Mushing Through Denali

To say this was one of the best trips I have been on would be an understatement. Other than Peru with Chris, this may have been the best adventure yet! My cousins wanted to go dog mushing while in Alaska. I had no idea what was in store and I am always up for fun activities so I said let’s do it! While driving to our destination, we had to look out for Moose and make sure none were in the road. They are huge animals and can total a car. We arrived at the Earthsong Lodge early in the morning after driving quite a ways. The owner of the Dog Sled Expeditions was amazing and so was his staff. My cousin got paired with the owner, her husband with one of their friends, and I was paired with one of the staff members who now is a guide for Earthsong Lodge. Each person was wonderful and made the experience memorable. We got fitted in our warm clothes we were to wear for the duration of the trip. A giant onesie with a super warm hood, boots, and gloves. After the fitting I needed the restroom and got pointed to the outhouse. I was warned about my bottom possibly sticking to the seat so I was super careful. It did not happen, thank goodness. Using the butt flap on the clothes was quite fun though.

After airing out in the chilly morning, I stepped out of the outhouse and met up with my cousins by the dog houses. They were so small I had no idea how a dog could fit in them but they sure did. The dogs must have been super warm too with how tight their quarters were. These dogs had energy like I have never seen and I have an Australian Cattle Dog (They are nuts with boundless energy!) These dogs, the mushing dogs, wanted to go, go, go, immediately out of the gate. They were chained to their spots and were not let off until they were individually walked to the line they would be attached to. Each dog was jumping and barking with such excitement and joy. All they wanted to do was work and get the job done. It was a sight to see and very interesting to hear. This trip heightened all my senses. The sights, smells, sounds, touch, and then a nice taste of hot chocolate that the owner provided as a surprise on our trail break! All senses activated and rejuvenated. 

We were split up into three sleds. Each one of us had a musher and a different amount of dogs. The leader had the most with my cousin’s husband, she and the owner were next, then I was last with the most relaxed person to mush with. He was, and is, so knowledgeable and kind. I highly recommend booking him as your guide if you are ever in his neck of the woods whilst in Alaska. So much happened on this trip that this blog needs to be separated into two different entries. We were standing around and waiting for the gentlemen, mushers, to get their gear and be ready. This did not take long because they are professional and super on top of everything. After they got us situated in our sled, they took off to get the dogs energy out a bit. While on the trail they explained the commands and told us we would be mushing on that day. We thought we were just riding in the sled, oh no, no…we were going to mush!! Thank you for reading and stay tuned for the rest of the story on Monday!! 

Sled Dog

Have a wonderful start to December everybody. I have been working on ornaments and Christmas orders. The ornaments are below and you can click on the painting to view them individually. Also, if you would like to show support, I recently joined “buy me a coffee” which is a way for anyone to contribute to the creative process behind the paintings. Fuel the artist so to speak. Here is the link if you are interested and I truly appreciate the support and the fact that you are liking these blogs, as well as my art posts. I am working hard to bring you all fresh content! One more bit of news…My Newsletter also went out today and the sign up is on my homepage if you are interested. I have a coupon running for everyone who has signed up. Have a wonderful weekend!

-Karen Hilliard

Rainbow Mountains

The air was crisp and thin at the start of our hike to heaven. The buses were all parked and guides were scurrying about gathering all their clients like mother hens. Each guide broke the tourists into groups and went on to get to the top of the mountain. Since we arrived so late, our guide told us we had to be back on the bus soon so we only had a few hours at the top. We new that time was of the essence and we had to hoof it! This being said….our guide took off…with the oxygen. I have never used it in my life or needed it hiking in Colorado, so I wasn’t worried, just a little nervous, and very aware to watch my breathing. The whole hike was a slow incline up the mountain. We packed both our bags with our thermals, fleece, and rain/windbreaker jackets. We also brought our snow gloves in case it snowed and jackets too. Well, we needed everything, okay…here we go!

We followed the herds of people from the parking lot and walked at a steady pace talking the whole way. Many people decided they were done walking and took rides on the horses offered. Men and women who lived nearby brought their horses and rode the tourists up the mountain while they walked on foot leading the way. Then, they would run down to catch their next fare, and they were all in sandals!! Impressive stamina. My goal was to not take a ride on the horse, not out of stubborness, I just felt the horses could use a rest. They looked super overworked. So on we walked and many people stopped to ask me if I wanted a ride in their horse. Chris was wonderful and ended up carrying my pack too, which I gave reluctantly. I didn’t want him to strain himself but he is super strong, and I am very grateful. I had to stop several times near the end and Chris noticed the trees stopped growing the higher up we were.

A lack of oxygen for the trees to grow was an interesting discovery. Seeing herds of llamas grading was quite enjoyable as well. The whole hike to the top was sunny and amazing. We reached the final hill and I was so excited. Chris looked at me and asked if I was okay and I said let’s do this! About 10-20 feet from the top I sat down and he sat with me. It was an insane feeling of helplessness. I literally had to go inside my mind and calm down the fear of not being able to breathe. I sat for what felt like forever which was a minute in reality and then took Chris’s hand to hold the whole way up. We did it! Success! Chris struggled breathing too and really held it together by staying calm. Our guide met us at the top and we told him about the asthma and he offered the oxygen. I figured since I made it, I didn’t need to put my mouth in something everyone used. We said thank you but we are okay. He replied we had 10 minutes to enjoy and head back down. We made it to the top in an hour and 41 minutes and thought we had more time. Surrounded by the beauty of the mountain, we just looked at each other, smiled, and relished in every second.

Rainbow Mountains. Peru Series Number 5

We took a ton of photos, well, as much as we could in the time frame. Then we changed into our snow clothes because the snow came in. On the way down it did get sunny and we did shed the clothing back to our original attire. This wonder is a must see if you are ever in Peru and near Cusco! We highly recommend it. I just wanted you all to know about the breathing factor…so you can be prepared. Everything was worth it to see these mountains. Everything!

Thank you for reading and I hope you have a happy, and safe, weekend!

-Karen Hilliard

The Road to Heaven

Today we are going on a trip in our imaginations  to a place that felt like heaven. This place, Rainbow Mountains, exists and can be visited in actual time, readers, you just have to tap into your mind right now to view it from our perspective and memories. Getting to the slice of heaven was a feat in itself. Chris and I signed up for this trip back in America months before we left for Peru. We had a 3am pick up at the local church that did not go according to schedule. We woke up at 2:15 and got ready, walked to the church, and waited. We chatted with a nice fellow and then the busses arrived. They did not call our name so we asked the lady with the clipboard if we were in it and she said no. So we waited for another bus to come. For future reference in this story, this lady was in fact, one of our guides. The nice gentleman we chatted with was also, in our group. So we waited….

Rainbow Mountains. Peru Series Number 5

We saw a man in bottomless chaps who peed on the outside of the church in a drunken state. We saw a mariachi band leaving a club and singing on the streets of Cusco. What we did not see, was another bus. We both had a feeling to walk back to the hostel after 45 minutes of waiting. When we arrived at the hostel, the front desk person told us the bus went there to pick us up. We thought we messed everything up. The person at the desk called the company and said he bus would come back to get us. An hour later, no bus arrived. We were flying back to the States the next morning and the person at the front desk tried to reschedule our trip with one of their companies but we did not have time. So, they called the company we designed up with again and a taxi was sent for us. I just kept feeling like we would see the place from the pictures and I felt there was nothing to worry about. Chris went to use the bathroom and the driver arrived.

Karen Hilliard Art Blog
More pictures of the hike to come on Friday!!

We loaded in a tiny car, small for our 6 foot selves, but we fit laying down a bit. We were driven at a very fast pace for over an hour and the man stopped at where we were supposed to have free breakfast. Nothing was left of course, understandable, and we told him there was no need to stop, but he insisted because we paid for it. We used the bathroom which was outside on a hill and had a hole in the ground. It was nice and clean and had a ceramic piece where your feet go surrounding the hole. The people made us a quick plate, we felt bad, and on we went to drive up the mountain. When we arrived, our group guide was waiting. We entered at the sign and he took off with the oxygen. We signed up to have oxygen in case I needed it since it was 16,000 feet. We got nervous because days before our trip, two people at the hostel were telling stories of how they could not breathe, tried riding the horses, and had to go back to Cusco without seeing Rainbow Mountains due to no oxygen. So we signed up for it. I will write about heaven, that is the mountain, in Friday’s blog. I ran out of time…but luckily, not out of oxygen! Stay tuned for the rest of our story.

-Karen Hilliard

Santa Teresa

Finally reaching our destination for ultimate relaxation was wonderful. There were showers where we could rinse off before getting into the magical waters. The divine hot springs of Santa Teresa were there for years prior and in our lifetime they had been sectioned off by mankind into various size pools for mankind’s enjoyment. We were grateful to relax and rejuvenate after a very long hike through the jungle. 

Karen Hilliard Art Blog

Our entire group got ready and went into the waters while Chris and I sat outside of them and waited. The lighting was perfect and the sun was ready to go and sleep behind the mountains. I had a little bit of time to create a painting in my travel sketchbook so I decided to enjoy that moment before dipping into the hot springs. Chris chose to hang out with me and talk to me while I painted. The rest of our group soon realized I was an artist and it became a point of interest in every stop we had after this.

Inca Trail | Peru | Machu Picchu | Karen Hilliard Art Blog

When the painting was finished, Chris and I went into the waters and just looked at each other with a smile on our faces. It was a magical moment for sure. One of those times where everything just felt right, calm, peaceful, and yet exciting all at the same time. When we all got out and the sun had set, we finished the day in Santa Teresa. Our sleeping arrangements that night were wonderful and the group decided to give Chris and I a room to ourselves. Papi and the wonderful people chose to gift us a private room for the rest of the trip as a honeymoon gift. They were all super kind and this was an amazing experience for Chris and I. We slept so good and woke up, joined everyone for breakfast at a local restaurant, and got to walk around the town for a bit.

I hope you all have a marvelous Monday. Here are the paintings in this Inca Trail Series so far…Number 1 is from Blog, “Trekking to Santa Teresa.” Number 2, is a work in progress. Number 3 is from Blog “Delicious Fruit.” Number 4 is from Blog “Hot Springs.” Thank you for traveling around Peru with us, reading these blogs,  and Wednesday we will take you on our zip lining adventure!

-Karen Hilliard 

Night Camping

Circle Tour Part 2

We just needed a place to stop for the night, as we left the farmstead a little later than planned. This is us though, we don’t really plan, for this exact reason. As we drove through the forests of Wisconsin, we luckily came across a recreation area along the lakeshore. All I could think was, “Hello Mosquitos,” and what an introduction to humid summer nights this was. I got eaten alive and Chris was fine, of course. This was a wonderful little spot near a marina and had an awesome staircase down to a quiet beach. The dog, Chris, and I loved walking along the sand in the early morning light. My husband carried our dog down and back up the stairs since he was feeling a little tired. We also walked along the boat docks and happened upon some interesting looking spiders. If anyone knows the species, please leave it in the comments below.

I just tried to find the location of where we camped but alas, I could not. I will continue to write about this trip in the next few weeks of blogs. Here is a link to camping along Lake Superior for the Circle Tour. Click here for campsite information. Chris and I just went with the flow of the day and did not really plan out where to sleep. Sometimes it was in a tent and others in the car. Here are some photographs of the spot we stopped at first since I cannot remember the name. The night we rolled into this recreation area there were no campgrounds. We popped our tent up in front of the car and slept about three to four hours, then we broke everything down at dawn and packed up the car before heading to the beach. 

Watching Chris carry our pup down the stairs made me melt. I love how considerate he is for all creatures on this walk of life. He went barefoot all the way to the beach and I followed suit. The sand was nice and cool with tiny pebbles throughout. The water was still and calm which was perfect for skipping stones. Chris is very good at this! I love watching them and counting how many times they jump. Our dog was very curious as well since frisbee was his favorite sport, in his younger years. It was fun seeing his head bob up and down with the movement of the rocks. I skipped some as well and almost beat my husband in number of skips but not in distance. I hope you enjoyed this little walk down to Lake Superior which starts our journey of the next several blogs until we get to Canada! Have a wonderful Wednesday and thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard

Karen Hilliard Art Blog
Second stop on the tour!

Circle Tour

Let’s start this blog off with the first state on the journey, Wisconsin. We had the pleasure of visiting with wonderful people on their farm while in this lovely state. Our first stop on the tour was at Four Mile Farmstead in Washburn, WI. Since this trip, their farm has moved locations and their name has changed to Drifty Acres. (I added their Instagram link into this post, just click on the name of their current farm.) These two wonderful souls took Chris and I on a ferry ride to Madeline Island in Lake Superior. They traveled to this island to sell their wares and afterwards we all enjoyed having a good time by jumping in the lake and cooling off. Hanging out in the main town was quite charming as well. It was a nice relaxing visit to start our vacation.

After we all spent time on the island, we went back to Four Mile Farmstead. There were many chores to do, however, they did them all! They wanted us to just visit and used the opportunity to give themselves a quick break when their chores were through. The animals came first of course! They took us to a tranquil little spot along the river in Washburn where the dogs enjoyed some time in the water. Their two dogs were running around and bounding through the forest while ours was keeping a watchful eye on them. Our dog at the time was very old and in his last year of life. He mostly loved telling people and animals his thoughts on how we all should behave. This trip was very special for the three of us, my husband, myself, and our dog of 15 years. I am forever thankful he had the opportunity to be on this adventure with us. 

After the river, we all walked back to the farm for an evening meal. These are two of the hardest working people I have ever met. At the time, they were working on their own microgreens business, starting a goat herd, and using compost to start their own garden so they could be self-sustainable while both having full time jobs. Their idea of a “break” was still a lot of work for them and very early mornings. She taught me how to milk the goats and the importance of keeping them calm at all times so they don’t step in, or kick the bucket. Disposing of the first couple of squirts of milk as well as it is not good for humans to drink this. Both of these people are very knowledgeable and love helping out anyone who is interested in farming. I highly recommend checking out their Instagram account or Facebook. I also created a series of Tiny Paintings of their farm Four Mile Farmstead and 10% of all profits goes back to the farm. Two more paintings are available for purchase if you would like to help them out with artwork, or you can go to their page directly as they are always having amazing things going on.

I will continue blogging about our trip around the lake. I know you all want to know about Pancake Bay, Canada, from my previous post “Summer.”

Thank you for reading and Happy Monday!

-Karen Hilliard 


Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year other than Spring. In the early months of the year, flowers bloom all around the United States and fill our views with delightful colors. In the later months, colors illuminate our optic nerve differently. Oranges, browns, reds, and deep hues of fire fill forests with warmth and welcome the cool seasons approaching. Fall is a time of gathering together, warming by a fire, and sipping hot chocolate. Pumpkin patches are in full swing, the holidays are on their way, and families are making plans to gather together. A warm hug surrounds everyone and they just have to open their arms to accept the love. All of these feelings inspired my recent series of paintings from Red Rock Canyon State Park here in Nevada. 

Paintings, Number 1, 2, and 3, have gone off to their new homes and 4-8 have been created. These lovely paintings await a nice home to share the joy of Fall. I am currently working on 9 and 10. This has been a very fun series to create and gives me such joy. I love the feeling that these Tiny Paintings may bring someone else happiness and uplift them. So many of my happiest memories are of this time of year and I try to portray this in my paintings. The months of Fall can be cold and frigid which many people do not prefer; so in these paintings, I try to show the warmth through the black dreary coldness. I want them to represent good times and restore positive memories in their viewers.

Some questions I would ask are:

What are your memories of Fall and Winter? Were they happy or not so fun? What memories do you want to create now that you are older? My answer to the last one is new traditions with my family. I want to keep doing the traditions I had with my family growing up and extend new ideas with new experiences for my little family here in the desert. I would love to find a local pumpkin patch and pick out pumpkins, have hot cocoa, take many photos, and walk around the patch. Laughter, for me, needs to be in every memory. Simple moments have had the most impact on my life and have sparked my imagination in amazing ways. Like the Hay Bale Maze in the television show Gilmore Girls, a simple moment. The whole town was upset about the money spent on the maze and it ended up being a wonderful experience for everyone. Even the character Luke enjoyed it! So that is what I wish for this Fall Season, simple moments. What do you wish for?

Thank you for reading and have a great week!

-Karen Hilliard

Fall in Red Rock Series 1 Number 8 | Tiny Paintings | Newsletter | Karen Hilliard Art | Blog | Tiny Painting | Original Art | Watercolor

Ah Spring…

Spring is a beautiful time of year. The pollinators are hard at work on flowers to get a taste of their nectar. Here in the desert the bees work tirelessly on pollinating the cactus flowers on beaver tails and this leaves behind new opportunities for cactus pears. These are delicious morsels and very colorful to behold. In our garden right outside our kitchen door, we have lovely sunflowers that chase the rays of the sun all day. The bees also pollinate these and the flower goes to seed for the many birds who frequent our backyard. The desert tortoises are also out eating anything they can find and loving the water in the cactus. This is what goes on in our tiny spot on the planet, what blooms where you live?

In other parts of the country roses, wildflowers, and tulips abound. Color is booming and blooming everywhere. Yellow tulips are one of my favorite flowers and I have yet to paint them. I have longed to get a bouquet of them with a variety of colors. Fields of tulips in another country would be an ideal painting situation for me, or a vast area of lavender fields. Where is somewhere you would love to travel to for the pure experience of flowers? I think France would be an ideal place for lavender and Japan for the cherry blossoms on trees. While in Tuscany I had the pleasure of traveling by train and viewing fields of sunflowers. They were everywhere and I was eternally happy. This was in the summertime and may be put in my next blog on Friday. Roses are one of my husband’s favorite flowers. What are some of yours?

Mine would be sunflowers and tulips. Another friend from Barcelona mentioned the exact flowers that bring me joy are the ones that bring them happiness. I wonder how a painting of tulips and sunflowers would look and what I would place as a filler? Do you have any thoughts on this? For now, desert bound, I paint my surroundings. Luckily, I am inspired anywhere I go and wherever my eyes gaze. The pure enjoyment of being an artist and feeling motivation from all of nature is my deepest passion. I feel truly blessed. So, in conclusion, Spring brings so many wonderful feelings to the surface. The color and fragrance alone are amazing and the season also brings new hope with possibilities. Have a happy Wednesday, and thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard

Blog 100

Wow, this is my 100th blog. I just want to take a moment to thank all of you for reading these and tell you it means a lot to me. I have received text messages, private messages, emails, and comments on the actual blogs. It is amazing to meet with you all here on my little spot online. For those of you following from the beginning, thank you so much! For those of you recently reading, I am overjoyed to write for you Monday, Wednesday, and Friday every week. Here you will find posts about my artwork, hiking/climbing adventures, camping trips, and so on. This blog is meant to inspire everyone to go for their dreams and believe in the possibilities of life. My artwork will hopefully create new perspectives of the outside world and encourage others to see the world a little differently. 

The newest series in my portfolio has been ink and watercolor Tiny Paintings. These are 4” x 6” paintings created on Mixed Media paper. They can fit into a 5×7 inch frame with a mat opening for a 4×6 inch image. Please mat the artwork before framing so the watercolor does not stick to the glass. This is for those of you who would like to purchase my artwork. The direct link to the Tiny Paintings is here…click here! “Fall in Red Rock” is the newest series and the focus is on contrast of colors. I am using a lot of different variants of warm orange and cool blue hues. I hope you like these pieces. Numbers one, two, and three have sold. Number three was very exciting to create. The intricate details were created with ink and then watercolor was applied after for shadows and texture.

fall in red rock number 3 | Karen Hilliard Art | original watercolor

Each leaf was painted individually and the wash work was done with great intention. I chose a few spots to do a watercolor wash in and then ended up layering over it several times. Basically, the whole entire piece is very detailed. The top right corner is a little bit more loose to give the viewer a little bit of play with their imagination. I like how this painting was of a tree and ended up looking like the desert floor with leaves scattered around twigs, or a root system. This was a truly enjoyable piece to paint and I hope you look forward to the rest of this series. Numbers 4, 5, and 6 are now up on the website for your enjoyment. They can be found in the Small Works link or on my Home Page under Small Works. Thank you for reading 100 blogs and I am happy to continue writing more for all of you. Have a great weekend and stay safe!

-Karen Hilliard

What? A Bighorn!!

Sometimes I just have to stop and stare in awe with pure amazement at what I see. In the morning with the brisk air upon our faces and the sun rising over the mountains, we looked up to see a magnificent beast of a bighorn in front of us. When out in nature it is so very important to respect the habitat of wild animals. No picture was taken at this time. The bighorn sheep was walking and wandering around solo looking for food. He saw us, and ran up the mountain face bounding with such strength and agility. We were forever impressed by the speed of this animal. Our dog just sat and watched marveling at this creature before us. One day I will paint this experience and may add another blog about the emotions, as there were many, and I still will not be able to describe the feelings of wonder.

We have seen bighorn before and photographed herds of them. We saw some in Zion, UT, while kayaking Black Canyon, AZ, and in Valley of Fire here in Nevada. Still, wow, this one was special. The way our dog reacted with such calmness and the still of the air was amazing. The colors of the morning sky were breathtaking and my husband holding my hand gave me all the feels. This was truly a special and spectacular event in my life. I was able to take some photographs of the wash with the perfect light of day. I created a few paintings and kept some solely as photographs. Finding a branch from a bush sitting staring at the sky was my favorite picture. The temperature that day was a perfect cool desert morning. 

Walking along the trail after seeing this profound animal, we just kept smiling. Have you ever had a day like this, where everything goes right, and magical things keep happening? It was interesting that the air was cool in the middle of July. These months are usually filled with heat warnings and severe dry weather. We were able to stay out longer than we thought due to such wonderful conditions. We explored further on the trail than we had gone before and were able to observe a cluster of rocks coming up from the earth. We tried to get a photograph close up to the rocks in the hopes of making them look like a canyon even though they were at the level of our feet. We felt like giants in a wonderland. I look forward to painting these pictures for you and adding them to my Lake Mead series. Stay tuned and look for them on the website soon!

Thank you for reading and have a great Monday!

-Karen Hilliard