Heather Day took over the She Explores Instagram this Martin Luther King Day Weekend. She shared photos and words from a solo cross country road trip she took early this autumn. Camping and driving by herself, she was inspired by the American landscape and people in ways that she never expected.
Determined to stretch the boundaries of my comfort zone, last summer I planned a solo trip across the U.S.–from San Francisco to Washington DC and back again. I wanted to create a new body of work through traveling and observing nature, but what started as a fairly straight forward trip evolved into one that would challenge my motivations and sense of independence. I took this photo 3 days into my trip while I was in Utah. After a rocky start of traveling to full campsites and pitching tents in dark, obscure areas, I was relieved to find this special place at Kolab Resevoir. I turned the campsite into my studio and started to prove to myself that I could in fact, work anywhere.
Though I was tempted to stay at this campsite (forever,) I packed my things and went back to Zion National Park bright and early. I hiked many of the lighter trails that day, my favorite being The Narrows. The entire hike is in the river. It was so refreshing! The water was very cold, but it was about 75 degrees outside. Between hiking through the water, climbing giant rocks and intermittent breaks for drawing- It couldn’t have been a more perfect day. By late afternoon, I got back in my car and drove to Colorado.
Blasting music with the windows down and views like this made me think that I could live on the road forever. I was really inspired by the contrasting colors between the sky and the canyons.
Colorado was amazing. It gave me so much perspective. I was taking note of the mountain ranges while also observing how people interacted in the parks. I was curious to see what they were taking photos of and how everyone had such a unique takes of the same landscape.
Most of the camp sites I stayed at were by the water. This effected my work drastically. I was observing the movement during the day and falling asleep to the sound of the currents. I started to wonder how sound can translate into texture. What would that look like?
I spent a lot of time pulled over on the side of the road doing brief sketches. This gave me a break from driving while also providing me with visual notes of the trip. I took this photo in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Asheville.
The Black Balsam Knob trail, located southwest of Asheville in Pisgah National Forest, will always be a special place for me. It was my first visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I spent a couple of days hiking there. One day, unsure about a trail I was on, I asked a woman named Sally for direction. This woman was the friendliest person I met on the trip. She told me she was going the same direction, and that if I wanted to, I could join her if I didn’t mind moving slow. I didn’t.
We started walking and ended up having a wonderful conversation along the way. She’s an artist from Florida currently traveling across the country, camping and illustrating nature. We talked about everything from ex-boyfriends (husbands for her,) to art and our travels. She seemed so happy and healthy that I had to ask her for advice. She told me that when I’m lost somewhere in a train of thought, to be aware of the present moment. She said “‘Now’ is the operative word. Heaven is now.” I asked her if she was religious, and she responded, “Yes. Well, I hope I’m not. I’m spiritual. At this age, it makes sense.”
After we made to the top, and snapped this photo, Sally gave me her mailing address so that I could print the photo and sent it to her. Just yesterday, I received a long, hand written letter from her with photos from our hike. I owe her a letter, photos and a thank you for restoring my faith in humanity.
Heading back from the east coast, I stopped at Beaver Dam, just a few hours away from Yellow Stone National Park. I was mesmerized by the drift wood in the water. It made me question a lot of my motives as an abstract artist. I wonder if my work is another interpretation of realism or just maybe, we need to open our eyes to the abstractions in life around us.
Yellow Stone National Park encourage mored questions for me about abstraction in nature. If I were to paint this photo, it would probably look like an abstract painting.
After several weeks, thousands of miles and hundreds of experiences, I arrived back in San Francisco a changed person. My drawings acted as souvenirs from all of the places and people I had met.