Getting Away from the Chaos

In nature, we connect with ourselves. The crowded cities and urban chaos often cloud our inner peace. Although we are in the midst of a pandemic and fighting against social injustices, we must reset, take a breath of fresh air, and enjoy the sun on our skin. We are alive, and we are human. Whether you are at home, out exploring your park or the outdoors, you matter and what you do matters. Your story matters, and each chapter in your life is another opportunity to grow and learn, despite the circumstances. 

¡Tu importas y no dejes que nadie te diga lo contrario!

Before delving into specifics about the park and the work I’ll be doing, I wanted to share a personal bit of information about myself. Prior to this internship, I was in a toxic environment. I had to endure racist comments, vandalism to my property, and even death threats. I felt trapped, and the situation had gotten so bad that my mental health was spiraling. During that time, I tried my hardest to remain positive, and I finally found the courage to articulate these feelings through this blog. You can truly begin to lose yourself when you’re stuck and the target of hate, but know that there are people who believe in you. We must listen and use our voices; do not dwell on the hate, and most importantly, never lose faith in yourself. No pierdas la fe en ti mismo, tienes valor y cuentas en este mundo. 

Now, I feel free to pursue my passion and free to be myself without having to deal with constant belittlement…all thanks to the Latino Heritage Internship Program! Dalia Dorta and Susan Bonfield with the Environment for the Americas, have been so kind and helpful. Without them, I wouldn’t have known about this internship. I can’t begin to explain how thrilled and relieved I was when I was selected to be an intern for LHIP. All of my hardwork had finally culminated into this amazing moment. Your experiences and memories belong to you. No one can take that away from you, nor diminish your accomplishments because they’re yours! This internship has made me regain power over my life. By reconnecting with myself in nature and taking the time to self-reflect far away from the chaos, I’ve realized how resilient I am and how far I’ve come.  

A resilient tree grows in the middle of the trail

Since my arrival to Colorado, I have been welcomed with open arms. My supervisor, Ranger Jeff Wolin is such an inspirational and positive person. FLFO (which is the NPS abbreviation for Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument) is one of the richest fossil sites with some of the most diverse fossils known. To protect this area, the community came together in an effort to designate FLFO a national monument in 1969. A difference between a national monument and national park is what’s being protected. National monuments aim to preserve at least one unique resource, which in this case is the fossils! 

In addition to the diversity of the fossils discovered here, I greatly admire this park for continuously working towards increasing diversity in their staff and visitors. Jeff also stays in touch with former interns over the years. I haven’t been here long, but I’m already feeling like a part of the FLFO family. During my first week at the park, I had to get myself acquainted. I met the staff, hiked the trails, completed some training, and I learned about the geology and paleontology of the park. Although many of our summer programs such as the Fishing, Fossils, y Familia and the geology / paleontology camp had to be cancelled, we’re still making efforts to connect with the general public. We do so through informal interpretation, pop-up programs, and virtual outreach to connect visitors to the park. Through LHIP, I’ve been able to offer my cultural perspective. I’ve had a few ideas for upcoming projects to engage Latino audiences, which I will elaborate on in my following post.  

Leaving FLFO after a rainy first day

During these times, this is what visitors should expect when coming to FLFO. Upon arriving, visitors are greeted either by a Park Ranger or an intern such as myself or my roommate who is here through Geoscientists-in-the-Parks. After paying a small entry fee or showing a pass, they’re directed through the visitor center (which is mostly closed). There’s about 15 miles of trails here. The most commonly used trails are the 1 mile Petrified Forest Loop and the ½ mile Ponderosa Loop. Both are self-guided with educational exhibits that describe the history and geology of the park. Behind the visitor center there are stump shelters that house our nicest petrified redwood (Sequoia Affinis) stumps, including the only known petrified trio of ancient redwood clones. These are the main fossils that can be seen by visitors, with the petrified stumps being ~10-12 feet wide in diameter. Beginning in the late 1870’s, there have been 1,800 different species identified here of fossilized insects, plants, and including more than thirty species of vertebrates, such as birds, fish, and small rodents are preserved in the paper shale. However, most of the fossils here remain buried. Through the analysis of these fossils, scientists have been able to put together a story of what this region was like during the late Eocene epoch, roughly 34 million years ago. Aside from the geologic history, there’s extensive human history here as well. Beginning with prehistoric hunter-gatherers, to the Ute and Jicarilla Apache peoples, to the homesteaders, scientists, and conservationists, Florissant Valley holds these stories. 

Petrified Redwood Trio

The Big Stump, which has a rusty old saw broken into it seen along the Petrified Forest Loop

Trail exhibit along the 1-mile Petrified Forest Loop

Hornbek Homestead

Humans are but a blink in the eye of geologic time, and our choices whether good or bad can make a lasting impact. Although my internship is temporary, this program is instrumental in my career development and helps to develop skills that I can use later in life. LHIP has also empowered me to grow personally. I was physically able to leave a bad situation. Now, I’m able to share my passion for the geosciences with adults and children of all backgrounds. 

1 Comment
  • Bill Daniel
    Posted at 01:35h, 26 July

    Astrid, it was so neat to visit Florissant and even though the thunder and lightning were a factor we were lucky to have such a great time. We truly enjoyed talking with you, and other staff. Our daughter really feels great about our fossil donation to the monument. We were scrolling through Florissant info after returning to Virginia and discovered your BLOG. It’s really amazing what the LHIP is about and we enjoyed your passionate journey. It is such a shame you have endured such hatred from others but finding your way to rise above it and your own peace is a beautiful thing. Best wishes in all you do and thank you again.

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