I am perhaps the furthest thing from a religious man, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had profoundly spiritual moments in my life, moments that affirm for me the reasons I travel and seek out beauty in everything, the reasons I want to keep exploring in the future. I’ve found, through exploring wilderness areas, particularly in our National Parks, the kind of spiritual connection with the world I never knew before, an understanding of my place within that world, a profound appreciation for natural beauty in all its forms and a desire to see more of it before my time is done.
April 15th is a hard day for me. On this day in 2012, I lost my closest, best friend in the world, Erik Lemke, to a sudden illness that took him before I could say goodbye. For months I existed in a state of perpetual shock. I became disengaged from work, family, friends, everything. I was grieving, yes, but there was more to it. I was facing mortality in a way I’d never dealt with it before, and I was increasingly drawn toward doing all the things I’d always wanted to do, but never had the chance or will to do before.
In June of 2012, I took a road trip up highway 395 in Eastern California on a drive that would take me up to Washington for some much needed family time. On the way, I wanted to detour to some of the National Parks I’d always wanted to see, but for some reason in my five years living in Los Angeles, had never made the trip to. It was the beginning of what I referred to as My Summer of George, and would culminate in visiting a dozen National Parks that year and set me on the path I continue to walk today.
The first stop was Death Valley National Park. Though I arrived late and didn’t spend much time, I did manage to reach Furnace Creek in time to catch this shot, one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen, and one of those life-affirming moments I touched on earlier. There, standing on a rise above the furnace creek campground, I watched the sun blast its rays through the tiniest of holes in the pervasive cloud cover, divine rays stretching out across the sky in brilliant red and orange hues. In that moment I knew I couldn’t look back, that I had to see more moments like this in my short time on my earth, that I had to chase moments like this, seek them out wherever I could find them. It’s why I hike. It’s why I take photos.
Life is short, and filled with moments that could be missed opportunities if you don’t go out and take advantage of all the world has to offer. Get out. Stay out. Find your own.