There are certain travel moments when you just feel so small. Sometimes it’s in a massive cathedral in Europe as you’re gazing up at sky-high domes. Sometimes it’s outside, in nature, when you feel so tiny compared to your surroundings. Towering mountains, ocean views, panoramic sweeps that go on and on. Or, one of my personal favorites, when you’re in a museum looking at art work that seems immortal somehow… and you realize you’re just a single spectator that will come and go, while the art will always remain.
I experienced an entirely different feeling of smallness while hiking up Dinosaur Ridge in the Front Range of Denver. It was a more profound, almost jarring feeling of smallness because it extended across millions of years and across dramatically altered and changed landscapes. It included remnants of things long gone, like dinosaur foot-prints and volcanoes, and a landscape that was once a massive sea, all alive with plants and animals – all of which no longer exist. It was eerie, uncomfortable, and inspiring, and all at once. The feeling of being out of place and out of time. Or at least lost somewhere in-between.
See what you have here is a world where this entire area was a massive sea, and this ridge that we have today is the ancient seashore. So as you walk up the ridge you come across footprints, tidal marks on rocks, and other remains of long-extinct life. You add to this the fact that what was once flat ground is now a great slope. You find yourself then on an ancient shore looking at markings of long-dead things that are oddly now vertical in the air. It’s honestly hard to wrap your head around this much change.
And, ultimately, I’m left with questions like – what will this landscape be like in another million years? How will we be remembered on a geologic scale? And, perhaps most ominous of all, will we even be remembered… or just lost somewhere in those layers of rock? A small marking in hardened dirt.