Brushes, Boots, and Backpack: Paintings from The PCT (Plus a Giveaway!)

Many people on the PCT head into the wilderness with the intentions of keeping a journal, getting in touch with the real “them”, or making big miles. I am here to encourage you to take that precious amount of time you are given on the trail and make a project of it. Treat your thru hike like a traveling residency. For most hikers, everyday is a physical challenge. But I assure you, that challenge can be eased if you take some time to channel your creative outlets.  Write a poem, do a drawing, heck; do a modern art installation, in a Leave No Trace style of course. The key to any trail project is consistency, start from day one and keep your expectations small. I lost count of the thru hikers who carried journals for the first hundred miles only to send them home or leave them in a hiker box; pages still blank. You can and you should find a creative outlet on your hike…your experience will be richer for it.Burney Fallscrater

I am an artist, first and foremost, and I decided to carry watercolors and a 10″x10″ sketchbook along the trail. I was often asked the question, how are you carrying that extra weight? My answer was, “How could I not?” This is the way that I have communicated and expressed myself since I was born. From the moment I committed to a thru hike I viewed it through the lens of an artist residency. I wanted to see what happened while my body was being challenged beyond belief. I wanted to see what happened creatively after long days of walking. I wanted to see what ideas my mind would come up with while under all the stresses of the trail. washingtonLast Lake in Washington

I do not believe that these creative strategy sessions happen spontaneously, I think you have to take the time to let them happen. There were many times on the trail when I regretted not stopping to record a beautiful time of day or place. However, those moments when I did stop for a lunch break and chose to draw, rather than taking a much desired nap always produced the most magical and memorable moments of my hike. Those are the moments I will always treasure, the moments where I was the most present. It’s finding the balance between the desire to create and the desire to progress along the trail that becomes the real challenge!

Hiker Artist KitPostcards have always been my communication of choice while traveling. During my hike I found it to be the perfect way to share my journey with friends, followers and family. It allowed me to capture some of the most intimate moments of the trail and share them with the ones I hold close. The mile marker postcards were an entity all their own. Not only were they a way to communicate with my family, but a way to share and keep track of how far we had journeyed. They were a way to commemorate the miles in a Leave No Trace manner, and also a living document of the passing of time along the trail.  One of my first realizations of just how far we had hiked, was when my brother took a photo of all the mile marker cards together. I looked at all 27 cards and first felt stunned that there were that many, and second amazed that each card represented a 100 miles of our trek.

pct mile markers

On an average day you really don’t think about how far you have come. You think about that day specifically: how far is it till camp, how far you have to go till water, what does tomorrow’s elevation look like? But, once in a while I had the pleasure of painting a milestone postcard in my tent at the end of the day and I soon realized that not only had we hiked another 100 miles, but after a time seeing 2000 and 2500 mile cards brought me a sense of pride and accomplishment I had never experienced before. My trail project was bringing me peace and perspective…a unforeseen yet fulfilling result.

I would encourage everyone who hikes the trail to look at the time they are given as a gift and create something from it. Something that will outlast them and shine a light on the beauty that is the PCT in a new and unique way. I heard story of hiker who was spending hours writing the most intricate postcards while hiking the trail, another who brought along oil paints and spent hours creating works of art in some of the most remote sections of wilderness. These are the stories that inspire me; people who find ways to be present in the limited moments you have during your hike.  Whether it be through photography, writing, music, film, drawing, painting, or any other medium that appeals to you…find a way to remain present through your art. I promise you, your time spent creating on the trail will transcend anything else you experience on the PCT.


In an effort to stoke your creative flame, I’m going to be giving away one of my paintings from my PCT thru-hike- see the image below.  To enter, let me know how you plan on combining your love of nature with an upcoming creative pursuit in the comments of this post.  I’ll pick a winner by 10pm EST on 1/24 (the winner must have a US mailing address).

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Comments 22

  • B. Wolf : Jan 15th

    First off: WOW! I love your work! I, too, enjoy pen and ink work, but have yet to master watercolor at the level that you have!

    While traveling I keep a journal/sketchbook, which I try to write in everyday. My first travel journal is from my semester abroad with the college’s art program in Italy. Beside the in depth descriptions of every slice of pizza and scoop of gelato are numerous sketches of Bernini scupltures, arches in the Roman Forum, and landscapes of the beautiful Umbrian countryside. My second journal is from my 2015 summer trip walking the Camino del Norte, and exploring Europe and Morocco. There was so much that I experienced that I filled nearly every page (front and back) with tiny maps of my daily excursions to museums, descriptions of the intriguing people that I encountered, and drawings of the scenery from my lunch breaks along the Spanish coastline and bucolic countryside. For my PCT this year I will carry on my tradition! With all of the breathtaking and magnificent scenery that my own country has to offer, how could I not?
    I keep these records not only to process my day (with all that time one cannot help but think about every facet of life) or relate my escapades for posterity, but to have a physical adaptation of my life. Because my family has a history of dementia, I try to record every moment and detail of my adventures. Though one day I may no longer have these extraordinary memories, I know that I will be able to look back through my journals and sketches and re-experience the life of my past self.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful and inspirational work and words!

  • Mig Whitt Trail name "YIPPEE" : Jan 15th

    Yes! Finally an artist! I am hikin gthe PCT in April of 2017. I am bringing my watercolors and a small watercolor pad, glad to see I am not the only one. Thanks for the inspiration. Mig

  • Ashley Ciccarello : Jan 15th

    In the past I have created scrapbook collages with old maps, tickets, and receipts, journaling blurbs in between to jog my memory of the seemingly mundane, but fascinating to me, details- current cost of things, what I ate, how long it took to travel somewhere… in the language of the country if I could- both to reinforce the language at the time and see how much I’ve forgotten when I read back, haha.

    When in nature, however, photography and videography still remain favorite avenues of creative capturing. I’ve rewatched my scuba diving video compilations countless times to relive the bliss of weightlessness.

    If I had your skill with watercolors, I’d love to add that avenue to my repertoire! Your paintings are amazing!

  • Lisa Pulsifer : Jan 15th

    I’ve been so inspired by you since joint along your journey partway through California. Extra weight is nothing compared to the inspiration and creativity you created on your journey.
    Last year I hiked the John Muir Trail. My extra weight was yarn and knitting needles, to create a pair of Sierra-inspired socks
    This year I’m planning to hike the Washington section of the PCT this summer. I’m sure I’ll bring knitting along but I also have a blog where I’ve been sharing my adventures through writing and photography. I hope to inspire others to get out on trail!

  • Kristin :) : Jan 15th

    Hi. I write a and draw (doodle). Photography and painting is another outlet. Take it as it comes. PCT 2017. Lets see what happens.

  • Emily Hochheiser : Jan 15th

    Hello there,

    For starters, your work is both beautiful and fun. I am inspired by your interpretation of the outdoor sights in front of you and your desire to share it with the world!

    My favorite thing about traveling and adventure is taking in all the things that surrounds you, but one thing stands out in particular: the people you meet along the way. I am about to begin a through hike of the Appalachian Trail, which is my big “love of nature” adventure. My plan for making the most of this is to begin a video blog that is unlike any other.

    I want to focus on the stories behind those I meet and all the lessons they’ve learned from the trail. They can talk about the good, the bad, and whatever else they see fit. I’ll simply listen and ask as these once strangers turn into a friend. I’ll take this and turn it into a motivational video that not only supports nature’s therapy but also encourages people. My goal is to spread inspiration to never stop dreaming, believe that you are capable of something amazing, and to live a life of happy simplicity.

    Dream on!!!

  • Aaron Owens : Jan 15th

    Wow! Love your work! My creativity is a little different than most in that I’m not an artist but love being creative in the kitchen. In preparation for my 2017 PCT trek, I began experimenting with homemade trail food and have since decided to attempt to make a career of it as I’m a dietitian by profession. Although I’m not an artist, I plan to document my trek by capturing digital images of my food in all of the amazing locations I experience along the PCT.

  • Erin S : Jan 15th

    Hi Lindsey! I loved following your PCT trek this summer. So much so that my girlfriend bought me watercolors this Christmas so that I could draw on our backpacking trips (I’m terrible! I don’t care!).

    This March I’m doing a Grand Canyon and Zion trip with my little brother, who just graduated from college and is feeling a little lost. He’s been getting a lot of advice, and is rightly sick of it. While we walk, my hope is that he will get something valuable out of just wandering. To capture those feelings, I’m going to make him a little poem/sketch book of canyons and anti advice musings to remember the trip by.

    Keep doing you!

  • john : Jan 16th

    The images of your hike are beautiful and awe inspiring! Other hikers, as much as the nature surrounding us, are also a source of inspiration. While I lack artistic talent, I find it rewarding to note other hikers trail names and contact info. Through long term contact, be it voice or social media, friendships grow even though friends may see one another infrequently. To have images of good friends in one’s (mine or theirs’) favorite spots in nature brings a flood of memories and a feeling of happiness! Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder!

    And I hope you publish a book of your images, they are great!

  • Donald Sico : Jan 16th

    I walk in the mornings. There is a nature cove about a mile and half from my house in Riverton, NJ, that I walk to nearly every morning. It is just 5 or so miles as the hawk flies to downtown Philadelphia and you can see the skyline from the shore of the Delaware River. The cove is thick with deer, wild turkeys, geese and other wildlife. I compose poetry while I am walking. Sometimes I have to pull out my phone and write a passage down so I will remember when I get back. This morning was peaceful and cold. I noticed more starkly than I had before the ridge lines around a pond I often walk around. For some reason, it struck me just how useful ridge lines were in war – particularly The Civil War. That contrast – the peaceful morning and the thought of soldiers huddled behind ridge lines waiting to ambush – will be a future poem. Your art is beautiful. Thanks for doing this.

  • Chris G. : Jan 16th

    Awesome paintings and the thought that you did those after a full day of hiking and all the other interesting things that happen on trail is amazing!

  • Katie Heckey : Jan 16th

    –100 Painted Post Cards–

    Dear inspiring Lindsey,

    I am currently traveling abroad for a year in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Southeast Asia. I try to visit a national park and stay with a local family in each place I visit.

    It’s such an inspiration to see your work. I too wrestle with balancing pack weight with my passion for painting, but painting seems to win the day every time!

    I incorporate creativity with travel by painting custom postcards in watercolor on locations to send to people I meet in my journey. So far I’ve sent cards to folks from Belgium, the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and China. For me, it’s been so meaningful and essential to express gratitude for the people I meet. Without them the journey would not be what it has been. They have offered guidance, advice, excellent company, laughs, meals, and sometimes even a roof over my head.

    Incorporating post means that, in a very tiny way, the world is more interconnected. I run the risk of my work being destroyed in transit, but I like that it aknowledges the impermanence of things. 🙂

    So far I’ve made 15, so it’s a long road ahead but a good one!

    Thanks for reading. Love and luck for you on your next journey.


  • Isabelle Eastham : Jan 17th

    Beautiful work, hiker!

  • Ashley Schellhase : Jan 17th

    Beautiful + inspiring!
    I thru hike the Appalachian Trail in 2016 and kept a journal. My creative writing entries were one of my favorite parts of my day. I read back on them in awe of the journey that shaped me into who I am today.

  • Abby King : Jan 17th

    I had never seen a project like yours before, Lindsay. I was floored!

    Having studied photography, I usually reach for a camera to document my outdoor experiences (most experiences, actually), and leave it at that. Other 2D work, like drawing and painting, leave me feeling that photography is missing the physical aspect of art – even if you develop your own film, the photographic process is so much less tactile than other mediums. Several years ago, I did a series where I tried to bridge the tactile gap between photography and other mediums by embroidering prints of my images. Now seems as good a time as any to embark on another embroidery-photography mash-up; why not center it around my outdoor experiences?

    I am going to embroider at least one instant print of a hike or stroll per month – I’ll choose the print based on how representative it is of my outdoor experiences that month. My images are mostly documentary, so this is simply a more involved continuation of my normal work. I won’t cap myself at one, but because my camera in which I use instant film is a bulky and heavy beast that doesn’t accompany me on every hike, pledging more than one seems a recipe for failure (that, and my supply of instant film is finite).

    You’re infinitely inspiring, Lindsay.

    Michigan nature enthusiast

  • Annick M : Jan 17th

    Well, I’m no artist, but when we hike as a family, we like to create memories and we collect items that we put in a memory jar. It could be the entrance ticket, a funny shaped stone, a pine cone, really small items because we respect the environment and it has to fit in our jar. So my creations are memories for the kids to cherish and remember fondly when they are older

  • Sarah Duke : Jan 17th

    Your PCT journey was such a creative venture to follow! How you colorfully captured the trail made me smile every time you posted a postcard or painting.
    I am a pastry chef. All of my life I’ve created art through baking (it’s like it came from my soul, through my mind, and out through my hands for as long as I can remember ). Almost 6 years ago I developed a rare auto immune disease, taking away everything that I had ever worked for & my absolute dream career. CIDP is so rare that it took 18 months to diagnose. It attacks my central & peripheral nervous systems. I was unable to walk from it the first 2 years and had to re-learn to walk all over again. It also took my sight away several times, among other things and my body has developed 2 additional auto immune diseases (why stop at one, right?! ?) Anyway, I was riding home from a brain CT, thinking about all of things that were changing and what I hold most sacred in my life (family, our dog, friends, pastry, and hiking!) I realized nature had come back in my life to create the peace in my soul where my culinary aspirations could no longer be. Over the course of the last few years I’ve started chemo, immune suppressants, and IV immunotherapy. All to make my life the best that it can be & make it possible to conquer thru hiking the PCT. It has become my inspiration while battling the most difficult things imaginable. Which is how I came to find your beautiful Insta page 😉 ! So..I’ve decided to start writing a book about my life and struggle living with auto immune diseases (hopefully selling enough copies) in order to fund my thru hike. In the meantime I’m doing everything imaginable to get to that point physically. Mentally, there is nothing I cannot endure. Positive mind-positive life!
    Keep painting, you’re incredibly gifted and I hope it truly makes your heart sing!! ?

  • Jennifer Crafton : Jan 18th

    Hi Lindsey!
    Your artwork is absolutely gorgeous!! Recently I found you on Instagram and have been following your posts there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like the ink drawings you make – very cool inspiration!! When the backpacking season restarts for #CraftonAdventures I’m going to try to incorporate some your ideas into our trips – especially the PCT. We’ve done several sections of the PCT trail already, which leave me in awe of it’s wonderfulness – a simple photograph rarely captures what I mean for it to. Thank you for adding beauty to my Insta-feed in the morning. It would be delightful to hang one of your prints in my office.

  • lily : Jan 19th

    This is amazing! I plan on bringing my camera with me to capture natures beauty through my lense!

  • Caleb Bonner : Jan 20th

    Excellent work! Those are some very sweet pieces! I carry a small notebook with me and like to draw the landscape while only using the materials around me for the colors. (Dirt, Leaves, Berries, etc.) While the landscapes aren’t always the best or the most descriptive, I think it means so much being drawn with resources that actually came from the area. I’m hiking the AT starting Feb. 25th!

    • Lindsey fox : Jan 26th

      You are the winner! Send me an email with an address I can send the print to! Thanks for sharing your project, I would love to see some of your drawings!

      • Caleb Bonner : Feb 2nd

        Hey! Thanks so much for picking me! I sent you a email a few days ago with my address, I hope you got it!


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