A Wilderness Science and Art Collaboration

Aldo & Leonardo, a partnership between Colorado Art Ranch and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, is a project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The project is inspired by the scientific wisdom of Aldo Leopold and the artistic genius of Leonardo da Vinci. Our endeavor is an interdisciplinary collaboration of artists and scientists designed to celebrate the lands, resources and opportunities protected by the Wilderness Act. In 2013, we are hosting one-month residencies in six diverse wilderness areas. Artists will work alongside wildland research scientists and gain firsthand knowledge of the wonders, complexities and challenges of our nation's wildest places. The result will be a body of work that creatively illustrates the value of wild areas and honors the scientific efforts to preserve wilderness for the next fifty years.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Journal Sept. 18, 2013 by erogerscello

It is a morning. I don't know which day it is at first, or where I am, or why I don't feel any air on my face, why I was dreaming about canyon red dirt, bad guys in a car chase, and feeling SO dry.

I woke up at 4am and couldn't sleep. Granted, I had been in a dead sleep since 10pm, but I was annoyed that I couldn't sleep... I felt like I had so much to process, so many in-focus, sharp pictures in my mind of the last two days and wondering how these brief, and incredibly intense experiences with people which we keep having fit into the broader spectrum of my life.

It started Sunday night- planning food to backpack with, arranging my pack. Monday 7:30-8:30AM practicing technical exercises on my cello and transcribing, breakfast, then we met up with Vince the archaeologist to learn about photogrammetry (unbelievable software, the many ways it could be used to preserve the knowledge of archeological structures if it was fully funded, what Vince is already doing with it after almost a year of waiting for the government ticket to be processed for his computer even with the $$ in hand and has had it now for just about 2 weeks, how his need/request for space on the server had been completely ignored when the server was set up, is doing incredible things within forced and unnecessary limitations) what the plan for the trip was, where we'd be, and what to expect... (up and down finding our trail, pack in about 3 miles, then hike about 9+ miles on Tuesday, should be water out there, etc.) We hit the road and then the trail in the early afternoon.

The trail was dirt road for five minutes and then herd paths from cows and feral horses. We did the best we could through sage and juniper. For the first time I tasted edible (and delicious) purslane and goose foot, and the aroma of the plants we waded through was so intense I felt like an ant in an herb bottle.

We found an area where there were pieces of pottery and other small artifacts and it was a magical moment for each of us, squatting down and making our own sherd, flake, projectile discoveries.

We didn't find water in any of the expected places despite flooding and major rain storms throughout the area, so after we set up camp, Vince and Ben hiked further to see what they could find. Leslie and I took bets on what time they might return (I won a red life saver candy by about 12 minutes) and sat up on some canyon edge rocks with our headlamps and talked about whatever we could think of to help them find our spot in the dark. The guys found water in pot holes in a side canyon about a mile and a half away and hiked back in the bright moonlight with about 45 pounds of water for day 2. I was so grateful and the water was delicious. We stood around in the moonlight for an hour admiring the stars, laughing, relaxing; giddy with being out there, with having enough water to go through with our plan.

Day 2 I ate 42 grams of beef jerky protein for breakfast and watched the sun very slowly come over the ridge. We left half our gear and hiked further in to find rock art. I was in the lead for the last turn before we found what we were looking for and I was so excited to finally see the rock face! 'I can see it!' 

We spent about 2 hours with the rock art. Taking photos, gazing at it, talking about it. I held the remote clicker for Vince as he carefully spaced the photos out with 60% overlap, balancing the camera one foot, two feet, three feet, above his head on a tripod handle saying 'fire' when he got it steady. I was glad I got to help.

And then it was time to begin the journey back. Partway to load up the rest of our stuff, then the rest trekking back to the government vehicle where there was more water. Intense conversations, jokes, long silences of ducking under branches and catching our packs on twigs, climbing through a barbed wire fence.

Hot, sweaty, relieved, anxious to beat the oncoming rain that could send us off the road before we got out of the back country, or give us another day there, we arrived back at the Forester.

Hi-fives and we made it out before the storm hit. Thanks for taking us out with you Vince!

the trail


  1. wow now i need to make my way to the desert!

  2. These all sound like such rich experiences. I was thinking I am not sure I could do all that hiking and backpacking. Also the courage to venture out is impressive! I enjoyed trying to imagine in my mind all the sights, sounds and fragrances.
    You are more than half way done!