All images © 2015 Chelsey Collins Stuart and William Stuart. All rights reserved.
It is always amazing the way art, creativity, and motivated, inspired people can invigorate a community. We see this happening firsthand when visiting northeastern Arizona. Last spring we took a little getaway to a historic hotel in Winslow, Arizona called La Posada for my Mom’s birthday. La Posada is the last great railroad hotel of the southwest and was built in 1929 for the Fred Harvey Company. The building was designed by architect Mary Colter and it is beautiful! She designed it for its environment and it has cooling towers and hallways and strategically placed windows to make it like a natural air conditioner in the summer. They sure don’t make them like they used to! After a vibrant life as an oasis for weary travelers the hotel became neglected and the interior covered up and made into office buildings. Then in the last few years an artist and an architect bought it and have been restoring it and adding their own flair to it as well. It has a working artist studio, an amazing restaurant with some traditional Hopi and gourmet southwestern foods, nice gardens to walk around in, and the railroad still passes through which is cool to watch while having a drink on the back porch. Everything inside has a handmade, artistic vibe and even the bedroom furniture is handmade by the artists family members.
La Posada is still a work in progress too. The great land artist James Turrell is building a skyspace sculpture there, which are nice meditative spaces to spend time in. Nearby, Turrell is also about to open a huge land art work called Rodin Crater. I am so excited to see that along with his retrospective exhibition coming to LACMA soon! Hopefully the Turrell artworks will bring more people through and more energy to the area. The town of Winslow itself doesn’t have much going on so we pretty much stayed around the hotel mostly. Apparently some new places like art gallery spaces are opening up though. One thing to do is to go to the supposed street corner from the lyric “Well I’m standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona,” in the Eagles song Take it Easy. You can have a cheesy picture taken with their bronze rock star sculpture. The other awesome thing is its close proximity to the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest National Park. Where else can you see striped colored mountains and forests of petrified trees? Although we didn’t make it to all the national parks in the area on this trip, we definitely plan to go back once the Rodin Crater is open and spend some more time exploring. Here are some pics we took of La Posada.
I am always looking for lightweight ways to work some nutritious food into our backpacking meals. Chia seeds have been in our regular rotation at home for a while now in smoothies, salads, and even chia pudding. I never thought to bring them on backpacking trips until we went to Kauai and had to plan for a whole week of food in our packs without weighing us down too much. Now I wonder why we haven’t brought them along sooner? These tiny seeds are ah-mazing!
There’s a lot of info on the internet about chia seeds, but basically they fill you up, sustain you, and are full of omega-3’s and complete protein among other nutrients. Legend has it that ancient Mayan messengers would sometimes survive on rations of chia seeds alone because they were light to carry across long distances. The reason they fill you up and sustain you is because they bulk up when submerged in liquid and absorb over nine times their own weight. After about ten minutes in some liquid they turn into a gelatinous pudding consistency, like tapioca. The have barely any flavor so they mix well with anything. I can honestly say that if I add them to a smoothie or eat them plain I am not hungry again for way longer than I would have been otherwise.
At home I have come up with a tasty Maple Vanilla Chia Pudding. It is a healthy dessert or snack and it tastes almost like horchata in pudding form. I just add 3 heaping tbsp chia to two cups rice or almond milk. Then add 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1.5 tbsp maple syrup (or more to taste :-). Wait 30 minutes minimum, whisking together occasionally so the seeds don’t clump. It is also good with cocoa powder and fruit!
So for the minimalist backpacking version of chia pudding I have discovered a few options.
1. Mix 2 tbsp chia seeds with one packet of Emergen-C powder and water, wait 5-10 mins and drink. I like mixed berry or acai flavors. It is sort of like those chia drinks that they have at health food stores these days.
2. Mix 2 tbsp chia seeds into a nutritional shake mix and liquid, wait 5-10 mins and drink or eat with spoon. I like VEGA One brand in chai or chocolate flavor.
3. For the lazy or short on time approach, take a spoonful of chia seeds mixed with almond or peanut butter and honey. Then follow with a drink of water. The magic happens in your belly!
I have ideas to create some other backpacking worthy combos using powdered coconut milk or chocolate milk mix. The possibilities are endless. Replacing the typical easy camping breakfast of instant oatmeal packets with a chia shake is less fuel usage, less cleanup, and keeps me just as or more full than oatmeal. Chia seeds are getting easier to find now that more people are starting to realize how great they are. So don’t be afraid to try them, they are much more than fuzzy green sprouts to grow out of your chia pet!
Seeing this video is a good kick in the pants for anyone who is striving to live a different and more inspired life. It can be done. Feel it. Do it.
Visiting Zion National Park during the fall is a real treat for the eyeballs. The vast amount of color in the landscape is just incredible. What a miracle to witness the grand finale of the leaves as they turn from green into flaming reds, oranges and yellows against the backdrop of red rock. Even better is to experience this away from the crowd by hiking The Narrows from top to bottom like we did in the third week of October. It is a sixteen mile hike which we completed in two days with one night camping along the trail. By the end of the hike we were beyond exhausted, and our feet and knees ached from walking through cold water and slippery rocks almost the whole way. It was definitely worth it though to experience such brilliant scenery up close and personal.
The night before the hike we drove from LA and crashed for free on BLM land outside of the National Park. We thought we were camping at a designated site called Coal Pits Wash that had been recommended to us as a place to camp. Only we turned too soon and ended up on a random dirt road. We pitched our tents on a flat area as we didn’t want to drive anymore. Unfortunately we realized we were near some sort of construction or mining site because we were hearing weird booms and explosions in the distance all night and faint tractor sounds. The explosions were a little un-settling but we didn’t see another soul and we all slept fine. Bottom line though…dark and lonely dirt roads in the desert are creepy.
The next morning we picked up our permits at the wilderness office right as the sun rose, had some coffee and breakfast in the cute little town of Springdale, and then arrived at the Zion Adventure Company where we had a shuttle ride reserved to drive us the hour and a half to the trailhead. We parked our car at their shop to be picked up once we got to the bottom of the hike. Some of our group also rented some gear from their shop such as neoprene socks, special water shoes and dry pants to stay warm in the fifty-five degree water. I rented a special waterproof camera case and socks and brought my own wetsuit. The one person in our group who didn’t rent any warm gear was regretting his decision with frozen toes the whole time. Wearing special socks at minimum for the fall season temps seems like the way to go for enjoyment of this hike.
It was a scenic and curvy ride to the trailhead and then we embarked on the hike. After walking for a few miles through a cattle-ranch we finally arrived at the point to get our feet wet. The water was definitely cold. The deeper we got into the canyon the more beautiful the scenery became. Hiking through water currents and slippery rock feels like double the miles because of the extra work on the muscles. We hiked ten miles total the first day to arrive at our reserved campsite. The campsites were all pretty similar and it was really just a place to eat and crash, nothing too special. We were very tired and sore after that long day.
The next day we started to see lots more people as we got closer to the bottom of the hike, where many people start their day hikes. It was much nicer without the crowds the first day, although the lower elevation made the temp warmer on the second day which was nice. We didn’t see much of the amazing fall leaves the second day either, but the canyon walls were incredible. After a long six miles of hiking in water sometimes up to our hips we made it to the end. From there we had to catch two free shuttles through the park to get back to our car. Phew, what an adventure! This was definitely different from your average backpacking trip. It gave us a little taste into what canyoneering would be like…now we are tempted to try it. Despite the cost of the gear and shuttle, the cold water, and our incredibly tired legs, we are sure glad we got to be in such a beautiful and one of a kind place, in such a perfect season to be there. Oh what a wonderful planet we live on!
There are many more photos of our trip here.
A few weeks ago we loaded up a bunch of camping gear, food, beer, water, some costumes and a couple of decorated bikes and headed to the desert to camp with roughly 50,000 other people in a temporary community called Black Rock City for the Burning Man festival. It is an event full of mind-blowing, large-scale art projects and diverse people. The participants themselves create everything that is there. All of the art and structures are built and installed temporarily, by the participants, only to be burned or taken down a week later leaving absolutely no trace that they were ever there. It is an absurd and magical experiment in community, creativity and human interaction.
Self reliance, participation, and gifting are at the heart of the whole experience. To be in a place where people give with no expectation of getting something back in return is inspirational. It’s a powerful and transformative thing to see such creativity and generosity everywhere and it is infectious. From the very first moment we arrived our new neighbors were helping us with our shade tarp, hammering in rebar for us and giving us Polaroid photos, food and drink. Everyone shares and gives of their time and resources and supports each other with no judgements about who you are, where you are from or what you believe in. How very different from the society we live in normally. It is astounding to see how much time, energy, money, and effort people put into their artworks, theme camps, structures, costumes and vehicles purely for the joy of sharing them with others, or helping people to let go, open up and participate.
Many people we’ve met who have never been to Burning Man have preconceived notions of what it is. Yes it is a giant party with lots of naked hippies…but it is so much more than just that! There are also families, kids, babies, and adults of all ages, beliefs, orientations and regions doing all sorts of incredible, generous, intelligent and artistic things. Highlights of our week were going roller-skating on a full size roller disco rink in the middle of the desert. Having drinks at a bar under a huge and ornate Moroccan tent. Attending a yoga class outside under a big dome at sunset. Sharing food and drink with our camping neighbors. Dancing all over to many types of music. Attending an Art Psalms talk given by the artists Alex and Alison Grey where we had a marriage ceremony with our souls. Riding on a double-decker art car turned into a giant unicorn.
Riding our bikes at sunset with the full blue moon rising above the majestic desert mountains. Starting spontaneous light up Frisbee matches at night with strangers on stilts. Flying kites with our camping neighbors. Stumbling upon a very interesting lecture about technology, privacy and freedom by the creators of the Tor Project. Seeing a live band perform and play the Theremin on top of a moving pirate ship. Watching the most amazing fire performers we’d ever seen. Getting spontaneous crown chakra massages and blessings from strangers we bumped into after the burn. Then of course seeing the man burn is the most incredible thing to witness, and a huge celebration. That was followed by dancing in a spontaneous drum circle around the embers of the fire with an old Native American man, an old marching band drummer, and so many types of instruments.
Ah, and then there is the temple. On the last night watching the temple burn was such a powerful experience. It was our favorite part of the whole festival. Its beauty and detail was astounding and it’s amazing that it was all hand-made over the course of the year by the artist David Best and his crew only for this one week. When people arrive they fill it with all of their hopes, dreams, losses, regrets, and love. Many people hang photos of lost loved ones or write letters and poems and quotes. We hung some pictures and wrote letters about our lost loves, and anything else we wanted to get off our chest, or manifest for our future, and stuck them high up in the walls.
The temple becomes something bigger than the sum of its parts because of the people’s interaction with it. Walking into it after a week of people filling it with memorials, images and writing, and feeling the powerful energy inside can bring you to your knees with emotion. There were sometimes musicians playing various melodies, and people meditating, or crying, or just walking around looking and reading in awe. And then on the last night it burns and all of the powerful emotion is set free. You can almost feel people’s pain and regrets vanishing in the flames. What a way to end the week.
When trying to explain Burning Man to curious friends and family afterwards it feels like something important is left out that can’t quite be put into words. It really must be experienced in the moment and in person to understand. Burning Man is a catalyst. It opens people up, unites them, and ignites their souls, through a combination of fire and art and raw brutal earth and shared experiences. It can transform the attendees’ innermost creative sparks into well-lit fires so they are able to engage and consciously co-create the unfolding of their lives. That is what we took away from this experience the most. We came home with well-lit, brightly burning soul fires and a lot of dust.
One downside to wilderness camping is the major lack of fresh vegetables to eat. After a few days of eating nothing but dehydrated carbs and protein one can start to have major green withdrawals. We’ve gone so far as to pack in some fresh broccoli, kale, or green beans but that is only for the first night before they spoil. Fresh veggies are also heavy, bulky and not always realistic to carry on a long backpacking trip. They definitely don’t squeeze into a bear canister if you are in bear country! So how does one pack in more lightweight nutrition and veggie power into camping and traveling food?
We’ve discovered that kale chips make great backpacking food! Kale chips are like the veggie version of beef jerky. Sure many carnivores would argue this statement, but they definitely hit the spot for vegetarians and if flavored well even beef jerky lovers could get on board. Kale even has a bit of protein in addition to all the vitamins and fiber. Kale chips are lightweight too. If they get crushed they just turn into kale flakes, which are still better than nothing and go great sprinkled on a dehydrated dinner. Kale chips can be purchased at health food stores but they usually seem overpriced so we prefer to make our own. Luckily our friends gave us a super-duper food dehydrator that was from the Goodwill. Still works like a charm. These could also be made in an oven on warm but they lose some nutritional value if the temp goes over 118 degrees. This recipe is adapted from one found online here which requires minimal prep and no extra appliances to make the marinade. It is easy to experiment with the spices too. We like them spicy. Hooray for kale chips!
1/2 cup quality olive oil
1/2 cup tamari (or low sodium soy sauce)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup tahini
2 crushed garlic cloves
Approx. 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper and/or cumin powder, more or less to taste (optional)
2 large bunches organic kale, washed and de-stemmed and torn into large pieces
Combine the first seven ingredients. Blend or whisk until smooth.
Thoroughly coat kale leaves in dressing.
Arrange on dehydrator trays in single layer.
Dehydrate at 145 for 1 hour, then at 110 until dry and crisp. It usually takes about 6-8 hours in our older dehydrator, but they are probably all a little different. Keep an eye on them at first to see how fast it goes. Then try not to eat them all in one sitting!
Our Fourth of July weekend was spent on a backpacking trip to the Ten Lakes region in Yosemite National Park.
We hiked over 6.5 miles on a trail that passed through forests, granite cliffs and open fields filled with wildflowers and grazing deer.
After climbing up over a mountain pass we descended down into a valley filled with ten or more small alpine lakes of various size.
The lower lakes were filled with fish. The higher elevation lakes were crystal clear and perfect for swimming. We explored almost all of the lakes and saw some amazing views as we hiked around the area.
We are continuously in awe of all the amazing places to explore in Yosemite. Another successful wilderness trip on the books! We put some more pictures of the trip here.
When we were planning our trip to Kauai to hike the Kalalau trail we found a lot of info online to help us prepare. We did still encounter a few surprises along our way though and realized a few things we would do differently next time. So to add to the pile of info already out there about Kalalau, here are a few details that we learned.
Transportation: We took a bus as far across the island as possible, which got us to Hanalei where we got our last-minute supplies. Then we tried to hitchhike the last few miles. We were told by many that it is safe and common in Kauai to hitchhike. We were not having any luck getting picked up though. A taxi happened to drive by so we snagged it. It cost about $25 to get to the trailhead. On the way back we were able to hitch a ride almost all the way back to the airport from a super awesome vacationing couple from L.A. Thanks goodness for them because we would have missed our flight if we had to bus back. We should not cut it so close next time we have a flight to catch!
The Hike: They were not kidding when they rated this hike a 9 out of 10 for difficulty. It was hard! The heat and humidity were intense. The ups-and-downs and switchbacks were relentless. We wished we had traveled lighter than we did. Also we started too late in the day which made it hotter and more crowded. It is probably best to camp nearby the trail-head the night before and start hiking early, otherwise you might have to break up the hike into two days as we did. Taking a kayak out there next time is pretty tempting too.
Gear: We realized pretty early on that we brought way too much stuff. This was a good lesson for us as we try to lighten our load in preparation for our future international travels.
Things we’re glad we brought:
Things we could have done without:
Things we wish we had:
Unpleasant detail: There are a ton of roaches living in all the bushes around the beach and under leaves. They will crawl into your food and packs if you don’t hang them and close things up well. They come out in the dark when the birds go to sleep. We got a mad case of the heebee geebees the first night when we realized they were crawling everywhere as we tried to cook dinner in the dark. It’s best to cook before sunset, go to bed with the sun, and rise with the sun. Out of sight out of mind.
In hindsight: The island of Kauai is such a beautiful place with so many amazing areas to explore. We wished we had more time to spend slowly making our way around the island. In our opinion one week was not nearly enough to do the Kalalau trail and also see enough of the island.
Overall: Kalalau is amazing and it is easy to see why it is rated one of the top 10 backpacking trips in the world. The hike is drop dead gorgeous, and although it is difficult, you feel very accomplished to hike such a spectacular trail built by ancient Hawaiians. Once you reach the end the reward is nothing short of paradise!
After spending a week camping on the beach of Kalalau on the island of Kauai, we return to the mainland with the vibrant green cliffs, warm blue waters, and radiant yellow sun still bouncing around in our hearts. The little slice of paradise known as Kalalau, which means wanderer in Hawaiian, has an energy that is palpable. It is only accessible by an 11-mile hike or by kayak which makes it far more secluded than your average Hawaiian beach. For those of you that make your way to this special place it is very likely that its spirit will slowly sink in and split you wide open like a coconut.
We came in to the region with our head still somewhat spinning on the frequencies and pace of our day-to-day routine of work, media, and city life. After a few days of waking up to the crashing waves and tropical birds, and letting the warm and powerful energy of the island sink in, we felt a significant shift.
We had read that some people stay in Kalalau long-term but did not have any expectations about our encounters with people as we were planning our trip. We were expecting the amazing natural beauty of the place to be our biggest encounter. Surprisingly, some of the people we met there had just as big of a role in our “opening up” as did the natural beauty. Through the course of our week there we were offered fresh mango and noni fruit, drinks and other treats, hiking recommendations and directions to beautiful spots, tips on where to get water, a brief history lesson on the island and origins of the Hawaiian people there, information on native and non-native plants, and heard beautiful ukulele and singing in harmony from two Hawaiian descendants. Our stay in Kalalau was already near perfect, and the generosity and openness of some of the people we encountered was icing on the cake.
Kalalau can really be whatever you want it to be. You can have an isolated and quiet experience between just you and the earth. You can also have a somewhat social experience if you want to meet some very unique and interesting people who call the place home. We had a little of both. Our time there was slow, easy and relaxed but it still went too fast and it’s easy to see how some people would get there and decide that they are just not ready to leave. As our week came to an end and we embarked on the 11-mile hike back to catch our flight home it was very hard to say goodbye.
There were many reminders along the hike that we had not fully left Kalalau yet. Halfway through our hike out as we stopped to filter some water from a creek we encountered a local man in a sarong. He offered us freshly toasted coconut that he placed in a big pile on a banana leaf and left near the trail for travelers. We pointed the treats out to a couple of people who were hiking in but they seemed too afraid to try it. Hopefully after a few days time spent in Kalalau they will be opened up enough to take in such gifts from the island.
One local that we talked to said, “…we are helping to get visitors out of their heads and into their hearts. The people living here are just saving space and waiting for the rest of the world to wake up.”
It seems like that awakening might be happening slowly but surely. We are feeling it, and it seems like when we travel and encounter other people in the world we see that many others are right there with us. This feeling in our hearts that we brought back from Kalalau is not going anywhere, but is only growing into a light as bright as the Hawaiian sun itself. I hope that it will guide us back to Kalalau one day. We may even stay for a while next time.
You can see more photos from our trip here.