Sand Dune Sledding to Kick off 3rd Theology!

Tomorrow is September 1 and we all know what that means…It’s Labor day and the end of the typical summer vacation for students.  For the seminarians at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, CO it means we have moved beyond the first actual week of classes and are into the full swing of seminary life once again.  A “small ‘t’ tradition” that we at SJV have is that to kick off the new academic year, we go camping as a whole seminary.  Just imagine about 90 guys taking over a campground (we reserved the sites months in advance).  It’s quite in-tents (and intense too!).  This year we decided to go to southern Colorado to San Luis State Park to camp in the San Luis Valley.  When we first arrived it looked dull and desolate, flat land for as far as one could see and it was raining.  The rain also seems to be a “small ‘t’ tradition” unfortunately.  Thankfully the rain cleared up and then we got the view of the actual valley with the mountains to either side of us.  It was gorgeous and the weekend was a fantastic time for all of us to grow in brotherhood to start the year.

The Valley view with rain.
The Valley view after the rain.


Looks like Tatooine to me…

What was unique about our camping place this year was our proximity to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.  The sand dunes were breathtaking and super cool.  These sand dunes were epic and are totally movie quality dunes.  I almost expected to see Sand People or Jawas come striding over the next dune looking for spare droids to scavenge.  Instead what we saw were people sand-boarding and sledding down the steep dunes and we brought our own kneeboard to do the same.  As a result I, too, sled down a steep dune.  It was really fun and almost like sledding in winter except very warm and sand grit got everywhere.  Guys were dumping sand out of their pockets back at the campsite even.  The dunes are definitely a place worth seeing sometime in your life, I definitely want to go back.

Check out the wind blowing sand behind us off the peak of the dune.

We also went to Zapata Falls (about 5 miles away from the sand dunes) and climbed up into a cave to see a waterfall.  That was a short (1/2 mile in total) but very cool hike.

Climbing to see a waterfall.


A waterfall in a cave!


The sand dunes almost look like a layer of gold below the mountains.


Once the weekend was over we went to Mass in San Luis, CO together and filled the church to overflowing.  Classes started a couple days later and after a week of introductions (I have 4 new professors) and syllabi, I am ready (mostly) to begin more intense consecrated study.  At least I have finally jumped onboard with good coffee, meaning freshly roasted coffee beans and Auropress, (thanks to my seminarian brother Joe Hurdle and now Fr. Brian Hess) so that my morning routine is coffee to jumpstart my day, followed by prayer, and then I am ready to face the word and classes.

This weekend I was blessed to have my parents come down to visit me.  I hadn’t seen them since before Guatemala in June!  I got to show them my room and the newly renovated seminary.  I also got to spend the whole day with them yesterday beginning with Mass at the seminary and, of course, ate too much and really enjoyed the visit and the relaxed schedule of the whole day.  Today we are off to breakfast followed by Mass at my parish before they head back north to God’s land of Wyoming.

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