On my walk: Return to Aspen Vista Trail

Robert Frost quote and a view of Aspen Vista Trail  near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,” Robert Frost. This photo comes from an outing last winter.

Late last week, the Wrenaissance Man and I went snowshoeing again at Aspen Vista Trail. Since 2 or 3 feet of powder had fallen up at the ski basin, we decided to leave the pups in daycare for the morning.

Aspen log structure at Aspen Vista Trail, New Mexico

Is this log structure an avalanche dam, or a temporary shelter? Inquiring minds want to know!

It was silent deep in the aspen forest. The white snow concealed all the colorful patchwork of the forest floor, revealing the details on the aspen trunks.

Trailside view of an aspen tree trunk in snow, New Mexico.

Rose, gray, mauve, lavender, beige: The many subtle colors of an aspen trunk.

It’s not a proper hike without at least one treeface!

Treeface on aspen trunk with branch protruding from one so-called eye.

Oww, my eye!!!

Have a wonderful week.

On my walk: Snowshoeing at Aspen Vista Trail

Snowshoeing in the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico with 2 Scottish terriers.

Off-piste fun with the Scottish Terrorists!

Last week, the Wrenaissance Man and I went snowshoeing at Aspen Vista Trail in the Santa Fe National Forest. We were surprised to discover very little new snow on the mountain, since we had been getting frequent and heavy snow showers over the first half of the week out in the “flat” lands outside of town.

View of off-piste snowshoe trail in the Santa Fe National Forest, NM.

Heading uphill into the aspen forest in search of fresh powder.

We had some great fun going off-piste up through the forest along side Tesuque Creek. The Scottish Terrorists were having a ball running along side us, poking their noses into snowbanks to snuffle out the hidden tunnels of mice and voles. Corrie eventually got too cold and wet, so we carried her back down to the trail in the Wrenaissance Man’s day pack. By the time we returned to the main trail, she was ready to run again.

Ponderosa pine forest in the Santa Fe National Forest.

We could hear Tesuque Creek running under the blanket of snow as we hiked along the trail made by snowboarders and skiers.

Aspen Vista Trail is the last trailhead before the Santa Fe Ski Basin. It is very broad and easy hiking because the trail is also a utility/fire road for NPS vehicles. The Big Tesuque Creek Trail below connects with Aspen Vista about 10 minutes walk uphill from the Aspen Vista trailhead. During the winter, it’s a popular outing for cross-country skiers and snowshoers in the Santa Fe area.

Snowshoeing is a great way to get some intense cardio in during the snowy winter months. The great thing is that if you hike or cross-country ski, you probably already own most of the gear. Here are some tips on what to wear and what to carry with you.

On your back, thin, light layers you can pull on and off:

  • A light- to mid-weight, wicking base layer, top and bottom. Ladies, you’ll want to add a medium- or high-impact sports bra.
  • A light- to mid-weight insulation layer on top, like fleece or wool.
  • Light-weight, water-resistant, (insulated optional) pants.
  • An insulated, water-resistant top layer. I like a fleece-lined, wind-stopper vest.
  • Hat and mittens/gloves.
  • Light- to mid-weight wool socks for cross-country skiing. Thor-Lo and Smartwool are good choices.
  • Either hiking/cross-country ski boots with gaiters, or waterproof, insulated winter boots with traction soles.

In your bag, depending on how long you plan to be out:

  • Water
  • Map and/or GPS
  • Snacks
  • Lightweight down jacket, in case the weather changes or you stop for lunch
  • Lip balm, sunblock, kleenex, a zip bag for trash/waste

Modern snowshoes come in several styles. Snow Shoe Magazine has a good guide for beginners. REI also offers a thorough buyer’s guide with video. Basically, the shape of the snowshoe will vary depending on the type of activity you will be doing out on the mountain. There are very small, narrow snowshoes for trail runners, broad and stumpy styles for the average hiker or snowboarder, and very long snowshoes designed for the backcountry and steep terrain.

There are two basic styles of binding: fixed-rotation and pivot-rotation. Before you invest in a pair of snowshoes, I recommend renting a pair at a local ski center and trying them out to see which design works for you. After researching, we decided to get the following snowshoe models at REI, where we purchase most of our outdoor gear:

Current projects: Fall bounty

Last Sunday was cold and snowy here in the high desert. I didn’t need much encouragement to spend the day in the studio drawing and painting.

I love decorative gourds and Indian corn. They are so colorful, and challenging to draw, what with all the knobs and kernels and twisting leaves.

Three decorative gourds on tile, a watercolor and colored pencil on paper botanical art study.

More of a still life than a botanical painting. I decided to place these gourds in an environment, rather than floating in empty, white space.

The simple round and elliptoid forms of winter gourds look odd to me when composed with a blank, white background. Placing them on colorful Talavera tile gives them more gravity, plus it lets me play with differing degrees of rendering vs. impressionism. After some washy watercolor layers, I began defining the gourds with colored pencil.

Pencil drawing on layout paper of decorative maize. A work in progress in Wren Allen's studio.

At some point, you just have to grit your teeth and render every kernel!

We drove through Española a couple of weeks ago and picked up some Indian corn and gourds at a produce stand. I’ve been daunted at the complexity of the challenge in drawing the ornamental corn cobs, with their multiple colors and the textures–and of course, their wild head of hair! The cob leaves dry into all manner of twisting ribbons and forms. Also, as the corn is fertilized, the seeds grow in unruly rows and spirals. No neat grids or tidy Fibonacci spirals here!

I stopped this drawing when I realized that with each progressive row, I had decreased the height of the kernels, leaving a gap between. Yikes! Time to pull out the eraser and try again. 🙂


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