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for people who care about the West

Instagram gratification


By Heather Hansen, Red Lodge Clearing House

It’s hard enough to stayed focused during a holiday week but, leave it to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to create a truly spectacular distraction. If you’re looking for a time suck, read on. If not, get out before scrolling down.

Introducing the DOI’s Instagram page. It features smoldering shots of some of our iconic public landscapes and landmarks including Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Washington Monument. But something which appeals to me about the project is that after scrolling through all 251 daydream inducing images, I met some new (to me) must-explore places. They include: Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona and the ridiculously breathtaking Becharof National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Sure some photos have that over-processed retro look but, as such, they invoke a preternatural timelessness and, for some, sacred appeal of our public lands. The perceptive and recently-passed naturalist John Hay wrote: “To be head-taut with the stars around you, foot secure on soil and stone, to know your direction and return through outer signs, is as new as it is ancient. We are still people of the planet, with all its original directions waiting in our being.”

To the dogmatic naturalist, it may seem oxymoronic to suggest poring over images of the outdoors on a website is a soulful endeavor but I don’t think so. Would I rather be physically descending into the gaping breach of the Grand Canyon, or even huffing up the foothills I see from my office window in Boulder? No doubt.

But in the midst of an ordinary day, trapped in the glow of a computer screen pulsing with these snapshots, I am momentarily free. I am suspended briefly above terra firma and beneath the heavens and am percolating with some of the sanity, perspective and hope that reside solely in our wide open spaces.

 Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for their content.

Heather Hansen is an environmental journalist working with the Red Lodge Clearinghouse /Natural Resources Law Center at CU Boulder, to help raise awareness of natural resource issues.

All images from the Department of Interior Instagram page. To learn more about the images, and where they were taken go check it out!