Before I begin, I need to thank my good friend and teammate Nick Bein, who recently spent some time out in Colorado and made me incredibly jealous. He provided me with the pictures for this post.
While the focus of this blog so far has been the east coast, partly because it’s my home, partly because I can only afford east coast excursions for the time being, I still wanted to reflect on how much the landscape of this country amazes me on a daily basis. While I wasn’t in Colorado, and haven’t been since I was just an infant, I can’t speak first hand about this trip or the experiences Nick had. He’s got a busy last few days before we move back in to school on Sunday, so I decided I would get creative with what I have, rather than have him take time he doesn’t have to write something. A picture is worth a thousand words, and now that I have some first-hand pictures of the beautiful Rockies that didn’t come from Google, I can do some comparing and some reflecting.
There are 1,744 miles—a 26 hour drive—between my house and Estes Park, Colorado. 7 or 8 states, depending on the route you take, several major cities, the Mississippi River, the prairies of mid-West, and just way too much road work. Elevation ranges from a couple hundred feet to over 14,000 feet at certain peaks in Colorado. While it’s near one hundred degrees in Pennsylvania, the high peaks of the Rockies still feature some snow. The percent of effective oxygen drops from 20.9% to right around 13% on a casual hike through the Rockies, if such thing exists (per higherpeak.com).
Just looking at these pictures makes me foam at the mouth. What a beautiful place, and it highlights just how diverse America is. But this fantasy-land, to me, almost seems too good to be true. There’s a place less than 2,000 miles to the west that mixes mountains and rivers, with views of peaks and wildlife, where you can touch the clouds before going to swim at a lake. You can trek on a glacier or a mountain or along the base of the Rockies and look up at all the views. Damn, do I ever want to see this place. From an outdoors perspective, it’s paradise.
I could spend weeks there hiking and taking in the views and wildlife, never tiring of everything there is to see. I can visualize myself standing in Nick’s place, at a total loss for words. Mother nature in her most natural, unaltered places are a beauty unmatched by anything. I experienced it in Cape Breton, as well as on the way up Mount Washington, and I’d love to experience it out west. It’s tough to feel that way, I’ll admit it, because I almost feel like I’m cheating on the east. The east coast will always be my home, and I love it to death. Nothing will ever replace the east coast to me. I’ll continue to explore the east and write about it, and I’ll continue East Coast Collective as having a focus on the east, but it’s hard to not to imagine going west at some point. It’s certainly sparked my interest for grad school, and is at the top of my list of places to go on vacation.
I think I’ve mentioned before that the outdoors has captivated me like only one other thing ever has: when I was little I dreamt of being an astronaut. I always said that Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon, and I was going to be the first on Mars. I dressed up as an astronaut on a daily basis and launched model rockets in Canada, inspired by Homer Hickam and the movie October Sky. We made frequent trips to Florida to go to the Kennedy Space Center and met countless astronauts. We even went flew out to Arizona to meet my childhood hero Jim Lovell, commander of the famous Apollo 13 mission. And that is all I can compare to my love of the outdoors to. I guess I’ve always had this desire to explore, so when I sit here and just look at pictures of a place like Colorado, I’m amazed. Nowadays, I have dreams of raising my Canadian/American flag above mountains, or being paid to go places just to take pictures and write about it.
Far fetched? Maybe. Impossible? Far from it.
Back on track now, aside from the mountains, I’d love to go west for the wildlife. Yellowstone is a must to hopefully see some wolves and bears in the wild, and the Rockies feature bears, moose, and the adorable marmot. To further my jealous, Nick was able to get up close with the friendly, furry inspiration for a great outdoor brand, as well as an elk.
And all of this in just one country. Most countries are famous for one thing or another, but I can’t think of a whole lot that has a lot like the United States. Canada comes to mind, but I already went on a rant about how beautiful Canada is and I don’t need to do it again, for the time being at least. We’ve got the beaches of the east, all only a few hours from the Appalachian mountains. Then there’s the prairies and farmland of the mid-west, followed by the mountainous western United States before you get back to the beaches of California not too far away. From California to the New York island, there’s so much to see. It seems unfair that some people never get to see all there is to see in the country. While it’s an unrealistic suggestion, travel should be free. I know, I know, it will never happen, and it can’t physically happen, but if it was, I’d be somewhere new every week.
As the saying goes, “I haven’t seen everywhere, but it’s on my list.” And so I sit here in my last few days of summer, wondering when I’ll get to see the beauty of the Rockies. But at the same time, there’s work to be done. I can’t get there now, but that’s probably for the best. When it comes time for me to go to Colorado, I want to be in my best shape both physically and from a photography standpoint, and I’ve got a lot of work to do in both. I’m looking forward to hikes in the fall, as having a car at school will allow me to do that. On top of that, I’ve given thought to getting in to bouldering, or climbing for sane people as I like to call it, and there’s a place not far from school where I can practice that.
Here’s a few more pictures of beautiful Colorado, courtesy of Nick.
This land was made for you and me.