My first surprise during the morning hike: a flowering desert plant (possibly Zion Milkvetch, aka Astragalus zionis)  – the only thing with a pop of cool color amongst the dark, gnarled old trees and the reddish orange mountains in the distance. All photos taken by Amanda Camille.

Someone once shared during a workshop the observation, “Nature is the best mentor for landscape architects”. It is a simple, broad, and perhaps an even ambiguous statement. But even so, I think about its meaning regularly whenever hiking.

I remember one particular hike – one of the toughest ever – up Mt. Zion in Utah. In between pauses for water and while catching my breath during the hike, I noticed numerous details of beauty across the landscape: how perfectly the trees would frame the view of distant mountains, or how seemingly out of nowhere, a small plant in the middle of nothing but rocks and sand was blooming pretty purple flowers.

Small pools like these offered moments of welcome respite. I found myself stopping at these pools periodically to cool my head and stave off exhaustion (but never to drink, of course!).

It was while framing and capturing these special moments discovered across the arid landscape, I realized how landscape architects employ similar strategies while designing: highlighting a focal point, integrating an element of surprise, providing moments of rest, alongside a multitude of other techniques utilized in the creation of “moments” for people to experience. Every time I hike I now recognize how nature is truly an excellent mentor – always ready to offer insightful examples of color, arrangement, processes for all working within the profession of landscape architecture.

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