.

Saturday Sept 24
We awake to a 3" dusting of snow, thankful for our cozy tiny home and our warm night's sleep. 

Our intention of driving back thru the park, perhaps stopping to hike, is dashed with the news that the pass at the summit at 12183 is closed till the weather lifts and thaws the icy roads. We've already booked a second night at Timber Creek CG so we head out to make a larger clockwise northern loop to get back to the town of Estes Park. It's cloudy with intermittent soft flurries or sleet and patches of sun. And it's spectacular! The turning of the aspen leaves is at its peak! Elk are everywhere.

Our northern loop thru Walden and Marshville is through the Poudre (Poo-der) Canyon - a 90 mile ride of extraordinary scenery. Not the dramatic peaks of the Park but a luscious fertile landscape of cascading streams, rocky cliffs and brilliantly colored aspen.

Once back in Estes Park we find it filled to capacity.  We luck into a parking spot and a table with view at the Sun Deck Restaurant where I wax poetic over the fresh trout almandine and fried onion rings. 
Too late to try to return to Timber Creek CG on the west side of the park, we chance that the Full Aspenglen CG might have a cancellation due to weather. The nice woman at the CG tells us there is one tent sight reservation cancelled and we go to see that indeed our van will fit perfectly! 
Once settled, we hike upward along a horse trail to a vista of the valley on the other side.

Sunday Sept 25
Up early, we drive thru the southern part of the park to Bear Lake. It's early enough that the roads are not chocked full and it is a spectacularly sunny day at a crisp 40 degrees. I long to paint but we are going to cover a lot of miles and a lot of mountains today. We spot a coyote carrying a deer or elk femur.

Once out of the park, we head down to Golden, then south to Evergreen and over the Kenosha Pass.  Apparently the word is out that there is a spectacular display of aspen at the pass as the line of cars coming from the west side is over 20 miles in length! Thankfully we're going the other way!  It is a great patch of Aspen but truly we've been seeing comparably awesome spectacles the whole day.  We turn west again in Buena Vista to go over the Cottonwood Pass at 12,126. We see a hiker I speculate may be attempting the Continental Divide Trail, one of the big 3 (with Appalachian and Pacific Crest) and reputed the most difficult. 
All waters run eastward from this side

and west from this side.

At the 'base' of the divide is Taylor Park Reservoir where we find a fabulous campsite overlooking the reservoir. I count 26 peaks in front of us of the Elk Mountains! 

Collin calls his dear friend Bernie in Sequim WA and tells him how much he loves Colorado and, had he known of this wonderland, he would have moved here 30 years ago! We have been talking all day of the idea of moving to Colorado.