Seeing can mean believing.

**Seeing can mean believing… more of my opinions on inclusiveness in the parks.**

I know some people who have gone to National Parks.  They have seen the majestic beauty, right along side me, and have proclaimed how beautiful it was aloud.  These same friends, they don’t really go to National Parks that often or at all anymore which iss okay.  These people saw the beauty, believe in the beauty, and will remember the beauty of these wonderful places forever.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.

A National Park may not be their family vacation destination every time, but they may return someday.  These people understand the importance, value, and impact these places have on the general population.  They get it – because they’ve been there.  Because these people have been there, they get why it’s important to protect and fund these places.  These people then connect National Parks and the preservation ideals to other natural areas that need preservation.  It can build.

Visiting a National Park, once or twice, has left an impression on these people.  Will they return? Maybe.  Will they remember the good times there and what those parks stand for? Definitely.  It just takes one time, even if nature isn’t their thing, for someone to fall in love with the idea of National Parks, Monuments, Forests, etc.

Plant the seed and see what grows.  We need to continue to get people of all areas of life/status/etc to these place to see for themselves – maybe only once.  Maybe it isn’t their thing, but maybe it is.  Even if it isn’t their thing, they’ll remember the trip and could see how important these places are for our country.

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Vivid Memories.

It’s amazing to me that I can remember so much from such a brief visit to a National Park.  I was thinking back to my first trip to Death Valley National Park today and I can remember it all like we drove through yesterday.  I remember the Devil’s Golf Course, Badwater Basin, and Stovepipe Wells.  I remember hugging my first redwood just days prior up in Redwood National Park.  A year later, I was camping in Arches National Park after an edge-of-your-seat drive through a blizzard in the Rockies on the way there.  I remember the trails we hiked to go see the various arches and landscape views as well as the campsite and the view from the tent.  I remember it being something like 11 degrees and very windy with some icy spots on the trails – and a funny sign warning of falling on ice.  I remember the BLM land on the Loneliest Road in America – US 50 – and the campsite there with snow.  We pitched the tent, dug a trench to divert any melting snow, and made a fire.  That night, the sky was so clear and full of stars.  You could see US 50 for miles, and in that one night I only remember seeing two cars in the distance.

I remember something from each visit to Redwood National Park and I remember our brief drive through Olympic National Park.  I remember the moss growing on the old wood – making everything pop with green.  I can’t recall a more worthwhile hike than the one Delicate Arch, despite not really knowing much about where we were going.  I can still picture Bryce Canyon, covered in snow, from Inspiration Point.  The hoodoos poking through massive snow drifts below is a sight forever burned into my brain.  Snow melting, muddy trails, and the spray of waterfalls in Zion in the early spring only make me want to return.

I could go on, and on, about things I remember without even a picture to trigger it.  I have so many memories from trips to National Parks.  I’ve experienced visits as brief as a drive through with stops at scenic lookouts to camping overnight.  The experience doesn’t matter, as long as it happens.  If we get people that may not be able to or people that don’t really know too much about the parks to the parks, they may have these little memories to hold on to and may be more inclined to help preserve them.  If people can develop memories or find meaning in these places, they may be more willing to join the fight to fund, protect, and expand them.  We must continue to fight to get EVERYONE out to the parks.  We must continue to fight the current administration and their desire to shrink, drill in, and/or eliminate these places.  Together, through collective thoughts and actions we can make these parks accessible to all people and create new ones for the future while securing proper funding.  I believe it is possible, do you?

Brain dumb…I mean dump.

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It’s ME, guys… 2/2017, Minnesota. AS YOU CAN SEE FROM THIS PHOTO, I LOVE & MISS YOU SNOW.

This week has been a wild one, and it’s only Tuesday.  I often mess up with dumb and dump when typing, weird.  I hope the rest of the week is alllllright for y’all.  Here are some of my random thoughts, feel free to ignore them all.  Thanks, bye.

General Thoughts:

  • I get that jobs are jobs – you are there to do a task and to earn an income from said tasks.  BUT, why can’t it be enjoyable and pleasant when possible?  Why do we have to hate them or the situation they’re in?  If you can make your workplace more enjoyable and still be efficient, DO IT.  *sigh* another couple of coworkers bit the dust, by their own leaving or being let go this past week.  It’s not very good for morale.
  • If I can earn the same salary even 15 minutes closer to home, you better believe I’m going to apply for that job and take it if offered.
  • Instead of yearning to go to my holiday party, I’m looking for things to do instead of it.  I’m not sure I like these people enough to wear a suit for a night.
  • I’ve replaced soda with La Croix – thankfully it’s free at work.
  • I’ve been eating less and taking the stairs.  In one week, I can FEEL a difference.
  • We are planning a “friendsgiving” for a week from Sunday.  I’m too excited.  I’m going to get the meats and whatever else I can find at Costco, and we gonna indulge.  Cards Against Humanity, booze, food, friendship, conversations… ahh.  Also, I’ll be run/walking a 5K in the morning that day for BEER!  Weekend is gonna be the bomb dot com.
  • Eating things with low cholesterol is quite difficult.  EVERYTHING DELICIOUS HAS CHOLESTEROL.  Chicken, red meat, eggs, cheese, etc. etc.
  • Reducing sodium is easier with lemon and garlic on hand – just sayin.
  • We are officially a Pixel household; my other half’s Nexus warranty replacement was a Pixel XL first gen.
  • I’ve been obsessively looking at photos of snow.  I am desperate for some cooler weather (which we have today) and for some winter weather.  Here’s to hoping there is a manageable amount of snow for Christmas when we’re in the mitten.

Thoughts on Guns:

  • If you want to play with an automatic or semi-automatic weapon, go enlist and fight for our country.  Any hunter or target shooter I’ve known, from small hick towns in Northern Michigan, never had those.  We had rifles, shotguns, pellet guns, and maybe some handguns.  Get over yourself.  Learn to shoot a bow and arrow – that’s real skill right there.
  • If you’ve been convicted of domestic abuse, you don’t get a gun.  PLAIN AND SIMPLE.
  • Laws don’t prevent people from obtaining illegal things or doing illegal acts, but they are there to assist and can catch some in the net of justice.  They also set up a basis for which arguments in court and future laws can be made.
  • Maybe it is mental health, maybe it’s not… but Mental health needs more attention in general.  If you need a friend or advice, send me a message.

Things I’ve learned this week, and it’s only Tuesday: (all through a conference call w/ the department without a direct address from my manager prior to the call)

  • I’m expected to work in the field more
  • I may work in the field to relieve people on things I haven’t done in over two years
  • I’m expected to travel more spontaneously and be more available
  • That we, as an organization, are organized but not super efficient

Thursday Thoughts…rambling into Friday

  • I don’t need huge success with my “career” to feel fulfilled.  I will work hard and I will learn more, but I do not aspire to be in charge of everything or really anything.  I want to continue to work, maybe with a bit of added effort, to keep living life the way I am now.  Sure, more money could be nice, but with more money comes more problems – mostly at work.  I’m not saying I’ll pass on a promotion or a better opportunity, but I know for damn sure I will not be any happier with more responsibility at work.  My main goals: reduce commute, continue to earn the salary I have or more, and expand my knowledge base through classes and volunteer opportunities.
  • I was researching the process of buying a house yesterday and it is truly crazy.  I am very overwhelmed by what appears to be a lengthy, invasive, and confusing process.  I’ve never wanted to own a home – maybe a cottage or cabin – but never a main dwelling.  My plan has always been to have a small home/condo/apartment that was near work and to have a cottage/cabin/lot with camper close to nature.  Now, I’m not exactly sure what I want – because camping is so much more versatile than owning a specific place for relaxing.  Plus, I have access to several cabins and cottages through family and friends – that may be mine someday anyway.  All I know, home buying scares me but the possibility of having a solid place to store my gear sounds good some days.  For now, the rental life continues – to save more money (because you can’t buy a house with what little I have set aside), to remain fluid in location possibilities, and to remain irresponsible when something really important breaks down.
  • My Subaru Outback is by far the best car I’ve owned.  It is smooth, comfortable, and has all sorts of tech to help keep me safe.  It is great for commuting, but I know it aches (like I do) to get out and see the world a bit more.  I have just over 7,000 miles on Black Beauty (like the horse from that movie) and they’re MOSTLY from commuting the past three months.  We did, finally, take it camping recently and to Arkansas for a quick friend visit.  Sigh.  I promise, little Black Beauty, that I’ll give you more adventure soon.  In November and December you’ll get to see a little bit more of this country.
  • Thinking about friendship over the years – the ebb and flow – and how it all works.  I’m truly lucky to have some quality people in my life – here in Texas, back where I’m from in Michigan, and out in cyberspace via a chat about common interests.  I’ve become an outspoken person – fighting for my rights, what I believe in, and for what I think is generally morally responsible.  I am not sorry if people recoil in horror as I speak some truth or stand my ground.  I used to agree with everyone and I was always trying to go with the flow.  The flow isn’t working right now.  I’m not going to continue to pretend it’s okay to support one thing if it doesn’t support me – like the orange guy.  I am not perfect.  I’ve made terrible jokes, assumptions and been a stereotype myself.  I’m working hard to carve a path for me, people like me, and others who want to have a similar life.  I’m a work in progress and will continue to work on improving my word choices, joke subjects, and general conversational topics.  I will continue to fight for the rights of people less fortunate than myself, so long as they want me on their side.  I will continue to be unapologetic about speaking out or calling out bullshit.  You can argue with me all you want, and if you have points I’ll respect them, but I am not going to cave and agree if it does not align with my path.
  • Moving to Texas in 2011 was a choice out of desperation.  I moved to get a job, because I knew people that could get me a job.  I moved from my shared apartment, with friends, to my family’s home.  They had a boat, let me live there and contribute what I could, and life was okay.  I partied a lot, got that sweet job that paid more money than I ever dreamed… then got promoted to another job that paid EVEN MORE money.  My buddy, and previous roommate, moved to Texas for a job too and we rented a house.  I was reunited with the cats, friends, and had family – life seemed so good.  I met my other half, made a couple of friends, but began to feel sad.  The newness wore off – I missed my friends (many of at least 5 years) and my other family.  I started to miss trees, nature, cool weather, and all that was happening back in Michigan.  I left it all – so I could pay my student loans, buy a car that worked, and start a career.  Was it worth the “trade” in the end?  I am not sure.  Would I trade the experience? No.  Do I desire to get on with life and try something else? Yes. Do I think I’m ready to start over again? Hell yes, more fearless than I was in 2011.
  • The DFW metro area is huge.  I work 40 miles from work, but have to drive 60-90 minutes.  My family lives in the same place they did when I moved here, 70 miles southwest of my current apartment and it takes about 75 minutes on a bad day.  My friends live a mile from my family, in the same subdivision, and my other friends live 50 miles west of my apartment.  NOTHING HERE IS CLOSE.  The nearest, semi-nature unpaved path area is at least 25 minutes from my apartment.  If I were to drive from my office to my family’s house, it could take 150 minutes.  I can remember complaining about traffic in Grand Rapids, where I used to live.  It would take a whole 15-20 minutes to get to work while that same distance here takes at least 30.  I took Grand Rapids for granted.  I took Michigan and her natural beauty for granted.  I’m never doing that again.  We’ve been looking at cities to explore and move to, and I’m hoping we can find that “smaller city vibe with big city features while being near nature” mix that we want.  Good examples include: Grand Rapids, MI; Minneapolis, MN; Portland, OR; and Santa Fe, NM.  I’m sure there are plenty of other great places, but these pop in my brain.  Someday, I’ll live where there is seasonal snow again!

Wednesday Reflections

It’s funny how things come into perspective after the fact… Also, I’m the worst when I comes to sticking to one train of thought.

  • Throughout my childhood, we planted trees every year.  I can remember planting hundreds of them – white pine, red pine, and blue spruce.  We turned some fields into forests and planted a wall around our main yard.  I’m thankful for this experience.  While planting the trees wasn’t always fun, I learned the importance of replenishing the land.
  • Cutting, hauling, and stacking firewood was by far my least favorite chore.  I was kept from my friends on the weekends and until I got a job, it was the way of the land every fall weekend.  Even after getting a job, my dad would throw it through the chute to the basement and I’d have to stack it.  Even during the week, we’d have to come home from school and stack it if he was on an off shift or on winter leave.  Ah yes, firewood – it’s true it warms you twice.  I look back, and kind of wish I could go up and help him on the weekends now.  It was a great way to sweat it out and being in the woods in the fall was the absolute best.  Nothing beats the smell of fall in the woods.  Second to the smell of fall is the smell of fresh cut wood – oh my gosh.  Maybe someday I’ll be back in Michigan and can help him out a bit.
  • My first car was my mom’s 1988 Plymouth Voyager.  The doors didn’t lock, you could start it without a key, and the heat didn’t work.  It only had an AM/FM radio and half the speakers were shot.  BUT… It was mine to do with what I wanted – free and clear.  The seats were comfy, there was PLENTY of space for stuff/people, and the windows rolled down – total win.  In the winter, we just bundled up when driving – the heat kind of worked, not even sure what was really wrong with it.  Surely I wanted a newer or more functional vehicle for my first one, but I didn’t make enough money for that and hanging out with friends.  I look back and realize it really wasn’t so bad and it makes me appreciate every nice feature I have on my car today – that I pay out the ass for.
  • As a kid, we never really went anywhere far or too adventurous for vacation.  We camped, which was great, at nearby state parks with the major exception being going about six hours away one time.  Without my grandparents, I wouldn’t have visited any of Michigan’s “major” cities or adventured through Ontario around Lake Superior.  As a baby, I think my mom flew me to Texas with her to visit my Granny, but that’s not a memory I have.  This lack of adventure really sparked a major need to see the country in college – once I starting researching what was out there.  I met my best friend, another person who hadn’t really traveled the country, and we started road tripping.  We followed our college football team to Alabama, we crossed the Mississippi together for the first time, we saw the Rockies for the first time, and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time too.  Once you start road tripping and seeing the amazing things this country has, you never want to stop.  I never knew what I was missing as a kid but now I do and I work so I can travel.
  • Back to the camping thing – so thankful we did it as a family.  It was always overkill, though, with many coolers and grills and an abundance of crap.  I learned the basics such as how to find good spots, how to build a fire, and that I loved hiking before I really knew it was a thing.  From these family trips, I learned that less is more and now when I go I’m scaled way back to the essentials.  No longer taking enough food for an army, cases of pop or water, and just enough gear.
  • As much as I didn’t appreciate the outdoors back then the way I do now, I am thankful for the lessons I was taught.  I am good at identifying trees without a book, know a lot about plants, can usually figure out animal tracks, can build a trail, and so much more.  Thanks parents, grandparents, and friends.
  • I kind of have one regret:  I didn’t really enjoy Michigan enough when I lived there.  I try not to beat myself up too much over this, but some days it’s difficult not to.  I didn’t hike enough, didn’t camp enough, didn’t enjoy the outdoors enough.  It was all at my fingertips, and I didn’t utilize it enough.  I sit here, in this Dallas suburb office, after commuting from my suburb apartment and kick myself every damn day for not taking it all in more than I did.  I know, my retail schedule was nuts when I was there – but if I had truly been motivated I could have gone hiking before an evening shift, after a morning shift, or enjoyed a people free mid-week hike on a random day off.  I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy Michigan, I visited many places and did many things… This “regret” really led me to the biggest lesson, and something I’ve been really trying to do this year – LOVE WHERE YOU ARE and take advantage of everything you can.  Yeah, DFW kind of sucks, but I’m fully utilizing nearby parks, state parks, and national parks.  I am really living it up in nearby national forests and lakes.  Yeah, things may take some driving and may not be exactly what I love to look at, but it’s so much better here now that I’m truly diving in and utilizing what exists around me.  Yeah, sometimes my go-to parks are full of people or have a bike race, but overall life is better now that I’m at least trying to get out.

Moving forward, my wants and needs are more clear than ever.  Now, to get to where I want to be.

You can always find somewhere to hike.

Earlier this week, one of my favorite people that I’ve never met based solely on photos and brief interactions, posted a lovely photo and some words on Twitter basically saying that despite not being able to get to the mountains due to life being busy at times, he was thankful to have local trails and preserves to enjoy between mountain visits.  And damn, if that doesn’t speak to my life goal, I don’t know what does.  Never stop exploring, appreciate what is around you, make the best of every situation, and learn to love where you live.

Where I live in Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth metro area) isn’t the prettiest, to me, in terms of natural landscapes but it does have a few redeeming qualities.  First, I’m thankful for local parks in the DFW metro area – they serve the purpose of partially escaping and disconnecting.  Second, I’m fortunate enough to have several worthwhile places that are within a few hours of the metro area by car – within Texas, up to Oklahoma, and up and over to Arkansas.  Third, If I’m feeling adventurous, I am lucky to have an array of majestic places within 12 hours by car that include mountains, forests, desert landscapes, and flowing water.  DFW is a hub for American, which gets me across this great nation at a reasonable rate with many nonstop options.  Dallas is a hub for Southwest, which includes two checked bags for gear, and they’re always offering reasonable rates to many of my favorite destinations.  I feel lucky.  While Texas isn’t my favorite place (and hopefully not my final destination), I am going to continue to embrace the positive aspects and make the most of it while I’m here.

My journey on 52 Hikes With Mike has been about embracing where I live and taking as much of it in as I can.  By participating in the hiking challenge, I managed to branch out and actually learn about the outdoor culture in my area and beyond.  It has awakened a part of me that went dormant years ago and connected me with many like-minded people in just the nine short months so far.  Here’s to many more miles and seeing more trees than people!