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Two Day National Park Blitz

           I’m writing this as we’re driving away from a seemingly giant pile of sand, created by gusts of wind lying at the base of the “Sangre de Cristo” snow covered mountain range. The contrast between the desert like sand dunes and frosted peaks in one frame, is unlike anything I’ve ever dreamed of laying eyes on in the East Coast. We rented two sleds and trudged up the path-less hills together. We took turns sliding down the dunes on waxed sleds; no one seriously bothered by the ridiculous amount of sand particles blowing into every crevasse of our bodies… This stop was the perfect supplement to our 6-8 hour drive (still ongoing) to the location of our X-phase at Earth Mountain.

          Yesterday we explored Mesa Verde National Park (two in a row!!!) We overlooked the world famous Cliff Palace dwellings and hiked to the top of the plateau to conduct a twenty minute solo. After we got back we met up with Conservation Lands Foundation spokesperson Andrés Esparza. He talked us through CLF’s political and financial strategies to make real change, and helped us further understand the controversial idea of returning National Park land back to the management by the native tribes that first occupied them. Andrés actually used to work with one of our favorite previous guests Angel Peña!! We then proceeded to cook and eat salmon for the first time this semester—and not to toot my own horn or anything, but it was bomb. Shout out to my dad whom I called before dinner prep to ask for salmon tips :))

            During our solos we reflected upon the “beauty” of place, and how humans tend to try and capture it. I thought a lot about my personal usage of photography in places that I connect with or feel are worthy of a photo. Can I really decide that though? Who really gets to define beauty? Often I feel having the option of taking a photo at a viewpoint is an easy way to neglect to take the time to sincerely dissect and notice everything you’re seeing in that place.

           The article we read on this concept suggests sketching or painting landscapes to really contain their enchantment. In order to draw something you are required to truly look at every shade of color and amount of light that hits each corner of the landscape, appreciating parts of it that one might not notice in a quick photo. Now does this thought process prevent me from taking a bajillion photos? Absolutely not I love my camera and even risked taking it on our past river trip in the San Juan. It’s just an interesting concept to discuss with this group and figure out how I want to apply that to my personal value around sense of place and “possessing” beauty. Anyways, here’s some photos of the past few days. #doitforkaren