Two Days of Sheer Bliss!

Camping, Kayaking and Hiking . . . Oh Yea!!!

by Rachelle Siegrist

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The Happy campers!

Camping . . . The mere thought of it makes me giddy with delight, and Wes and I were blessed with two picture-perfect days while doing just that this past week!  We’re basic tent campers, which brings back into one’s life simplicity and the lack of electronic connection, which I long for! Where only the basics of food, shelter and water matter! Needless to say I was thrilled when we left the house early this past Tuesday morning,   on our mini adventure!

Our happy home away from home!

We arrived in time to set up the tent before lunch and headed out in our kayaks for the afternoon.  A breeze kept us plenty cool while creating ripples on the water, looking like diamonds scattered and dancing on the surface, drawing nearer to us as the wind blew our direction.  Surrounded by mountains the beautiful lake looked almost surreal, feeling like heaven on earth!

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My “redneck bandaid” photo bombing the beautiful view … I didn’t have a regular bandaid with me away from the camp!

The tops of the surrounding mountains were still bare, as the brilliant spring green of baby leaves made their way up the mountainside, pairing beautiful against the cloudless azure skies above!  I had to pinch myself to make sure it was for real, this stunningly gorgeous setting!  We paddled along while peering below watching abundant baby bass swim nearby. Occasionally the adorable little fish would swim up and look up at me, as if saying “Hi”, then swim alongside my kayak.  

A gorgeous Banded-Water Snake, Flame Azaleas and Tulip Poplar bloom

Following the curving lakeside, we saw several Flame Azaleas blooming, with one in particular that was truly stunning! Several Mountain Laurel were also blooming, showcasing their delicate pink blossoms against the light green leaves.

Wes with the Flame Azalea and me with the Mountain Laurel

Although the wind made it a bit difficult to paddle at times, it provided a wonderfully relaxing rocking motion as I just drifted up and over the small choppy waves, and I decided I could happily do that for hours!  Upon returning to our campsite, we enjoyed hiking around the lake later that afternoon.

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Wes on the hiking trail

After cooking super, we headed back out into the kayaks for an evening of paddling around the lake. Reaching the far end, we heard the call of a Barred Owl saying, “Who, Who . . . Who cooks for you?”   A few times.  Before long it was answered by another “Who, Who . . . Who cooks for you?” Coming from across the lake.  By this time the wind had died down and a peaceful stillness had settled over the quiet lake, and if felt as if Wes and I, along with the chatting pair of Barred Owls were earth’s only inhabitants!  

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Sheer bliss . . .

The setting sun dipped lower into the sky, and I sat in my kayak, mesmerized by the sheer beauty of it all! Returning to our campsite, Wes commenced building a fire,  for sitting by the glowing warmth of a campfire and making s’mores is a must when camping!  Once the sun had set and darkness fell, we sat on a small pier, absorbing the sheer beauty of the lakes surface illuminated by the half moon, mirroring the star studded sky above!  

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Peace . . . .

As the night grew darker, the peepers started singing and we’re joined by the “Wounk . . . Wounk” of Bull frogs.  Suddenly the Whip Poor-wills started up, joined by the Barred Owls, and it was the most beautiful night music I’ve ever heard!  I laid there in the tent listening to it all, trying to decipher the distinct animal sounds I was hearing.  At some point during the night the Barred Owls decided to converse right above our tent, and the sound of them was truly amazing!

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Watching the sunrise

I was up by 6 AM the next morning, watching the sunrise over the lake, a splendid experience indeed!  After breakfast and warming up by the campfire, we headed out on the glassy-surfaced lake, amidst a etherial mist still rising off the water in the frigid morning air.  We paddled with ease throughout the morning, making our way around the lake.  


We enjoyed another hike that afternoon, and I was thrilled to find that the little camp store had small cups of Mayfield chocolate ice cream, complete with the little wooden spoons!  A treat I loved as a child, I indulged thinking this just keeps getting better!  

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We decided to have a picnic supper in our kayaks on the lake, and once again enjoyed having it to ourselves, except for one lone fisherman.  We paddled along with ease, gliding across the glassy surface, stopping frequently to just admire the beauty of it all.  Removing fishing line from tree limbs along the waters edge is something we always spend time doing while kayaking, leaving the lake as free of the tangled line as possible.

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Our picnic supper view

Having froze the night before in the tent, we took it down and slept in our van that night, which was much warmer.  During the night the wind picked up and by the next morning, we were being hit by very strong gusts!  After eating breakfast and taking one last look at the lake, we decided to head out before the storm intensified.

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Wes with one of his fires

Having only driven a few miles, we came to a screeching halt behind a line of stopped fellow campers, as two large trees had fallen completely across the road.  Wes immediately went to help one guy with a chainsaw and a few other men that were working feverishly to get the trees cut up and moved off the road.  Thankfully the man cutting, was making strategic cuts with great precision, obviously knowing what he was doing!  Being near the crest of the mountaintop, the wind gusts at 80 mph plus, were barreling over the top and descending down on us with an unbelievable force, causing the trees lining the road to appear as if they were all coming down on our vehicles!  Tree limbs were snapping and cracking all over and the thundering crash of huge trees falling could be heard throughout the forest!!! It took all I could do to stand there, realizing I had never before witnessed such power of nature and I was truly amazed, thinking this must be what the adrenaline rush feels like for storm chasers! Tree limbs, 8 foot at least long and several inches in diameter, were flying overhead, hitting one person in the back!  Finally anther man with a chainsaw joined in and soon we had it clear, thankfully making it safely off the narrow mountain road, after driving around several more downed trees blocking part of it! “Wow “. . . I thought . . . “Two days of sheer bliss and an adrenaline-filled morning . . . what a great adventure!”  I’m ready to go again!

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Kayaking across a pollen-covered lake

 Great News!!!

Wes and I were absolutely thrilled to learn this past week that we each had paintings accepted into both the 42nd Birds in Art at the prestigious Woodson Art Museum and the 57th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists, to be held at the beautiful Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum, which will also be hosting our Exquisite Miniatures tour April 1 – August 15, 2019!

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Wes’ Birds in Art painting “Lakeside Perch” 
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My Birds in Art Painting “The Usual Suspects”
turtle painting by rachelle siegrist
My 57th Annual SAA Painting “Aquatic Patterns” painted on silk
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Wes’ 57th Annual SAA painting “Lurking in The Pea Soup”

yellow lab painting, yellow Labrador Retriever painting, dog commission by rachelle siegrist

We’re also still working on commissions that I’ll share soon!

~ To Commission A Painting by Us Click Here!

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle

A Fun Visit With Wes’ Family!

Visiting Wes’ Parents!

by Rachelle Siegrist

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Wes sprays his mom with water before she knew what happened!

We enjoyed a lovely visit with Wes’ parents in southern Indiana this past week.  Monday, his brother Tony and wife Karen joined Wes’ parents and I, as we headed to the Louisville Zoo for the day.  Blessed with beautiful spring weather, the animals were out enjoying the plentiful sunshine, creating great photos-ops for future paintings!  

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Jeanie bonding with a precious Meerkat

A highlight of our visit was watching the hilarious antics of the Meerkats, as they lounged about, propped up against one another, whilst enjoying the warmth of the sun. The occasional jet flying overhead, caused them all to stop and look up into the sky each time, watching as the strange, large bird flew above!  As soon as the coast was clear it was back to the normal business of lounging about and playing.  Mesmerized and totally absorbed in their little world, I could’ve stayed there watching these adorable mammals for hours!

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The closest Wes has ever been to a grizzly!

Another highlight was getting to see the new baby gorilla Kindi and we arrived just in time to watch the keeper feed her, with her tiny fingers accepting the wee bits of food offered to her, as well as her surrogate mother sitting right beside her.  She was adorable, and like numerous other times, I longed to be able to hold her!  We spent the remainder of the day slowly wandering throughout the zoo admiring the amazing residents, as well as the numerous flowering trees, shrubs and flowers.  

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“Open up and say Ahhhhh” . . . A resident Grizzly gets a check up

That evening we attended a concert at the Bird Recital Hall, featuring the University of Louisville’s String Chamber Ensemble.  It was a delightful evening, as the stringed instruments lulled us into a state of relaxation. Three musicians playing cellos as well as a pianist, walked onto stage and began playing David Popper’s Requiem, Op. 66 and as they did, their bows coaxed a most soothing hum from the beautiful stringed instruments.  The piano joined in and the audience was spellbound, as the melodious sound filled the air of the intimate recital hall.  Once the very last notes drifted softly off into thin air, the crowd applauded with great enthusiasm!  

Several more songs were performed, and I was instantly transported to another time and place, one consisting of lush green pastures and peaceful still waters, as four talented musicians, playing violins, a viola and a cello began playing Giacometti Puccini’s Crisantemi, an absolute favorite of mine!  One cannot help but to be lulled into a state of utter peace when listening to this beautiful piece of music! The concert ended and the attendees left wearing smiles!

Wes and his parents by Cake Rock, at the top of lots of stairs, and looking out at Clifty Falls

The next day was spent exploring Clifty Falls State Park, starting with of course a short hike to the falls.  First we saw Little Clifty and while hiking over to Big Clifty, we passed cake rock, which looks like a HUGE piece of cake.  While passing the big wedge shaped rock, I imagined that it must be surely be chocolate cake and of course piled high with frosting! Upon descending multiple stairs, many ones made of old stone, we reached the lookout for Big Clifty, and it too was beautiful, as the water poured over the edges of the multiple stacked long flat rocks.

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Me beside Big Clifty Falls

Tunnel Falls, me on a staircase, and the top of the falls 

That evening we enjoyed a delicious and fun dinner at the Key West Shrimp House in downtown Madison, Indiana.  Upon entering I immediately recognized the smell, one of an old building, mixed with seafood, and was instantly reminded of visits to restaurants in the Florida Keys and other Florida coastal regions while growing up!  We were seated by a large window offering a lovely view of the Ohio River, and the food was delicious to boot.  Happily they shared the secret to their melt in your mouth hushpuppies . . . cake mix added to the hush puppy batter!  It was a lovely drive through the countryside on the return trip that evening, as the golden light of the setting sun set the yellow flower-filled fields ablaze!

Fields of gold, The Key West Shrimp House and can you say Yum???

Thursday morning it was time for goodbyes, as we started our journey back to the Smokies.  Now it’s back to work in the studio once again!

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Wes and Greg aren’t sure what to think of Wes’ flaming sushi roll!

~ Fresh off the Easels ~

While I’m continuing to paint on my commission featuring a UTV with four furry passengers, Wes finished another commission this past week, of an Atlantic Puffin for one of our collectors, who had adopted the puffin named Indiana.  If you too would like to join in with helping to save our precious puffins visit their website to learn more at Audubon Project Puffin.

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Wes’ commission “Louise’s Puffin, Indiana” 

yellow lab painting, yellow Labrador Retriever painting, dog commission by rachelle siegrist

~ To Commission A Painting by Us Click Here!

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle