Lifestyle: We Crave Natural Surfaces
ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTORS Jess Goulart Dane Feldman

At BTR, most of us live in the big city, or in satellite cities off of it. While the NYC area is rich in culture, we are still biological beings who crave the peaceful splendor of the natural world in order to maintain a mental equilibrium.

Strolling across the hard, gritty concrete causes us to crave the organic soils and vegetated surfaces that cover the earth elsewhere. From the urban jungle, here are the faraway landscapes we feel most nostalgic for.

Tanya’s Pick: Costa Rica

Photo by Tanya Silverman.

The steeper it got, the more scenic it became. Hiking up the mounding, clay-like soil slope of Arenal Volcano, the view of the town downhill, La Fortuna, became even more expansive. In closer vicinity, butterflies fluttered by, cattle grazed, and it was hard to tell whether the trees’ leaves or the grass blades glowed a more vibrant shade of green. If I hadn’t experienced soaking La Fortuna’s hot spring river the night before, I’d have thought that the volcano was the best nature in Costa Rica.

Actually, that superlative is hard to pinpoint. I remember how was difficult it seemed to relax and reflect on the guesthouse porch about the misty trek through spongy soil in Monteverde’s Tropical Cloud Forest when armadillos kept scurrying through the lush brush over the ledge. While I didn’t tour too much of the rich coast (that’s reflected by the country’s namesake), I found the collage of inland landscapes to be other-worldly, and I seek to return to this Central American nation one day to explore further.

Dane’s Pick: The American West

Photo by Dane Feldman.

Growing up, my parents never took me abroad. Instead, my mother insisted we travel the American West. And travel we did. Thanks to her determination (and no thanks to my complaining on Pike’s Peak at the ripe old age of eight), I’ve been to Park City, Utah, through Wyoming to stay in Yellowstone, and to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, and the Badlands.

I’ve been to Crater Lake, Mount Hood, and Multnomah Falls in Oregon, all over Colorado from Estes Park to Breckenridge to Crested Butte to Great Sand Dunes National Park (which is actually near my family’s five acres of pure sagebrush and dust in Alamosa County), and even to Reno, Nevada.

Though I have since been to cities in Europe, up and down the entirety of the East Coast, and even to Israel, nothing has impressed me more than the views in Lake Tahoe, the Badlands, and Crater Lake. I intend someday to return to each, but mecca for me lies in a place I’ve not yet been: Paradise Valley, Montana. The valley leads to the northernmost entrance to Yellowstone and sits in what is likely (for me) the most picturesque place in the country.

Jess’ Pick: Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes

Photo by Jess Goulart.

There are very few times in my life I have literally been rendered speechless. Call it a consequence of being a writer; I usually have an arsenal of words ready to fling in every direction on whatever topic comes my way. I purposely bring up politics and religion at bars, ask inappropriately personal questions of strangers, and never shy away from an argument just for argument’s sake.

But the first time I saw the Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes my mind went completely blank with awe. The massive mounds of sand are nestled against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the southern part of the state and are the tallest in North America. They spring into view without warning as if out of the thin dry air, towering in a sparkle of pure gold accented with deep blue shadows. Even now, almost a decade later, I can still envision the way they heave themselves towards the heavens, etching perfect triangles against the sapphire sky.

These Great Sand Dunes are my favorite surface not just for their stunning beauty, but also because of their physical intricacies. Because of unyielding wind erosion, they change daily and cycle through hundreds of patterns each year. Even as hikers trek them, they shift under their feet. Keeping a steady eye on the peak is necessary because it will look entirely different from the start of the journey and the end, hours later.

Hiking here is immensely challenging because the sand is so malleable. Each step causes the foot to sink–talk about a workout!

But I’ve saved the best for last–reward yourself after the grueling hike up a dune by bringing along a sled (or in my case a snowboard) and using it to get back down. The sand is so soft it’s like riding through deep snow, offering the distinct impression of leaving the Earth entirely and just floating.

These dunes are, arguably, the best surface on Earth. But, do remember to go with hiking boots because that sand constantly bakes in the sun and it gets hot. Also, be very conscious of weather and always, always, be off of the dunes by noon–or you will likely be struck by lightning.

recommendations