29th Wedding Anniversary Camping Trip

We just returned from a week camping along the Columbia River. Our 29th wedding anniversary was so auspicious that a solar eclipse occurred on the very day! We stayed at one of our favorite campgrounds – Wanapum Campground at Ginko Petrified Forest State Park. Although fires threatened the air quality before we left, we only had smoky air one day. The daytime temps ranged from 85-95.

Our first morning was the eclipse. I arose early for a sunrise shot.

We were in a path of about 95-98% totality. By the time I figured out the appropriate camera settings it was on the wane.

Then we explored the campground. It is a beautiful gorge that was filled by the building of Wanapum Dam in 1963. I first visited the area in 1962 while living with my aunt and uncle. We drove over to assist in the dig to preserve artifacts from an ancient native site that was soon to be buried beneath the waters of Wanapum Lake.  It is a beautiful campground with golden hills on the west side of the river and steep basalt bluffs on the east. Just downstream is a narrows, above which they built the dam.

We were unable to get a reservation at Cave B Winery for our anniversary (too many eclipse watchers) so our celebration dinner was the next day. We arrived early to walk the vineyards and treat ourselves to a wine tasting before dinner.

Another favorite place in the area is Frenchman Coulee. This is a series of small gorges gouged out of the basalt by thundering Ice Age floods. It is a hot spot for rock climbers, hosting up to 200 climbers on a summer weekend. However, we had it all to ourselves on a weekday.

We also returned to the Quincy Lakes where we have been visiting for 20 years. These ancient lakes are the remnants of the Columbia River before the Ice Age floods scoured a new gorge a mile to the west. Basalt canyons are filled with oases of green around scattered lakes. There is magic in the air.

And so we have returned home to Seattle where the weather is in the 70’s. It is about to become the hottest summer in history for our fair city with no high temp below 70 for July and August!



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Hiking In The Hood

Today I was up at dawn to catch the sunrise.

After breakfast we took a long walk in our neighborhood.

After the rains of the last couple of days the flowers were abundant.

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We certainly do not have to look far for interesting things to sketch or paint.




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Amphitheater Hike

Yesterday we visited the site of a natural amphitheater. Although a short hike it is quite beautiful. I also met a couple of friendly Blue Tailed Skinks.

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A Productive Day

I woke Jean at 6:00 AM to see the sunrise. It was spectacular before the sun came over the mountains. Unfortunately by the time we got up and got our cameras the sun was up. It is still beautiful, but tomorrow we need to try for 5:30 to get the full effect.

It was a cloudy day with a big rain storm in the afternoon. Therefore, we stayed home and drew, painted, and played some music.

Here are my two paintings from today. Canyon Ruins is a made up image of the ancient ruins that are everywhere around here. The Pedernal is the mountain to the southwest of us. It was made famous by Georgia O’Keeffe, who painted its dark looming presence hundreds of times. This is a view of it from our road.

I completed a couple of other experimental landscapes in the last couple of days. I’m trying out some more simplified and slightly abstract techniques. They are both called New Mexico Mesas.

In addition to that I finished composing a song I’ve been working on since we arrived. It’s called Having A Drink With Charlie and is dedicated to my friend Kathy Kimball, with whom I perform in Ukestra Seattle. However, due to limited bandwidth in our rented house I cannot post a recording of it. Kathy will have to wait to hear it in person.

Jean also has been busy. She did a painting of this morning’s sunrise.

Yesterday she painted a stair outside our bedroom window as the shadows changed during the day.

The weather is predicted to be a bit unstable for the next several days so we may be staying home and doing more painting.


Posted in Art, Friendship, Music, New Mexico, Retirement, Travel, Ukulele, Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Today was shopping day. That means a 55 mile drive to Santa Fe to stock up at Whole Foods. It’s only another 55 or so to Albuquerque so we added that to the shopping trip. The reason? I had not seen Steven Hether since high school graduation 51 years ago from Oliver P. Morton High School! Steven and I have communicated on Facebook for several years and decided that since we were only 100+ miles apart it was time for a reunion.

We first met in 6th grade when Steven moved to Hammond, Indiana and entered Harding Elementary School. He was placed in Mrs. Zarth’s class and so was I! We moved on into 7th grade together, but Steven’s family moved to a different district for 8th grade. I spent 9th grade in Seattle and then we were reunited in 10th grade. That’s a brief history of our connections. Of course we talked about all the details. No I will not bore you with those here.

It was great fun to share memories of grade school, junior high, and high school. One of my vivid memories of Steven was his commitment to civil rights. He and his older sister joined the NAACP in Hammond when they were in high school! They were the only white members of that chapter. This memory stuck with me for many years, although I did not have the same commitment at that age. For me it was one of those ethical check points to which I often returned as I forged my own ideas about justice.

Neither of us has change a bit. Okay, I admit, I have less hair.


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Art from New Mexico

Despite the sad news of the past week, Jean and I have been getting out to walk and do some sketching. New Mexico’s air is clear, the light is intense, and the landscape is dominated by oranges, blues, and greens of many shades. The landscape has been formed into varied shapes. Everywhere you turn there is something interesting to look at.

Here are a few pencil sketches that I did in the field. Click on the images to enlarge them.

There is a particularly interesting pinon stump in front of our house. It made me think of an abstract Don Quixote. I did a quick pencil sketch and two small paintings.

Jean also has been busy exploring the colors and shapes of the New Mexican landscape.



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Plaza Blanca

It has been five days since Pat, Jean’s sister, died. We have been comforted by this very spiritual place in a remote mesa-top house. The only sounds are from the wind moving around the house. The house itself has a very comforting feel as if it embraces us. There are few square corners here. Everything is rounded and smooth. We are feeling very thankful that we rented this house as others may not have provided the solace we are feeling.

Today we returned to Plaza Blanca that we visited briefly in yesterday’s post. This was an opportunity to spend time in Georgia O’Keeffe’s footsteps. The formations are very different that other southwest rocks – white/gray limestone. She painted these white monoliths beautifully.

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Georgia O’Keeffe’s “White Place”

Although the cliffs are limestone, the wash through which we walked was paved with rocks composed of all sorts of minerals and gemstones. It was a place Pat would have loved. A few rocks found their way into our pockets.

This time of year there is a great deal of green to compliment the red rock, the white rock, and the blue skies. Sprinkled throughout are colorful surprises of blooms on cacti, shrubs, and flowers.

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After hiking for a few hours we drove to El Rito for a late lunch at El Farolito restaurant. A couple we met in the canyon recommended it as the best Mexican food in the area. They were correct.

As you can see it is not large, but the food is fantastic. Everything is made to order. Their green chile is unbelievable. Their only advertising is matchbooks and word of mouth from very satisfied customers. This evening I checked Tripadvisor and see that it is rated very highly. Needless to say dinner tonight as very light.

Memorial Day weekend has begun. As the sun sets we see cars streaming north on the highway several miles east of us. The sky is pink, lavender and blue and we are nestled in for the night.


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Today we decided to do some plein air drawing/painting despite the 30 mph winds that have been howling nonstop for 2 days. Our primary target was the Chama River canyon that begins just below Abiquiu Lake. It is pretty to look at and away from the madding crowd. We did manage to do some drawing despite the winds.

The wind finally forced us to retreat to Bode’s Store in Abiquiu for a few supplies. Then we decided to visit Dar al Islam, a mosque out in the desert. The mosque itself was closed, but it sits on land called Plaza Blanca. The white cliffs of Plaza Blanco were popular subjects for Georgia O’Keefe. We have seen several of her paintings of these formations. We will return for some drawing/painting out there on a less windy day.

An added bonus at Plaza Blanco was to find the desert in bloom. We were in this area 15 years ago. painting with Jane Shoenfeld at Ghost Ranch, at the same time and saw the bloom. Desert flowers are remarkable.


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An Evening Walk

It has been a difficult few days since Pat, Jean’s sister, died. Days are filled with phone calls to friends and family as well as exchanges on the internet with people who knew Pat. We still do not have specific plans for the service in Colorado Springs. Therefore, we don’t yet know when we will be driving up there. However, we have changed our route to return home through there so we can help deal with Pat’s condo and things in storage.

Despite sitting close by the phone and computer these last few days, we did manage an evening walk nearby. The adobe house we are renting is part of an of 5 acre lots, some of which have houses. It sits on a high mesa overlooking Abiquiu Lake to the East. We have ravens, elk, hummingbirds, and swallows for neighbors. It is sunny, very windy, and remote on a 2 mile dirt road.

One of the side “roads” leads to what is called the boat launch. Our house’s guest book describes a walk through some red rock formations at the end of the road. The term road is used rather loosely out here in the wilds. We drove as far as we were comfortable with our 4 wheel drive, then parked at the top of a steep rock gully and walked. We never found the red rocks or the boat launch, but the scenery was fantastic.

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Tomorrow I will report on my continuing experiments with painting if we aren’t traveling to Colorado Springs.



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Sad Days

Yesterday was a sad day in our temporary New Mexico house. We received a call in the morning that Jean’s sister, Pat, had been found in her condo in a coma. Hospital tests revealed a massive stroke. Last night she died in the hospital having never regained consciousness. Today Jean has been talking to family and friends on the phone.

2016 at her Granddaughter’s Wedding

We are thankful that we just spent three days with Pat and celebrated her birthday a bit early. Yesterday was her 84th birthday.

Blowing out the candles.

Pat’s two children live here in the southwest and we will be joining them soon for a service to remember her life and share memories. Pat led a peripatetic life, living in places like Level Green Pennsylvania, Adrian Pennsylvania,  Buffalo NY, Oklahoma City, Roswell New Mexico, San Diego, Tempe Arizona, Alexandria Virginia, Seattle, and Colorado Springs. She also worked many different jobs to which she applied what often seemed like boundless energy. When she moved to Arizona Pat became an avid rockhound and spent many years roaming the desert looking for minerals and gems. Once she even hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon with her rock collecting friends! A proud achievement was completing her bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University.

She is survived by her daughter and son, Denise and Greg, their spouses, Doug and Alicia, two grand daughters, Meagan and Erin, their spouses, Sam and Steve, and her great grand daughter Evelyn, also known as. Squeakers. Pat had been living close to her daughter in Colorado Springs for a few years.

Pat, you will be missed.


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