Art on the Trail, our celebration of artwork inspired by the LHT, continues with Flora and Fauna. We are thrilled to present inspiring contributions from local artists – professional and amateur, across various media, each creator taken with different scenes along our 22 miles of trail. Currently, we are accepting new art featuring LHT Waterways. Keep creating, we can’t wait to see your work. And, be sure to check out previously featured artists in our gallery for inspiration.

LHT Art on the Trail Sarah Gilbert

Sarah Gilbert and her dog Pilot, courtesy of the artist

Instagram: @sargil3

Meet Sarah Gilbert – a Pennington resident and Lawrence native who only recently discovered a passion for photography and a real appreciation for nature after an accident. A social worker and fitness buff, Sarah visits the LHT daily and is able to capture very special vistas and vignettes with just the phone in her pocket. We share her photos often – follow her Instagram for frequent doses of LHT beauty.

LHT: Can you share a biography or Artist’s Statement?
Sarah: Running and adventures with my dog, Pilot, bring me in daily contact with nature. During this time, I get lost in the trees, the trails, and the tail ahead of me, until something catches my eye. I pull out my iPhone 13, try to capture what I see in the lens, quickly move Pilot’s nose out of the way, take a variety of photos from different angles, and return my iPhone to my pocket. In this way, my art is spontaneous. I selfishly want to take a piece of these moments home with me, and photography quite literally allows me to have a pocketful of sunshine! This holds great meaning for me as I stroll the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, connecting both my childhood home, Lawrenceville, to my current residence, Pennington. I am a social worker, employed as a residential therapist, and the trail has been my personal therapy during COVID times: It’s free, no appointment necessary, or mind-numbing waiting room music. I’m sold.

LHT: How long have you been creating? What inspired you to start or restart creating art?
Sarah: I started taking photos after sustaining a concussion in May. It was something I could do during a time when I was experiencing several barriers. Now it’s become a hobby and a creative outlet that I hope will continue to be a part of my everyday life.

LHT: What is your preferred medium or media?
Sarah: My preferred medium is photography.

LHT: Is all your artwork inspired by nature?
Sarah: The inspiration behind my artwork is a combination of nature and my dog, Pilot – who, in a way, is an extension of nature, as he’s as much a part of the natural surroundings as the trees, streams, and critters. Unlike us humans, he’s not an interloper. When I stop to take my pictures, curious Pilot stops to take them with me, or goes off to frolic in the woods. He often stares at a buck, rolls in the grass, goes rock fishing in a stream, or mountain-goating on haybales. These fill the frame with a combination majesty and comedy.

LHT: How did you discover the LHT?
Sarah: I would unknowingly end up on segments of the LHT on my daily runs throughout Mercer County when I was growing up. After a while, I started to get a bit more organized with my routes, purposefully incorporating them into my runs. Since clocking miles and times were my priority, the meadows and trees went unnoticed and unappreciated. After sustaining a concussion in May that forced me to slow down and take a medical leave from work, I took to walking the trails with Pilot. Being an early riser with a penchant for an adventure, I was fortunate to discover several segments of the LHT close to my home. I walked, and walked, and walked some more. And guess what I found? So much beauty! I have returned to my running, but in addition to clocking miles and times, I’ve learned to stop, listen to the sounds, and photograph the grace that surrounds me.

LHT: What about the LHT inspires you? What are your favorite segments?
Sarah: First thing in the morning, I walk the LHT with Pilot. Most days, I go without seeing another soul, yet I feel the presence and energy of so many like-minded people and creatures through their sneaker imprints, bicycle tire tracks, and paw and hoof prints. When a storm has damaged a trail segment, I see evidence of the care someone has put forth to mend it. In this way I never feel alone. I feel part of a community of people who are devoted to the care and preservation of these trails. Having lost that sense of connection during COVID, the trails connect me to both human beings and the natural world.

While I appreciate discovering new segments, I seem to gravitate toward segments 13 and 14: Mercer Meadows Rosedale and the Pole Farm. I often go there several times a day and take numerous pictures. The sunrises and sunsets at these locations never fail to please. Segment 5, Carson Road Woods runs a close second; the hay bales make for optimal photo ops and playthings for Pilot. Segment 15, BMS Hopewell, is a great local running route as it is close to my home with swoon-worthy views.

LHT: Do you have advice or messages for other artists (adults, kids, novices, pros) encouraging them to get outside and create art inspired by the LHT?
Sarah: Embrace being alone in nature. The pandemic makes for good practice when it comes to solitude. When I allow myself to “go Thoreau,” I learn a lot about myself and tend to catch natural phenomena that might otherwise go unnoticed. It’s transformative. This allows me to create art that often reflects how I feel. Try a solo walk. Get out early. Don’t be afraid of the being alone, and if you are, rescue a dog!

Use the Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) method: I never considered myself an artist, or photographer, but more a serial dog Instagrammer. I use my iPhone and the Instagram editing app for all of my photography. The big cameras intimidate me. Maybe I’ll get there at some point, but not right now. If you want to take pictures and be an artist, grab your phone, go to the LHT and start taking pictures. Bam! You’re an artist! I think we have these big picture ideas of what words like “artist,” “photographer,” and “hiker” mean. If you like to take photos, you’re a photographer, if you like to hike, you’re a hiker. No one needs to qualify that for you. Just go out and do it!

And be patient with nature because she’s stubborn and unpredictable, and never the same, but always beautiful. Due to my unique situation, I have the ability to spend the majority of my day outdoors. I never knew how much the sky could change in a single day. While I am a sucker for sunrises and sunsets, I’ve come to learn that there are cloud formations at lunchtime, herons hiding in Mercer Meadows, and ladybugs line-dancing on reeds at all hours of the day. Nature happens, and I happen to be there. When you completely surrender to Mother Nature – and her time schedule – you’re bound to see wonderment. I often take pictures at the same location on the same day, but the experience – and picture, is vastly different.

A friend and mentor shared this proverb from Heraclitus with me in relation to this concept; I’d like to share it with you: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

LHT Art on the Trail Sarah Gilbert Curlis Lake

Courtesy of the artist

LHT Art on the Trail Sarah Gilbert Pole Farm

Courtesy of the artist

LHT Art on the Trail Sarah Gilbert Pole Farm

Courtesy of the artist

LHT Art on the Trail Sarah Gilbert Carson Road

Courtesy of the artist

LHT Art on the Trail Sarah Gilbert Rosedale Bridge

Courtesy of the artist

LHT Art on the Trail Sarah Gilbert Pennington

Courtesy of the artist