The West and Rivers

I decided to go on a little road trip before leaving for a stint in the northeast. I ended up driving 1044 miles. I headed west on I-70 along the Colorado River and stopped in Glenwood Springs for a night to visit a friend. I then continued west into Utah until I reached route 191 and headed south until entering the Navajo Nation. I set up camp in Monument Valley. The moon like landscape, vast open sky, and the red earth in this corner of the world I find visually intoxicating. As I set up camp the sun was setting and rain started to lightly fall. Distant storms could be seen in the landscape and the falling rain created what looked like paint strokes in the sky. It was a sight I could sit and watch over and over again.

The next day I stopped along the San Juan River a tributary of the Colorado River that serves as a major source of irrigation for farming communities in the Navajo Nation. Two years ago the river was tainted when the Gold King Mine in Silverton, Colorado burst and flooded the Animas river (a tributary to the San Juan River) with 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater. The river ran yellow for days. I produced a piece for the Guardian when the incident occurred. According to the EPA there are over 160,000 abandoned mines in the west. Contamination from these sites have created ongoing public health and environmental issues. I am working on a project about abandoned mine sites in Colorado and captured additional footage of the river using a 360 VR camera that I am borrowing from an instructor at the University of Colorado Boulder.

After two days in Utah I headed back east, into Colorado and stopped in Durango to walk along the Animas River and capture footage. From there I drove to the San Juan Mountains, the headwaters of the Rio Grande, and camped along the river. I navigated the trip with stopping points by rivers because I am fascinated by waterways and how they are a part of an even larger water cycle that is fundamental to all life on our planet.

That evening I watched the sunset produce rays of light that looked like glitter dancing on the water. When the last of the day light faded from the sky I laid awake listening to the current of the river as it wound through the forest next to me and thought about the enormous journey of the river, flowing from the snowcapped Rocky Mountains, through the great plains of the southwest until it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. It is an awe-inspiring journey from source to sea.

As my attention moved from the rhythm of the river to the starry sky I thought about time and how it seems to expand while traveling. This is especially true compared to daily life in a familiar place. This past year has flown by so fast. It is strange to be overwhelmed by the passage of time but considering how fleeting and impermanent our experiences are I find myself wanting to appreciate life and the journey I am on so much recently. Overall, I hope my trajectory continues to be filled with the capacity to move through the world openly, fearlessly, and with just as much appreciation.

Below are a few photographs and drawings from the trip..