Back in July, I was finally able to do something that I'd been wanting to do for quite some time now... It all started about three years ago when I came up with this idea to start a documentary series called, Join The Adventure. This idea stemmed from my love for weather and all things related to Earth. Though I loved to get out, explore, and learn more about nature, I couldn't help but feel alienated in my passion. It was extremely difficult to find others who shared the same level of love that I had for exploration. So, this documentary series would aid in eliminating this notion. I would use my experiences in nature to inspire others to want to get out and explore our amazing planet as well.

So, I began to think further on how I could make this idea a reality. Then it dawned on me... I just had to get out, and do it. I had to begin exploring and sharing my experiences. I had to try my best to embody the explorer that I aspired to be-- which is exactly what I did. Starting small, in my spare time I would try to find new natural areas to explore. I documented my explorations with photographs, and posted my ventures on social media. During this time, I was also searching for funding for the documentary idea that I had. This project would be pretty expensive, and I certainly didn't have the money to make it happen on my own. Upon my search, I stumbled upon a program that seemed to be perfect for me. It was National Geographic's Young Explorers Grant Program. If approved, I would become an official Young Explorer for National Geographic and would receive up to $5,000 to fund my project. At the time, I had extreme confidence in my project and I just knew that I would get approved. All I had to do was apply! Seemed easy enough, right? Wrong.

Little did I know, three years later I would still be trying for this grant... I have applied on three different occasions and have received the same answer every time-- "Maiya, we think your idea is good, but it's just not ready yet. Make the following improvements..." But, I am not one to be easily discouraged and I refuse to give up my dream of one day becoming a Young Explorer for National Geographic. I have been working on this project endlessly, and as a result it has truly developed into something amazing. I submitted my last application back in January, and by April, I would receive the same feedback that I heard three times before. My idea was good, but just not good enough... Thankfully, I also received amazing feedback from the Vice President and Director of the program; feedback that would transform this project into what it is today.

Basically, I needed to ditch the "documentary" idea I had for Join The Adventure. I needed to do something more manageable, I was told. Something like a web-series. "Hmm... Okay", I said. Also, I was told that I needed to put more of a "Meteorology spin" on my project. You know, since I'm trying to be a Meteorologist and all, it would make a lot more sense to relate my project to weather, while also making me seem more viable. "Yes, yes... Makes sense", I said.

This was a real turning point in the development of Join The Adventure. I would spend the next couple of months making changes and by July, I finally had the means to film the first episode of Join The Adventure. A trip with international explorer Lauren "Lo" Miller of Can't Stay Put, to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. We would spend 5 days exploring this monument and the areas surrounding it to uncover how weather makes this place amazing. 

And so it began... Our road-trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. As you know, it wouldn't be true "road-trip" without making a couple of stops along the way. 

Our first stop was in Memphis, TN-- I wanted to explore the Mississippi River... After this, we would make another stop in Little Rock, AR at Pinnacle Mountain State Park.

 One thing we couldn't help but notice was the extremely hot and humid conditions in these areas. But hey, that's exactly what you should expect in the southeast region during the summer-time, right? All that moisture from the Gulf of Mexico loves to penetrate this region during the summer months. I know it is the norm here, but man... You would've thought we were in a sauna. 

We would drive through a total of nine states to make it to our final destination. Here, i'll list them: Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado! I know this seems like a lot of driving, but I actually enjoyed it. I tend to like driving better than flying because of what you can see being on the ground versus being in the sky. And, when I tell you the scenery was beautiful... I mean absolutely gorgeous! Especially, once we made it to Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. 

Our third stop was at Palo-Duro Canyon, in Amarillo, TX. This is the second largest canyon in the United States. So, if you can't make it to the Grand Canyon, this is your next best choice. 

I'd never seen anything as beautiful as this. The canyon was so vast. It was literally, breathtaking! And to think, this is all a result of water erosion. So basically, there use to be a river that ran through this valley, and over time the water carved out what is now Palo-Duro Canyon. How amazing is that...


After Palo-Duro, we were officially in the final stretch of our drive and off to Colorado. However, on the way we ran into another state park-- Trinidad Lake State Park, to be exact. We couldn't pass up the opportunity to explore yet another beautiful location. 

After two full days spent on the road.. We finally made it to Colorado! This was it, you guys. The main event... The Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Let's talk about how this beautiful monument came to be, shall we...  A long time ago, there was a shallow lake that covered the San Luis Valley. That lake eventually evaporated, leaving sediment (sand) behind. Westerly winds picked up this sand and carried it east. However, the winds were not strong enough to carry the sand over the vast Sangre De Cristo Mountains. As a result, the sand collected in one spot, forming what is now the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Wind continues to be a major player in its formation. The dunes are continuously growing, and change shape daily.

This was truly one of the best trips I'd ever taken. I pulled it off! Episode one of Join The Adventure was finally filmed and ready for editing. We had a great time exploring Colorado and the areas surrounding it. We learn a lot. Saw a lot. And, bonded as friends. I'll have to do this more often...

Special thanks to Lo for embarking on this journey with me. You are an inspiration, and I am honored to have had the chance to collaborate with you. Also, thank you to Colton for taking time off work to join this adventure as our videographer. And, last but not least... Thank you to my good friend Miguel for tagging along as our photographer. You got some amazing shots during this trip! 


Photos for this blog taken by, Miguel Roman (@miguelroman). 

Maiya StevensonComment