Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Setting out to hike up a 900-foot sand dune a few hours before sunset with a blizzard blowing might seem, to some, like a bad idea. With 50-mph winds blowing a combination of sand and snow into our barely-covered faces, it was certainly not a comfortable idea. And as the cloud cover advancing steadily to the west, it was starting to seem like a futile idea, too. But on our way down--in the ignorant bliss before realizing we we're sure where we parked--the sun broke through the clouds and lit up the drifting snow in a way that in an instant transported us out of our bodies and into--there's no other way to describe it--the sublime. And then the clouds advanced and just as instantly we were back on the dunes, sand pummeling our faces, car lost, legs tired. But, as always, we knew it was worth it.
Mad Creek, Steamboat, Colorado
Many glacier-fed streams experience a change in flow not only through the season, but through the day as well. Why? During the day, high temperatures and solar radiation melt team up to melt the mountaintop ice, only relenting when that side of the earth leaves the sun in favor of cold, dark night. But when the sun rises again, more of that beautiful clear water swells downhill towards the rivers and oceans beyond. So if you ever need to cross a glacial river, it might be easier at night. Actually, nevermind. That sounds freaking cold.