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:

Art is my life: What artists can learn from dancers

inspirational quote, Art is my Life, tips for artists,

Some tips from dancers on how to make art the centerpiece of your life.

When I first returned to university for art school, I signed up for a ballet and modern dance class to ensure I’d get my dance and fitness fix during the semester ahead.

On the first day of class, the instructor introduced herself, and said, “Dance is my life.” She went on to explain that while she didn’t expect *us* to live with dance at the center of our lives, we should understand her worldview as she taught the course.

“Dance is my life.” That simple statement really affected me as a would-be art student. What does it mean to place your creative expression at the gravitational center of your daily life?

As creative artists, dancers lead very short professional lives. While some few manage to perform for 20 years or transition to choreography, most dancers retire after about 10 years onstage and pursue work as dance teachers or in other fields. As a result, a dancer leads a tightly concentrated existence, one designed to maximize their physical ability and creative artistry.

We artists with longer creative lifespans can learn a lot from the way dancers focus their daily lives around their creative practice.

What are some of the habits and attitudes we can learn from dancers?

  • Your body is your instrument. Take care of it as the powerful tool it is. Despite media reports about eating disorders or worse, most dancers actually take very good care of their bodies. Malnutrition, lack of sleep or drug abuse only leads to injury, and no dancer can afford to be sidelined for a season. Eating right, getting a good night’s sleep and staying fit will also increase your endurance and energy in the painting studio.
  • Block out time for your art and during studio time focus only on your art.
    Dancers arrange their daily schedule in chunks of 60 or 90 minutes, the length of a class or rehearsal. During class, they focus on nothing but the technique or choreography that they are working on at that moment. The annoyances of daily life stay outside the studio doors until rehearsal’s over, then they go make that phone call or run errands on their break. Multi-tasking just makes you frazzled and unable to concentrate on the details of your work.
  • Take time out to rest and recover.
    Monday is traditionally “dark night” in the theater world, where dancers take a day off from performing 8 shows a week. It’s the day they’ll book a massage or chiropodist visit, take a private class, go for a swim or a sauna, maybe listen to a new musical score. Dancers use their day off to rejuvenate their creative energy, not just run errands or catch up on housework. Why not give it a try?
  • Dance for fun.
    Dancers LOVE to dance! They watch cheesy dance movies like “Black Swan.” They listen to new kinds of music to discover potential scores for their next choreography. They enjoy going to discos and busting a move. They fill their free time with all manner of things related to their central passion. Try going on sketch crawls, reading artist bios, joining non-artist friends at a paint your own ceramics party. Make art into your entertainment.

And finally, the most important thing that dancers do:

  • Take class every day.
    Every working dancer in the world shows up at class first thing in the morning, every morning of their life. For a dancer, class is the source of fitness and technical control, the place to learn and improve their art, the connection to their body and creative minds. It is the core of their creative existence. Keeping a daily sketchbook gives us artists that same chance to learn and improve our craft. Draw and observe the world every single day.

Art is my life. What can you do today to make that come true?

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