This picture of Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve in Colorado is a perfect combination of stone, sand, snow and light. The Sangre de Cristo (“Blood of Christ”) Mountains were named by early explorers for the crimson light that often appears on them at sunrise or sunset. The red color is especially vivid when the mountains and dunes are covered with snow. Photo by Patrick Myers, National Park Service.
‘New Zealand – Land of the Long White Cloud’. Translated, this means ‘Aotearoa’ being the Maori name for New Zealand. As a city dweller, I’m often 'geographically challenged’ when it comes to escaping the city and fulfilling my desire to time lapse the New Zealand wilderness. Hence, this is my first time lapse of New Zealand landscapes. It is a compilation of my best material captured to date from various trips over the past year. The locations include the petrified sand dunes at Cape Rienga in the far north to the lush rain forests on Stewart Island in the deep south. There’s also a few lighthouses and other places in between, namely the pristine lakes of Central Otago, the rugged West Coast and the stunning geology on the Wairarapa Coast.
Moonlight brightens snowy dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado. Experience the park after dark by stargazing, listening for owls along the foothills or going for a full moon walk on the dunes. Cold temperatures are the norm in winter, so bundle up with warm clothing and sturdy footwear for an unforgettable nighttime adventure. Photo by Patrick Myers, National Park Service.
k/t, rated t. fantasy au, fairy tale, little hint of soul bond. AO3
The legend goes as this: The Sorceror of Mount Custos, the guardian, serves as the protector of the farmfolk.
The mountain stands like a monolith, proud and indestructible, a pillar of comfort for the countryside. At its peak, the Sorcerer oversees his people and casts spells of prosperity, fair weather, loamy land. He keeps the raiders and bandits at bay with strikes of lightning, or blocking the singular pathway through with whip-sharp wind.
It’s tradition to honor the Sorceror with each harvest. There’s a festival of music, laughter flowing between the dancing groups of farmers and bringing the deepest level of joy to each person who sends their gratitude up the mountain.
Kili grew up in city. For him, snow was something that fluttered in the air on fairy’s wings only to hit the ground and turn into an odiferous slush that existed only to make him slip and bang his knees against the sidewalk.
But Fili - his Fili, his brother, his lifetime of memories slotting into place beside his own - his Fili grew up on the mountains well above the city. There, the snow was thick and white, carefully maintained as the backbone of his family’s fortunes. Their ski lodge wasn’t priced for the most elite, but designed more for middle to upper middle class families ready for an adventure.
The first time Kili saw Fili ski, he was amazed. Fili seemed to fly over the snow, twisting among trees and soaring over little snow dunes. He made it look effortless, even though Kili was plenty bright enough to know that it wasn’t.
He curved to a stop in a spray of snow that slapped against Kili’s new snow pants and sturdy boots. The grin Fili gave him from under his goggles made Kili’s heart skip a beat - he knew that smile, locked deep in his heart during the long years before they saw each other on that train.
“Show off,” he says, his breath coming out in warm puffs. He was dressed in what felt like five layers of clothes, and his gloved hands were wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate.
“Absolutely,” Fili agreed, pushing up his goggles to reveal blue eyes sparkling in the winter sun. "But because of my great foresight and kindness, you didn’t even feel the ice, did you?“ His smile curves into a knowing smirk, just as familiar.
He’d complained more than a little when Fili had insisted they go shopping in the city before coming to meet Fili’s family - surely, Kili had complained, his winter jacket would be enough.
"You’re never going to let me live that down, are you?” Kili asked.
“Maybe,” Fili replied, “when we’re old and gray. But not anytime soon, no.” He reached out and plucked the mug from Kili’s fingers, stealing a sip.
Kili scowled playfully, but didn’t try to fight for the mug.Honestly, he was pretty sure he’d end up on his ass in the snow. Walking in this mess was not easy.
“You ready to try?” Fili asked. "I can take you up the training hill.“
Kili narrowed his eyes and followed the line of Fili’s pointing finger. "The one with all the five year olds on it?” he asked, incredulous.
Fili laughed, warm and familiar. "No, that’s the baby hill. One over is where we take our older beginners.“ His voice turned sly. "Mostly because the children do so much better, the adults slow them down.”
Kili, grown man, adult, professional, stuck out his tongue and immediately regretted it. Why was it so cold? How did people live like this, surrounded on all sides by the insidious ice of nature?
He spared a moment to miss the smog, noise, and nonstop noise of the city.
“If I learn to ski,” he said cautiously, “what do I get as a prize?”
Fili smiled at him, slow and warm and promising. "In public?“ he asked, "Or alone?”
Kili was glad he didn’t blush easily. "I think learning a whole new skill earns both.“
Fili handed back his mug. "Well, I’ll give you a prize tonight for starting to learn, and when you’re good enough, I can take you to the most gorgeous spot on the mountain. One I don’t share with our guests, out on the cross country trail. And as a bonus…” He caught Kili’s scarf and pulled him in for a kiss, lips like ice, the flicker of his tongue warm and tasting of chocolate. “Deal?”
Kili grinned. "Deal.“
"Come on, let’s get you some skis.” Fili slipped his gloved hand in Kili’s. "And…don’t get too excited. I’m offering you a full body massage. Trust me.“ He grinned. "It’s all you’re going to want after the mountain and I are done with you.”
Kili stumbled. "Wait, I changed my mi-“
"Too late!” the love of his life responded, and dragged him off in search of skis.
Spring Break: Afternoon of Day 7
The Great Sand Dunes
We had to get on the road before the sun rose because we had to make it to the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado by the afternoon! The Sand Dunes was a last minute suggestion from a friend’s dad. When I looked up pictures online I knew we had to stop here even if it meant getting up at the crack of dawn! I won’t name names but not everybody was excited about it as me. We had heard it was going to be windy and I guess the idea of sand and wind didn’t appeal to everyone.
When we were fifty minutes away from the dunes Kathryn said: “I bet that’s them way up there!” I told her there was no way because we still had a little less than an hour to go. They couldn’t be that massive. We arrived and discovered that it was the dunes and Kathryn was right.
I’m not going to lie or sugarcoat this, but the initial climb up the dunes was brutal. We stopped every ten to fifteen steps just to catch our breaths. The wind blew harder the farther up we climbed and with the wind came sand. I now understood why everyone wasn’t as excited about the dunes as I was.
We kept trudging because we at least wanted to say we made it half way. The original plan was to go all the way to the top but we quickly found out that that wasn’t going to happen. The higher up we went the more our ears hurt and the harder it was to breathe. We realized afterward that was probably due to the altitude but the wind also contributed to it being hard to breath. Everywhere we turned the wind blew in our faces and felt like we were inhaling sand whether we breathed through our nose or mouth. The more we climbed the more sand accumulated in our shoes and the heavier our feet became.
You’re probably thinking, “that sounds miserable” and your right. However, the walk down was totally worth it because the view was amazing. In front of us was the snowy rocky mountains and behind us were the massive sand dunes. It was crazy! After we took pictures to prove we climbed halfway up, we turned around and ran down. Running down was way more enjoyable than the hike up so we embraced it! Once we made it down we all admitted it was totally worth it. (Even if we did spend the next twenty minutes banging a quart of sand out of each shoe)