CJ in Taos

CJ is a sophomore economics major in Dedman College and finance major in Cox School of Business. In Fall 2009, he is participating in the inaugural fall semester at SMU’s campus at Fort Burgwin in New Mexico.

Ghost Ranch, rock climbing and fly fishing

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After a return to Ghost Ranch for more picture opportunities, our photography class was introduced to Photoshop this past week. We’ve been enhancing our photos with color balance, white/black levels, contrast and other tools. We’ve also tried our hand at Photoshopping people and things into different backgrounds. By the end of this week we’ll begin turning our creations into prints.

IMG_0216.jpg Over the weekend we had three days of Wellness class. On Friday we took a hike to the top of the ridge behind Fort Burgwin. The hike to the ridge took about an hour and a half, but was well worth the troop. From the peak, we could oversee the Fort as well as the surrounding snow-capped mountains.

IMG_0258-1.jpg On Saturday we went rock climbing, guided by local expert climbers. It was a first for many of us, but we all did well. In the morning, we started with 40- and 50-foot climbs. After lunch some of us reached the top of higher peaks, nearly 75 feet high.

Exhausted, we woke up early Sunday morning to go fly fishing in Colorado. Five groups of two were paired with guides, providing us with personal coaching. The big catches of the day were a pair of 18-inch trout, caught by Mike and Huanlu. We came home to delicious steak, chicken and shrimp kabobs on the grill. A tasty end to a tiring weekend.

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Big skies and sand dunes

3.jpg Our group of students, led by SMU Outdoor Adventures’ David Chambers, went on a camping trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado.

On day one, we went straight to the dunes to try our hand at sandboarding and sandsledding. We were all pretty surprised how easy it was to pick up, but there were some hard falls as well.

After a long night of sleeping in 20-degree weather, the group warmed up by going on a 5-hour hike in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the southernmost part of the Rocky Mountains. The day ended with a dive in the local hot springs. Needless to say, we all slept much better that night.

This week we’ve started our Photography class. Already we’ve gone on two field trips, and have another planned this Saturday. The timing is perfect: the colors of the aspen trees here have been changing into beautiful red, orange and yellows.

Later on in the course, we’ll develop our skills in Photoshop and learn how to make beautiful prints out of our photos from the semester.

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On to our second block: Photography

Ghost%20Ranch%201.jpg Today was the end of our first block of classes.

Unlike most college campuses, here in Taos we are taking one course at a time for about three and a half weeks.

For me, this was Geology. Other students took Plant Biology and The Great Society.

We will all be in the same class next block: photography.

Ghost%20Ranch%202-1.jpgWe’re all pretty excited to see what tricks we can learn on our cameras to really capture the beauty of northern New Mexico.

Rio%20Grande%20Gorge%201-1.jpg Until we start photography on Monday, we have a block break vacation, during which we will travel to the Great Sand Dunes of southern Colorado. We’ll be sure to take plenty of pictures to show everyone when we get back.

For now, here are some pictures of the Geology field trips we’ve gone on the past three weeks.

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Country living

A report for our first day of Dr. Adler’s “The Taos Experience”:

My first thoughts when I arrived here were of how surprisingly large Taos is. I’d expected an extremely rural area – the type where your neighbor lives “only a few miles down the dirt road.” Downtown Taos was comforting for a city-boy like me. I’m not afraid of the country, and actually find it almost romantic, but it is nice knowing that civilization isn’t too far out of reach.

I was able to explore Taos and the surrounding area during my first two days before classes – driving through the winding mountain roads was incredibly foreign. The second night I was here I’d driven to Santa Fe. The 90-minute drive back at midnight was pitch black, lonely and scarily quiet. I saw only three cars the entire drive. I remember actually gripping the steering wheel at 10-and-2, knuckles clenched tight to be prepared for any unexpected sharp turns.

Several times I realized how easy it would be to fly off the side of the highway, crashing into the boulders below – with no one the wiser, no cell service to call 911, and an ultimately lonely death. Wonderful.

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