The Inca Trail Begins

Lunch was amazing and each dish had flavors abound just by incorporating different vegetables. We were fascinated that no spices were used, just the natural palette of a garden variety. As we ate our meal, we were told about the hike to the hostel in the mountains for our overnight stay. This hostel was such a lovely experience. We had our own room and a community shower beneath us. We slept high in the mountain range and woke up staring at the most amazing view of the clouds rolling over the mountain. The people at this Eco Hostel were super friendly and had us help make dinner. I got to peel the potatoes while the guinea pigs ran around my feet collecting scraps. Such pleasant sounds were coming out of these tiny creatures while we were making supper. They are also wonderful little garbage disposals. Luckily, there was no guinea pigs on their menu even though it is a delicacy in Peru.

Chris and I were served llama so I scraped mine on to his plate while no one was looking. I made sure to do this in segments so it looked like I was eating it. Did not want to be rude. These people walked all this food up the mountain to their hostel just to feed us. The garden items were grown on site. They also made us fresh coffee in the morning from beans they roasted and ground themselves. It was delicious. While we had our morning coffee, our tour guide wanted to decorate our faces with pollen from a local flower. He said it also would deter any biting bugs. I would have been the first in the chair if I had heard him first. Bugs bite me all the time and I did not want any mosquito bites in South America while hiking through the rainforest. I put pictures of my and Chris’s “face paint” here in the blog. After we both got these drawn on us, we were shown some lovely handmade jewelry.

Karen Hilliard Art Blog

The owners brought out their handmade items on boards and explained they made these to help them be able to afford food for their guests. We bought two friendship bracelets and two necklaces we wore the entire trip. Peru happened in the summer of 2017 and I just wiggled my bracelet off in April of 2023. This bracelet still had not fallen off even when my dog ate one of the connecting strings. I did not bring my wedding ring so this bracelet symbolized my and Chris’s bond for me. I am so glad I let the woman tie the bracelet on because I did not want it to fall off, and it never did! After we purchased these very sentimental items, it was time to depart. We reluctantly left the slice of heaven, high in the sky on the Inca Trail, to walk on to Machu Picchu with the understanding there would be more cities and stops on the way.

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful weekend!

-Karen Hilliard

A Journey

“Where do you want to travel to next?” This was a question I asked my husband on our first hike together, which he thought was a date. I ask everyone I meet if they want to go hiking because I love the outdoors. Years later, we decided it could be our first date because we both liked each other instantly and the trail turned into many trails throughout the years. Traveling and being outside is one of our shared loves. The other is the ability to think the same thing at the same time even all these years later. After asking him the question about where to travel, he said “Machu Picchu” and this was the same place I had in mind. Before we planned this trip, we decided to get married and then it became a Honeymoon excursion. Since the altitude is much higher in Peru than here in the desert we needed to prepare our bodies and train.

We thought Mt. Charleston would be the best place to hike every weekend to get our lungs ready for the altitude difference. Cusco, Peru has an elevation of 11,152 feet and Mt. Charleston, Nevada stands at 11,916 feet at its peak. Chris and I were not able to hike all the way to the top before our trip, so we trained on our original trail, and we climbed to about 8,000 feet. Northloop Trailhead has some spots for cars so it is recommended to arrive as early as possible, especially on the weekends like we did. Going as often as we could, we felt we were ready for the trip at this point. In a future blog I will write about where we traveled, the elevation gains, and the need for Oxygen at certain points of the trail while in Peru. For now, I will share the journey we took to South America. 

After hiking Mt. Charleston on the weekends, the next idea was to visit our friends in Ohio and Chicago, then fly out of O’Hare. The tickets were more affordable and we got to stop off at our friend’s farms along the way. We drove to Chicago, to pick up a friend, and then continued on to Ohio to stay at Benham Farms, where the hosts are an amazing couple with oodles of information on techniques, crop development, and grazing rotation. We were also able to venture into Yellow Springs for a walk along the river and a taste of the awesome brews from Yellow Springs Brewery. It is always nice to have a break in the hard work during the middle of the day. Then we got to go back to the farm for a night of gazing at fireflies. Not a bad way to end the day or this blog post.

Thank you for reading and have a happy Monday!

-Karen Hilliard


The month of September is filled with such joy, warmth, and love. The seasons are officially starting to change from Summer to Autumn. Certain parts of the country may notice a change in temperature, colors on the trees may be transitioning, and the excitement of holiday vacations are in the air. Here in the desert we are lucky if the weather starts to cool. Chris often says the temperature does not change until November, but this year, we have felt a slight shift in the heat. We are getting very excited to hike the dog in this new season. After so many rainstorms, the desert will be alive with colors. I cannot wait to go out, take photographs, and share with you all. For now, we are staying safe and indoors. Everytime I wish to travel I remember the dog has a fur coat and it would just be miserable for him.

Recently I have been sharing past experiences and trips with you all. The fall series I created was from a hike taken a few years ago during the Autumn season. Looking through old photographs is quite joyous for me. I often say that I have taken so many reference photos and may not have enough time in my lifetime to paint everything I wish to. However, I am sure going to try and share all my visions with the world. A huge feat this is for sure! The recent sketchbook painting “Autumn is Here” has been one of the more fun projects for me. A lot of energy and time was placed into every centimeter of this painting. I am very happy to have been able to create a print for everyone. I hope people will enjoy having this painting hanging on their wall for years to come. 

Fall in Red Rock Canyon | Karen Hilliard Art | Prints

The tiny painting series was wonderful to paint as well since I love small surface areas. Each of these paintings has brought back so many memories of Fall. So many traditions happen this time of year and I am excited to create some new traditions as well. This season holds my favorite color palette as well. What are some of your traditions or favorite memories this time of year? Is there any food you enjoy or recipes you would want to share? I have been drinking hot chocolates regularly just dreaming of cooler weather. Maybe this is why I feel a drop in the temperature and my husband does not…because I am imagining the chill on my face as I drink hot beverages. I love how certain smells can transcend me to different places! 

I hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday and thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard

Flash Floods

In regards to my blog “All Weather is Good Weather,” I stated we did not live near hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, etc. Natural disasters seem to skip us here in the desert. Well…recently we had a tropical storm come through from a hurricane off the California Coast. Then, a few days later we had our monsoon season but this time the streets were rivers. Luckily, everything was okay for the people where we live and yet the debris the following week has been interesting. Mud has been piling up everywhere and streets are still tan with dirt from what was left behind. I stand by all weather is good weather because I know how much this rain has helped the desert. Our sunflower patch in the backyard got hammered by hail but the desert, where people do not live, needed this rain.

The ecosystem thrives on the rainy season for all the creatures and plants that live outdoors. They do not have McDonnalds and Starbucks for fancy outings with friends. Their very existence depends on water and food sources that are scarce. So everytime I hear frustrations towards rain, I understand, but I also think about the animals that depend on it. The trees and plants crave their water sources as well. Water is so important for everything and everyone’s existence and we need to keep our fresh waters safe. This is a whole different topic for another time. On to weather again. Forest fires where so many homes are destroyed are unfortunate and terribly sad. These fires do however help the forest floor to rejuvenate, and create new habitats. Luckily humans help the situation by not letting these fires burn too long because that can lead to devastating losses a forest has a hard time coming back from. 

Flash floods come swiftly and then leave behind essential nutrients and sediments animals and ecosystems need. This helps the desert rejuvenate. Yes, there is massive destruction with these natural disasters but it is the Earth’s way of healing itself. If you are ever in a flash flood situation, try to get to the highest point as quickly as possible. Do not mess around and think you will have time to get out. The rains come fast, dump feet of water, flow vigorously, and are intensely scary. Flash floods are beautiful to watch from somewhere safe but please stay clear and don’t try to get a closer look. Respect nature. Have you or anyone you know been affected by a natural disaster? From my personal experience, I have dealt with flash floods and earthquakes. From a secondary perspective I have witnessed forest fires and the devastation of wildfires. Be safe out there and smart.

Have a happy start to your week.

-Karen Hilliard 

Falls of Michigan

Circle Tour Part 12

After the phenomenon that is Tahquamenon, we decided to mosey on over to another park in Michigan. On the way to the falls we found an awesome bread shop on the side of the road. The owners Paul and Joanne Behm run this eclectic shop with a bakery, located in Newberry, MI 13 miles North of Newberry. These people are extremely nice and bake the bread right there in front of you using a brick oven they built. We bought some delicious bread and garlic spread which sustained us for quite some time. North Star Brick Oven Bakery in Michigan is the place to be! I just tried to link this for all of you and with 4.8 stars and amazing reviews, I am sad to find that this place is permanently closed. Do any of you have a favorite small little place that shut down after 2020? Let us know in the comments. Luckily, the waterfall is still flowing, so on to happier notes.

This waterfall was, and is, at the end of a very short hike through luscious trees. We went to Laughing Whitefish Falls State Park. Hiking among the trees was breathtaking. Plan for a half hour total if you decide to go. Since we had more time, we chose to venture to Munising Falls, Michigan. These falls were subtle and yet gorgeous. The striations in the cliffs were beautiful and the colors of the rock piqued my artistic curiosity. This was also a short hike and well worth it. The color contrast of the cliffs with the green of the trees was picturesque. Just the smell of the waterfall and the midst on our faces chilled the humid summer of Michigan. We got to break out our rain jackets, which is always nice! The dog loved the light walk to the falls as well.

We drove through Michigan and kept stopping at places along the way. We found amazing cliffs overlooking Lake Superior and got to watch the water crash against the sandstone below. We read a lot of information about how important sea kayaks are for the lake as it can get really treacherous with high currents. We did not know we would need a sea kayak for the lake so that was very good information to find. This place had kayaks hanging from the roof right outside the bathroom with a great amount of signage on the importance of water safety. The trail through the trees was very nice as well. This spot was called Minors Castle and I put the link in here. We saw many waterfalls through Michigan on our way back to Wisconsin.

Circle Tour Series 1 Number 4 | Karen Hilliard Art | Tiny Paintings | Watercolor | Original Art | Small works

I hope you enjoyed our journey and thank you for reading about the Circle Tour of Lake Superior. There is so much to see and we are definitely doing it again!! All new spots next time. Here is the finished painting! Have a safe and happy weekend, and thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard

Morning Runs, Mosquitos, and Beautiful Places

Circle Tour Part 6

Pukaskwa National Park was beautiful!! The beach was gorgeous, the campsites were amazing, and there was a very nice gentleman working at the kiosk station. We decided not to stay the night at the campsite but highly recommend this place if you are ever traveling through Ontario, Canada. We ventured onward to White Lake where we enjoyed morning runs, and a lovely campsite. There was a bit of a mosquito problem here so be prepared for that. I use a mosquito bar repellent that I just rub on instead of using sprays. I can link it if anyone is interested, please ask in the comments. Chris and I played cards the entire evening and he beat me most of the time which is impressive since I usually win.

From White Lake campsite we ended up driving to White River. I find it interesting how close the names are. We wanted to see the Winnie the Pooh museum since my sister loves him and I wanted to get her something from there. It is a pretty small spot in White River but worth it if you like Winnie the Pooh. The backstory is very interesting about the bear. They had wonderful gifts for Christmas presents at the visitors center. We also were able to grab some breakfast sandwiches at A&W which were delicious! This may have been because we had not eaten a breakfast meal since Tim Hortons and we had been running every morning. Oftentimes food tastes the best I have ever had when I have waited a while. 

We traveled further on to Rabbit Blanket Park. We filled our waters here and went up the road to Agawa to camp for the night. The night hike we went on was Awa Petroglyphs. This was a beautiful place to see and we recommend it! The trail had Maple and Birch trees along with a green mossy floor. The canopy of course was lovely, and you all know how much we love looking up! Agawa Bay is beautiful. We ran, stretched, refilled the waters again, and packed the car to leave. We ate strawberries that we were able to pick from a local farm and this was a delicious breakfast. The bay is located in Lake Superior Provincial Park. The Visitors Center was very cool and interesting. The beach is also dog friendly and ours loved playing in the water then running in the sand. We decided to get back in the car and head out of the park and on to Pancake Bay. Stay tuned…

Thank you for reading and have a great weekend!

-Karen Hilliard

Hello Canada!

Circle Tour Part 5

Crossing over into Canada at Grand Portage was an experience. I was so excited to get my passport stamped but this did not happen. We went and got our dog his rabies shot right before this trip because we heard we could not cross without it, untrue. The border patrol quickly looked at our passports and then we went through, that was it. NO other documentations necessary and no stamp. It was our goal to get a stamp on the way back, and we did, with much effort. I will write about that in a future blog. For now, we made it to Canada and it was beautiful! 

Our first stop was to an entry point to pay for camping in Ontario. Every trip I go on becomes a search for a shirt or sweatshirt to remember the place by. I found an awesome hooded sweatshirt in the gift shop yet decided to wait in case we found a cool local shop on our travels. While in the port of entry store, we bought Crown Land passes for Conservation Reserves and Non-Operating Provincial Parks in order to camp throughout the trip. This was sort of a bust and we had to pay for camping in some places. We decided to get to places late, pop the tent, and pack up before dawn. The whole experience was interesting and well worth the journey. 

Every morning Chris and I took turns going on separate morning runs since the dog could not take the intensity anymore. We spent time with him packing up the campsite each morning while the other person ran. Our first stop was at Sleeping Giant along the coastline of Lake Superior. This is a very beautiful spot to see. We thought there would be plenty of food and gift shops along the roadside in Canada, but there was not, it was in fact, very remote. Luckily, we found Tim Hortons for coffee and a morning treat. Chris’s uncle loves this coffee and said it was the best he ever had so we really wanted to try it. We apparently loved the Maple Strudel also according to my notes. The next waterfall we trekked out to find was Rainbow Falls. The beach was beautiful and the falls were five minutes up from the road. The waterfall was gorgeous!! I found the same Canada Hooded sweatshirt in the gift shop but still decided to wait in case I found another one. Stay tuned for the journey…

As always, thank you for reading and happy Wednesday!

-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

All Weather is Good Weather


“All weather is good weather,” is a phrase we use in our household. No matter the circumstances, we try to be outside. Luckily, we do not have hurricanes or tornadoes in the desert here, or severe blizzards. All of this being said, the rain, snow, sleet, hail, heat, etc. keeps us on our toes and we try to keep a positive mindset. I recently posted a question on Facebook asking what season was a person’s favorite and why. The responses received were awesome. One person in particular wrote, all, for their individual reasons. I am going to take the next four posts and write about each season and what I like about them because I was inspired by this person’s comment. 

Let’s start with winter because January starts the year off. I love the winter and the cooler temperatures. Snow is beautiful, before it gets brown and mushy. The white calm of a winter morning when no one is out, and the fresh powder rests on the ground in the quiet dawn, is an amazing sight. I love the feeling of winter and the chill on my face, down my esophagus as I breathe in, and the midst out of my mouth as I exhale. A warm cup of cocoa in hand and I am the happiest of people. One of my favorite things to do is knit and this makes the colder months quite enjoyable for me. I love handmade gifts and making gifts for others. Sweaters, hats, scarves, and mittens, etc. are all items filling up our closet at home. Luckily, because we go outside often, we are able to get a good use out of these treasures.

Sled Dog

Another reason I and my husband love winter is for the activities in the outdoors. We love snowshoeing through the woods for hours on end discussing everything we see and just relaxing. I know for many this is strange, but we also love to shovel snow! It is an amazing workout and very calming. I also love watching winter sports like hockey, figure skating, snowboarding, skiing etc. I had the pleasure of dogsledding in Alaska some years ago and it was glorious. Being out in the wilderness running and riding with dogs, and watching their excitement was awesome. I loved looking at the trees covered in a magical white dusting and the sunlight coming through the pine needles. This thought leads me to Christmas which is my most loved holiday. All my happiest memories are tied into this time of year. You can read about some of the reasons in my previous blog titled Christmas Ornaments. Please go ahead and leave your favorite weather or season in the comments below. I would love to keep this conversation going! Have a happy Monday and look for Spring on Wednesday!

-Karen Hilliard

Red Rock Canyon

Most of my inspiration for my paintings comes from hiking, climbing, and camping adventures. Red Rock Canyon is a place that holds a special spot in my heart. My husband and I go hiking in this area frequently. We love the sandstone for its rich orange, yellow, red, blue, and purple hues. Each rock face takes us on a trip into our imaginations and we have endless conversations about what we notice. The springs that run through the valley into the wash are breathtaking and when the river runs from the mountain run off it is magical. We see spadefoot toads in their tadpole state all the way to their evolution into mature toads. Beautiful Oak and Pinion trees surround us with their jovial leaves in the Springtime and send us into a colorful wonderland in the Fall.

On a recent exploration we happened upon a wondrous tree shedding its leaves into the wash. The water had since dried up and the rocks were cool from the morning air. A hint of blue color adorned the facade of these rocks in the early light. The leaves were a gorgeous combination of yellow, brown, orange, red, and many variations of these colors. I took many photographs and decided I would paint these images upon arriving at home. We were on a long hike that day and just wanted to keep moving forward to see what else we could find. I was very pleased with the angles I took and confident the photos would turn out well enough to not need to sketch as well. Out of the several photographs taken, I came up with a menagerie of images to use.

The hike through the canyon was amazing and cold. We loved wearing hats and jackets especially after surviving the hot Summer months here in the desert. We brought hot chocolates with us to enjoy and our sweet pup loved romping about. Always, always, always clean up after your pets. PLEASE! The only way to be able to have our furry friends on these hiking experiences is if we all Leave No Trace behind. That side note being mentioned, the dog had a glorious time. I got many awesome pictures of him as well which I will share in future blogs. I hope you all enjoyed walking around the canyon with me and I will be writing more about this place and sharing which hikes we love. I can mention trailheads as well if you would like. Leave me a comment about anything that interests you or a place in Red Rock Canyon you also love.

Thank you for reading! Have a safe and happy weekend friends.

-Karen Hilliard