01 Jul Explore More
I would bet good money that one of the things most LHIP interns share is that we are spending our summer somewhere we have spent little (if any) time before. I’ve worked a lot of jobs in a lot of places, but crossing the state line driving in for this one marked the first time I’d ever seen New Mexico. Like every other intern, I work like crazy during the week. I’m always juggling three or four projects and looking ahead to the next few. But, so far, every post I’ve written has been about this job and those projects. Today I’m writing about my weekends. I knew before I came here that I wanted to spend every weekend exploring, so I started researching. I quickly found out that nearly all the “close” parks and monuments (1-3 hour drive) were historical/cultural. While these parks are important and valuable, they’re not my first choice. I need to wake up in a tent and eat a Cliff Bar before hitting the trail. With this in mind, a coworker and I packed up my Subaru and headed to the Santa Fe National Forest for a one-night backpacking trip. If anyone’s curious, we took the trail to Johnson Lake, and I would highly recommend it. We walked a slow and steady incline past ridgeline views and through gorgeous groves of huge aspen before arriving at the lake (where I promptly sat down in the icy water to soothe my aching legs). The next place on my list was in Colorado. I’d technically been to that state before, but layovers in Denver and grocery shopping in Trinidad don’t count. Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve counts. For those of you who may not know, there’s a place of utter nonsense in southern Colorado where tall, sweeping dunes of sand are pushed by winds up against the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It looks like someone pasted together the Sahara and the Rocky Mountains, and it’s incredibly surreal. We hiked the dunes our first morning there, which is exhausting. You’re essentially hiking up mountains of beach sand, and two-thirds of the energy you put into every step sinks away underneath you. On top of that, sometimes the winds pick up and blast you with a fine and wickedly stinging sand (learn from me and wear long pants). But if you make it to the top of the tallest dune, you’ll be greeted by a strange dream of a view. Going from San Diego to Montana for college was a big change for me, and I was exposed to an outdoor community more wild and rugged than anything I had encountered before. They were climbers and backpackers and river guides, and they molded me from a city-bred nature lover to the wild child my mother calls me today. I get a lot of friends in San Diego telling me they’re jealous of my adventures, and I will tell you the same thing I tell them. Explore, everyone. Just get up and go. Get out of your park or house or city and see what your area has to offer. Pack your weekends full to bursting and come back exhausted. If you’re like me this summer, you don’t know when or if you’ll ever be here again. Don’t let it slip away.