BLUE SKIES IN BOULDER//RED ROCKS IN MOAB

WORDS & IMAGES: KATE WEINER

The bus station in Boulder is just a few blocks from Saturday's bustling Boulder County Farmers' Market. And so I spent my first few hours in the city navigating the network of stalls with my heavy backpack in tow, sweaty from travel and heady from the high altitude. Exploring farmers' markets always makes me feel as if I have traveled a much farther distance and I arrived at my boyfriend's house that afternoon excited about everything that I'd seen and eaten already. My particular favorites were the toothsome veggie pupusas at Tres Pupusas and the blueberry pancakes flecked with carrot and kale from Joey's Handheld Pancakes. Those pancakes might have been the twee-est thing I've consumed all summer but dammit it, they were delicious.

My ensuing week in Boulder was spent savoring the small things: a good meal, a long hike, a late-night bike ride. After a summer working twelve to fourteen hours a day, breathing in Boulder was fresh relief. Time in between the mountains reminded me of the power of meditation and of how limiting my conceptualization of "productivity" is. Creating the space to sleep in late, to be with those you love, to do a whole lot of nothing, is productive in its own way.

Fortunately, Boulder's bike-friendly streets and proximity to the foothills meant that when I did want to do something, sustainable travel was well within reach. Save for a very last-minute trip to Moab (more on that later) and a short sojourn to the magnificent musical venue Red Rocks, my boyfriend and I got around by bike. We pedaled to Mount Sanitas for a solid three-hour hike in the blazing sun. I couldn't get over how easy it was to access breathtaking vistas. We ate our leftover lunch from the comfort of a lichen-latticed boulder, the city unfurling far below.

Although Will and I mostly cooked, we did enjoy breakfast at the environmentally conscious Snooze and the garlicky aubergine sandwich from the farm-to-fork Dish Gourmet. Our favorite meal, however, was our own take on the aubergine: a rosemary-studded loaf of homemade focaccia layered with roasted eggplant, stewed tomatoes, fresh spinach, and a tangy yogurt spread (recipe coming soon!) I've taken several trips to visit loved ones where we've mostly just cooked, and it's one of the sweetest ways that I know to savor a week away.

Toward the tail end of my visit, we were lucky enough to catch Devotchka and the Colorado Symphony at the majestic Red Rocks. The night air was warm and breezy and the sky was threaded with stars. As I swayed to "A Clockwise Witness," I felt that special sense of aliveness you get when you realize that you're here, now, breathing.

I felt that the same aliveness when Will and I went to Moab on a whim the day after the concert. A couple of his friends were driving down to camp for the weekend and asked us if we wanted to join. Driving into Moab at sunset was magic. The endless stretches of red rock and clusters of brush were unreal. We set up camp only a couple feet from the Colorado River and fell asleep to the gentle murmur of water and wildlife and all the good things that you forget are always around you when you're living in a city.

Over the course of a day and a half, we traveled to both Arches and Canyon Lands. The epic landscapes and soaring temperatures struck a nerve. I can't remember the last time that I felt as sweaty and dirty and delighted as I did stumbling into the river during the heat of the day, deliciously sore from a beautiful hike that morning.

It can be difficult to reconcile sustainable travel with the inherently carbon consumptive practice of moving from one place to another in a short period of time (we'll always have biking for when we've got more than a few days!) Part of traveling in a way that is kind to the earth means that as soon as you land, you do what you can to show your gratitude. You don't take too much, you consume less. You search for the experiences and come to value those fleeting moments in the sun. When I reflect on my succulent few days in the wild West, I return to the memory of stretching out on a red rock under an archway that's existed for thousands of years. I looked up--at the blue sky, fading into moon-lit magic, at this massive expansive of stone--and felt small, cognizant of my place in this world. We are part of everything but we're not the only everything. And in accepting that, we come a little closer to that sense of aliveness, of here, now, breathing, that makes our lives rich in wonder.