Tucker Kinne: Horseshoe Canyon

Everything is still. The junipers and pinons rustle in the breeze. The sand remains motionless as a lizard scurries over it, then disappears into it’s hole. The sun bakes my skin and the tan Navajo sandstone as it rests high in the cloudless blue cerulean sky. Yes, this is natural beauty at it’s finest, but unfortunately many people will not get to witness this paradise such as I have. I believe to keep this natural beauty our society must be more conscious as a whole towards the environment.

Traveling through a canyon for 10 days and not seeing a single person besides my group instills a sense of lifelessness in this landscape. The canyon walls have been constructed and weathered over millions of years, which creates some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. The seas of boiling sand sink under our footsteps, slowing us down as we trek through 700 foot canyon walls. An occasional breeze will grace this landscape, which whisks some of the sweat off my body. The only surviving thing in this atmosphere are the limited flora and fauna that live on the desert floor.

If we continue down the road of destroying many ecosystems throughout the world, will place such as this canyon last for others to see it?

In the Spiral of Life, Tom Fleischner quotes, “Our society provides no formal system of devotion to the living, breathing world around us.” As an environmental scientist in the making, I truly believe these hidden wonders of the world must be preserved to the best of our ability. If we treat nature with respect, then we will be able to gain knowledge and experience gems such as I am undergoing from Horseshoe Canyon.

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Alumni Update: Cory Zyla, Cycle the Rockies 2008

WRFI loves hearing about our alumni’s adventures after their course. Cory Zyla was a student on 2008′s Cycle the Rockies: Energy and Climate Change in Montana course. This excerpt from an e-mail he sent us shows all the places you can go with a WRFI education!

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WRFI is an exceptional organization. The course materials, the staff, the instructors, the students, the people you will likely meet on your trip, are all truly remarkable. In fact, by the end of my own course it was apparent that my instructors (the amazing David Morris and Nicky Phear) are actually the bleeding-edge of human evolution: higher intelligence, superior fitness, strong leaders, social butterflies, good looks, and more! You are learning from the best with WRFI. But it’s a vicious world out there, and not all of us are so evolved, so what you really need to know is how a buffoon such as I benefited from the WRFI experience.

WRFI developed many skill-sets that have proven incredibly useful to both me and the various organizations I have had the privilege of working for. Since joining the 2008 WRFI Cycle the Rockies crew, I have collected large amounts of environmental field data with a county in Washington State and later a non-governmental organization in El Salvador, wrote a book on water resources management with one university and later researched the environmental and socio-economic impacts of drought with another, and assessed the environmental impacts of small hydropower projects with a private consulting firm. I am currently working as a Technical Advisor with the Nunavut Water Board in Canada in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut (Google it and see the location! A wonderful place to live and experience the increasingly visible effects of climate change). My WRFI experience better prepared me for each and every one of these work experiences.

WRFI teaches you work as a group. WRFI teaches you to challenge yourself. WRFI teaches you innovation. WRFI teaches you outdoor skills. WRFI teaches you social skills. WRFI teaches you patience. WRFI teaches you perseverance. WRFI teaches you the benefits of delaying gratification. WRFI teaches you practical knowledge of contemporary problems and integrated solutions for addressing them. WRFI teaches you to question everything (including YOU. You are actually, in fact, wrong about many things… quite often. Who knew!?).

So, if you’ve read this far, and I still haven’t successfully convinced you of the value of WRFI courses, just know that the 30 days I spent in the Cycle the Rockies course were among my favorite. Sign up!

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Thanks Cory! For more information about Cycle the Rockies and WRFI’s other courses, check out http://www.wrfi.net/courses/index.html.

Students visit Charter Ranch on Cycle the Rockies 2009

Students visit Charter Ranch on Cycle the Rockies 2009

Ty Zwick: The Beauty Behind the Desolation

Close your eyes and picture a desert. I am willing to bet most of you pictured a dry, dusty, desolate area seemingly devoid of life. While in some locations this is true, in the desert Southwest this is far from the truth.

The desert Southwest is a veiled beauty that requires a substantial time investment of observation. If one is just passing through always on the move you will just get a small taste of the visual and cognitive meal to come.

If you stop and rest, allow your eyes and mind to wander and question a plethora of doors will open to you. Your eyes may look upon a canyon and you notice plant life. If you take the time to pull back the veil and take a closer look you will begin to see individual plants that have a place, order, and sense of community. Scrub oak and cottonwood will crowd continuous water sources and will tell you a great spot to take your shoes off and get a drink. The wide spread pinion pine and juniper with their deep roots are prolific and provide shady nap spots every couple feet.

Next you notice the abundance of life. Not necessarily the large mammals most are used to, but abundant life on a smaller scale. You will see the lizard skitter across the slick rock, the desert cottontail scamper through the sage and more. If you are still and switch from your eyes to your ears you will hear the chirp and call of a variety of birds. If you are luck you will see a herd of mule deer, or group of bighorn sheep.

The next time you pass through a seemingly homogeneous place or one devoid of life, stop. Invest some time, ask questions, pull back the veil, use your senses and allow mother nature to reveal her beauty to you, not on your schedule but hers. What do you see?

Ty