Nature Journaling in the Grand Canyon! Post-Trip Share (Part 1)

I’m back from nature journaling in the Grand Canyon for 21 days. In my live “Show and Tell” video I share experiences and pages from the adventure!

You already know I have been testing nature journal supplies, clothing, sun protection, waterproof supplies, and other gear in preparation for this trip. You have heard about my training and my preparation. Now I’m back! And I have lots to share. In fact, it was so much I have to do a Part Two. My goal is to give you some answers to the following questions.

  • First, how did I prepare?
  • Next, how did I stay focused during the trip?
  • Lastly, what am I gonna do now that the trip is over?

Preparing to Nature Journal in the Grand Canyon

It can be hard to prepare for something that you have never done before. Had I ever been to the Grand Canyon before? Nope. Whitewater rafting with some of the biggest navigable rapids on the continent? Nope. Any whitewater rafting experience at all? No, but I went down a creek in an inner tube once. Any other river expedition experience? Nope. Had I ever spent 23 days camping with my girlfriend before? No…What about other multi-day expedition experience? Sort of… What about nature journaling in extreme conditions and unusual places? Yep, I got that one covered!

Nature Journaling the Grand Canyon
Photo by Brock Dolman

 

So first, I had to make sure I had the material needs covered to survive and thrive enough to enjoy the trip and have enough energy to nature journal. I didn’t want to break the bank on gear or spend forever trying to figure out what was best. Luckily, our trip leader, Cooper, and his partner Leah had a lot of the necessary gear that we could borrow. In addition, I managed to piece together a lot of the clothing necessary from my old wool hunting clothes and bought some used Patagonia layers. I love that they have a website dedicated to selling used gear that is still very useful and often like new.

Then, I focused my remaining funds on buying some key new pieces of equipment…
  1. A waterproof bag just for my nature journal kit. Watershed Largo Tote Bag(full review coming soon). Keeping my nature journal supplies easily accessible yet safe was a priority!
  2. Waterproof Notebook from Rite in the Rain. I also got two waterproof pens which ended up sucking…(review coming soon)
  3. Sun Protection was a priority for me! A wind resistant, non-floppy sun hat. Sun gloves so that I didn’t have to worry about sunscreen on my hands messing up my paper. I also got two sun shirts for sun protection on hot days.
  4. I also tried out an unusual style of sunglasses with no arms! Instead
    Photo by Brock Dolman

    of arms they have a cord attachment that makes them less likely to break and they don’t fall off even in the big rapids or while swimming, or under a 60 foot waterfall. Yes I tested them in all those settings. More review of these coming in the future.

  5. Last but definitely not least, I got an amazing camping chair. This chair was recommended by our trip leader for river trips. Luckily, I got it several months before the trip and it is one of my most useful nature journaling tools now! With this chair I was even able to sit in waterfalls and paint them.
    nature journaling in the grand canyon
    Sitting in a creek below a waterfall in my joeychair Photo by Brock Dolman
    Other Preparations for the Canyon

I knew from previous experiences that it would take me a while to get used to nature journaling in the Grand Canyon. Therefore, I tried to simulate aspects of the expedition in advance. I tested all the gear mentioned above. I tried to simulate conditions that I expected on the trip: wet, hot and sunny, cold and windy, etc. In addition to this type of training I also did research about the grand canyon and practiced layouts and techniques that I would use on my pages.

Balance and Commitment While Nature Journaling in the Canyon

Nature journaling is not always easy. Drawing moving subjects is not child’s play. Despite what people think, watercolor painting en plein air is not relaxing (especially when you only have 15 minutes, you are balanced on the edge of a sheer cliff full of cacti, the light is changing by the minute, spray from a waterfall is buffeting you, and a lifetime’s worth of potential paintings beckon to you from every direction you look in).  Choosing to nature journal while in a group of people doing other things requires balance, self-awareness, and social intelligence. Just choosing to sit with one vista or one plant when there are thousands of sights and experiences vying for your attention is a mentally taxing endeavor.

  1. Nature Journaling in the Grand Canyon
    Counting spines…Photo By Brock Dolman
Nature Journaling = Commitment

In these moments in the canyon it is easy for my mind to play tricks on me. It is easy to talk myself out of the work that I came to do. “It’s cold outside. Warm sleeping bag or sunrise landscape drawing? How can I nature journal before coffee? I should just take pictures of everything instead of trying to draw. I can draw from photos when I get back home. Maybe there is a better view around the corner. I probably need more time to capture this scene…no point in starting now. My nature journal supplies are too hard to get to. I’m too tired to try to draw this scorpion right now, besides look at all those legs! That is going to be too hard. I might mess up the look of the page if I try to sketch that scorpion. What if other people look at my drawing and its not that good?”

At such times it is good to shake all doubts from the head and invoke Steven Pressfield:

The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.

Seeking Balance

While busting one’s ass nature journaling is commendable being a human requires balance. Despite my own fantasies, this trip was not focused specifically on nature journaling in the grand Canyon. This was not like my Nature Journal Safaris in East Africa with John Muir Laws. Even though I planned on “working” on the trip and making a publication of my pages for my Patreon , the trip was actually supposed to be a vacation (why do I still struggle with that word?).

This trip also meant different things to different people. And despite my personal commitment there were plenty of other considerations on this trip. I was part of a team on a potentially dangerous expedition in an extremely remote area-I had a responsibility to the group and cooking and other duties just like everyone else. I was also part of a relationship – I was on this trip with my partner and had to tend to the needs of our relationship and spend quality time together.

grand canyon nature journal share
Sharing Nature Journal Pages with My Grand Canyon Friends photo by Brock Dolman
Me and Kate 🙂 Photo By Kate Freeman

Now What?

After spending 21 days without even seeing a building or a computer it has been a little hard adjusting to being back. However, I’m motivated to share my experiences with the community and I’m compiling and improving on my nature journal pages from the voyage to create a publication for you! This publication will be similar to my Tanzania Travel journal and will be available for print on demand via my author page on Blurb. It will probably cost around $30 for the hard copy and maybe $2 for the e-book. In addition my Patreon patrons of $5 and above will all get a copy mailed to them.

nature journaling in the grand canyon

nature journaling in the grand canyon

Learn to Nature Journal at the Hallberg Butterfly Gardens!

 

I’m super excited to be collaborating with the biodiverse pollinator sanctuary Hallberg Butterfly Gardens! We will be offering an introduction to nature journaling course at their site in Sebastopol. Insects and pollinators are not only fascinating to study and draw but they play a huge part in our ecosystems and have been seriously endangered in recent years. As nature journalers, our observations can play an important role in citizen science and creating a record of these species in our areas.

Supplies will be included!  The class is offered at a sliding scale. $45 minimum to register. Please use the ticket link or contact us to sign up. info@hallbergbutterflygardens.org (707)823-3420

 

What I did This Winter

Happy new year everyone! I’m excited for all the cool plans I have for providing fun and valuable content and art this year. But to start with I’m gonna share this video to give you an idea of what I was up to during my winter break.

Special Access to Nature Journal at the Laguna!

In November, I have the opportunity to lead a crew of nature journalers on some normally inaccessible trails in the Laguna de Santa Rosa! I am really excited to be teaming up with Lapndpaths and the Laguna Foundation again for this trip. Come along for this fun learning adventure.

There will even be snacks and beverages before we head out 🙂

Thanks to Landpaths this class is free if you pre-register here

Spaces are filling up fast so take advantage of this opportunity.

Nature Journal Inside! No Excuses

I had to cancel the nature journaling field trip for today but here is a video that I made to motivate you to nature journal at home! Consider it your homework 🙂 I guarantee it will help you maintain your sanity if you are stuck inside from the smoke:

Please send me an email if you have any other good nature journaling ideas for indoors on rainy or smoky days!

Capture the Essence of California Oak Savanna

In the month of October the north coast nature journal club will be exploring the rolling hills and oak savanna of Helen Putnam Regional Park near Petaluma. We will practice several techniques for doing small watercolor landscapes to capture the essence and atmosphere of the place. We will also practice drawing three-dimensional trees with several tricks that will make your branches look like they’re coming off the page.

We will be hiking short distances up and down hill on this trip with mostly even terrain. Bring all your normal nature journaling supplies and binoculars. Be prepared for sun and warm conditions. A small folding stool could be useful for the longer landscape drawing. This location has a bathroom and seven dollar parking unless you are a member of the Sonoma County Regional Parks. Bring a potluck item that is not too hard to carry onto the trail because we will not want to go back to the parking lot for lunch.

$20 recommended donation

For more information about this park: Helen-Putnam-Regional-Park

In case of heavy rain, unlikely, we will head to California Carnivores in Sebastopol where we can journal and draw incredible carnivorous plants while being protected from the rain..  Directions

The Quest for the Ultimate Nature Journaling Bag Continues!

In August I asked Tom Bihn Bags to send me one of their products to test for nature journaling and to use on my Tanzania trip. I already did an unboxing and first impressions review of “The Maker’s Bag” and this is my follow up in the field.

Check out the product description here: The Maker’s bag

Tom Bihn Bags is a company based in Seattle, Washington. They focus on functional design, ethical production, and high standards.

A Peak at My Latest Journal

Come with me as I peruse the pages of my last journal, sharing drawings and peppering the video with rants about the benefits of journaling. One journal usually spans three to five months of my life.

Learn Faster:

Here is a practical technique that you can apply to learning almost any new skill but is especially useful for nature artists and nature journalers!

I have been unintentionally doing this for a while and have only recently recognized the value and started to conceptualize it.

Do you have information dense places that you seek out to accelerate your learning?

Do you have trouble drawing, painting, or journaling in public places? If so, my next post is for you!