Found: Backcountry Hearts
One Backcountry Wilderness Area hiker finds love in nature.
Four years ago on Valentine's Day, Highlands Ranch artist Amie Jenkins Velasco posted her first Heart-in-Nature discovery on Instagram under her account, @amieshearts. "It started when I saw a heart-shaped rock on a hike to Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs," Velasco says. "And I thought, 'That rock loves me.' Shortly after that, I saw another in Vail. Then, I saw a heart-shaped leaf."
There was an obvious pattern to what Velasco saw on her hikes and soon the hearts started popping up when she journeyed out on the Backcountry Wilderness Area trails near her home by Redtail Park. On Sunday, Velasco's streak of daily Heart-in-Nature posts reaches four years.
"I usually don't have to look too hard," Velasco says. "Sometimes it's rocks or leaves. And other times, it takes me to look for lichen in the bushes. I see them everywhere."
The mom of twin 15-year-olds says she's an avid "hiker" who does about 70 percent of her mileage in Highlands Ranch, but the distance is never the goal. If it was, she says she'd miss the hearts—usually between 7-12 discoveries per outing—she now knows are there. It's the words of John Muir Velasco hears when she turns her "hikes" in nature into meditation. “I don’t like either the word or the thing," Muir said. "People ought to saunter in the mountains — not hike!"
Velasco saunters ... or, as she says, strolls. And now, we all benefit from Velasco's strolls as she gets ready to post her 1,461st Hearts-in-Nature find on Instagram this Sunday. "It's a fun way to bring love into the world," Velasco says. "I want other people to start seeing them. The goal is for others to find beauty in their surroundings. It's all about being present."
Lindsey McKissick is the Outreach Coordinator for the Backcountry Wilderness Area. She is Colorado-born, Chicago raised, and Wyoming educated. For Lindsey, there is nothing better than waking up in a warm tent on the side of a remote river with coffee preferably made by someone else. You'll find Lindsey river rafting/SUPing, mountain biking, and camping with her husband and two pint-size, adventure-seeking daughters.