My trip to The Alliance Center began with a three-hour flight from Atlanta, Georgia. Having been in a number of airports in the United States, spanning from coast to coast, it is often easy to believe that all of those hours in the air only managed to transport you to a building next door. However, in the Denver airport, I could already sense the cultural shift from the Southeast to the West. With the exponential increase in cowboy hat sightings alongside the many public endorsements of more sustainable practices, it was instantly clear that I was no longer in Georgia. Outside, this distinction became even more clear with the slight chill in the morning summer air offering respite from the stifling southern humidity. In the distance, as we journeyed to downtown Denver and The Alliance Center, there was a faint line across the sky of mountains hidden in haze.
Our next stop was Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a performing venue built into the existing red sandstone rock formations. What struck me most, outside the impossibility of going up and down the many stairs to see a concert, was the amazing use of the acoustic properties of a natural landscape to create an incredible performance experience. Even though the venue was not in use for a concert, numerous people were there to take pictures or to use the landscape for their morning workout. Although I didn’t get the chance to see a concert during this visit to Colorado, just by exploring the area I could see how deeply nature and the mountain landscapes are intertwined with the daily lives of Coloradans.
The pinnacle of the trip was our drive up to the top of the Rocky Mountains. From afar, the dark outline of the mountains looked like a painted backdrop, but as we drove toward it, slowly climbing in elevation, we seemingly entered that painting ourselves. From each lookout point, it settled in that the Rockies are the largest mountain system in
North America, stretching across 3,000 miles as mountain peaks rose in every direction. At an elevation of over 12,000 ft, it became clear why life in Colorado revolves around the natural landscape. When faced with the magnitude of these mountains, it is easy to forget yourself and thoughts of the day-to-day. The scope of the natural world beyond the bubble of city or state comes into view.
Through these trips to Red Rocks, Lookout Mountain, Rocky Mountain National Park and elsewhere, I realized how constant contact with nature this awe inspiring could instill a shared need to protect it. Both the experience of new environments and my time spent in The Alliance Center building itself helped solidify the importance in advocacy work of progressing together by sharing knowledge of lived experience and going out to experience the communities for which you work firsthand. This visit to Denver was an invaluable experience because no number of pictures and research can compare to taking the MallRide through downtown or driving through the Rockies or staring out at Denver from above. The opportunity to work for The Alliance Center and explore Colorado this summer was incredibly eye-opening and provided an experience I will not soon forget.