The Shortest Hike of My Life

Golden Colorado hike Kristen ONeill

The golden hour in Golden, Colorado

Attending a conference in Golden, Colorado, I spent three days surrounded by other professional artists learning about our other craft: business.

You get asked, “What kind of art do you make?” at a conference like this. Then you get asked another 80 times by people who haven’t met you yet. You get a lot of practice explaining what you do and why you do it. I discovered I can explain my art practice in three words. Ready? I paint hikes. This super short explanation is usually followed by longer one. What does this mean? Do you paint your hikes (yes) or someone else’s (also yes)? Do you work from photos (almost always)? Would you like to paint on location (sure, how do I get a 2 year old to sit still that long?)?


Right behind that rock is the snake. I am the blissfully unaware shadow.

After this amazing conference was over, and I had spent several days with a gorgeous view of the mountains around Golden, I figured I better take a hike, right? (Like the art police are going to show up and get me if I go all the way to Golden and don’t hike…) I found the nearest trail head and walked over to it late Friday. I reached the top of the town and the middle of the mountain during that beautiful golden hour where the sun light is perfect. I started my hike.

Did I mention I am terrified of snakes?

Like, throw up my hands and do an awkward dance while shrieking, scared?

Did I mention that I am ten times more scared of rattlesnakes than any other kind?

I stopped to take a photo. I walked about 8 more feet and heard that grass move. There coming down the hill was a gigantic rattlesnake. I did my shriek/dance thing, then moved back down the hill and turned and watched. It slithered across the path, being all snake-y. I later compared the experience to seeing a celebrity. You totally freak out and have this epic story: they are just heading home after a day of work.

I ditched the rest of my hike idea (what if there was 10,000 other rattlesnakes heading down the mountain after a nice warm November day?). I took my now super-paranoid self back down the mountain.

It was not the hike I planned. But it was the hike I went on.

Back in the safety of the hotel patio, comforted by my new artist friends, and a glass of wine, one woman said that rattlesnakes are a sign of transformation. I like this idea. You never really know what experience you are going to get when you start out, at a conference, on a hike, or in a new direction in life.

Happy hiking (and listen for snakes – even in November).

Kristen O’Neill


Me after a successful retreat!

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