By: Saul Carrillo
Saul Carrillo headshot

Saul Carrillo, originally from Austin, Texas, has spent over three months as a Landmark crew member on the Great Plains. Photo by Eli Allen

​​Oftentimes while moving from place to place, it is easy to look past the minutely subtle characteristics that distinguish one place from another, and instead lump together vastly dissimilar lands as one. In my travels, I seek out these nuances. 

​The differences teach me to appreciate what I have and the small everyday victories. The differences teach me to live in the moment; I will never be in one place forever and the landscape is constantly evolving. And most importantly, these differences teach me to cherish and love the extraordinary world around us.

While working with Landmark out on the Montana American Prairie Reserve, I have set out to find the differences that set this place apart from my home in Austin, Texas. This land is not for the faint of heart; it is a harsh environment with an abundance of obstacles seemingly designed for the hindrance of its inhabitants. And yet, these same difficulties instill in me a profound respect and love for the prairie.
Bison on prairie

Bison on the American Prairie Reserve. Photo by Saul Carrillo

​In an effort to illustrate these differences and lessons, I’ve put together a list of the 10 most influential everyday experiences faced throughout my three and a half months on the prairie. 

PictureThe joy of smoothly graded roads. Photo by Saul Carrillo

  1. There is (almost) nothing better than the feeling of peeling off cold, wet socks after ten miles of waterlogged hiking.
  2. The definition of bliss is approaching an already opened gate after driving for four hours, opening and closing twenty-plus gates.
  3. After spending unfathomable hours of driving time on severely rutted roads, the smooth cruise on a newly graded road is like the first few steps of a newborn foal as it finds its footing.
  4. The overflowing sense of relief as the stuck vehicles’ tires dig in and gain traction is like a breath of fresh air.

PictureGumbo, the thick mud of the region, clings to boots adding extra weight to the crews’ daily 10-mile transect hikes. Photo by Saul Carrillo.

​5. After wading through ice-cold water, it’s possible to forget what your legs feel like, but there’s something special about the slow spread of warmth as you recuperate from numbness.
​6. While slogging through fields of mud, accumulating several inches on your boots, nothing is more liberating than when said mud falls off, leaving your feet several pounds lighter.

​​​​7.  While walking endless miles of ups-and-downs, nothing is more beautiful than the one hundred yard stretch of flat relief before starting the process all over again.
8.   In the land of Big Sky, the beauty of fire pervades the sky in breathtaking fashion, almost forcing those nearby to stand and watch.
9.   The prairie is home to the fastest land mammal in North America, the Pronghorn. It is awe-inspiring to gaze upon flowing waves of grass as herds of Pronghorn glide effortlessly through the expanse.
10.   Lastly, merely looking on the land, in all its rugged magnificence, highlights the uniqueness of the prairie. Here I can see for miles, and watch the animals soar, run, and hunt freely. Here I can walk for days and not see another person. Here I can see the stars, so close and so clear that I can almost reach out and touch them. One must be made of stone not to be moved by this land of such inimitable beauty.

Photo by Saul Carrillo

Being able to immerse myself within the prairie as a part of Landmark has emphasized the significance of diversity. Nowhere else can I experience what I have here, and nowhere else could teach me gratitude for such simple joys. Every day I spend out here reminds me that it is not only our duty to treasure these lands, but also to do all we can to protect them. 
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