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.



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?

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.

Slow Down!

I’m always thinking about all of the road trips I’ve taken over the past decade or so and smiling at how lucky I am to have those memories.  In 2007, our spring break road trip opened my eyes to the country west of the Mississippi.  In 2008, I saw the west coast.  In 2009, we actually camped at Arches and saw the west coast.  In 2010, I saw many things in southern Utah and Death Valley.  In 2011, I moved to Texas and visited the North Rim of the Grand Canyon  In 2012, I saw my first Saguaro.  In 2013 I saw the Oregon Coast again and everything in between there and Texas as well as the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  In 2014, I saw Big Bend for the first time as well as the Rocky Mountains up close.  In 2015, I saw the the Petrified Forest National Park and the Grand Canyon again.  In 2016, I revisited the west coast and spent some time under the mighty redwoods.  This year, I will revisit Alaska, with more exploring, and I can’t wait.

While I know I’m lucky, fortunate, or whatever, my goal since our first road trip has been to stop and explore a little more.  Our first trip was so unplanned and rushed, we drove through the Rocky Mountains, made a rest stop, and kept going.  We drove right on by Arches and Canyonlands without even realizing it.  On our 2008 trip, my best friend and I set out with our good friend at the time to head west wanting to see and do as much as we could.  We got to the coast, but didn’t explore much.  We went to the redwoods, but didn’t hike much.  We went to Death Valley, didn’t do much.  But, on the way home our third friend was insistent on going to some big name brewery.  My best friend and I almost lost it – this guy was so unwilling to alter plans to hike to the coast in the redwoods or through Death Valley, but had to go to a brewery?  So, from that point on, I vowed to explore more wherever I went – planning trips with like-minded adventurers.  And, in following trips each year, I hiked more, saw more majestic views, and spent more time in all types of random places.  I feel as each year went on, I took more time out during road trips to see and do various things.  As the years clicked forward, my trips became more about exploring and less about getting somewhere.

The shift from 2008 to 2009 was simply being more adventurous, and making the most of the time we had.  Back in 2009, we hiked to all the major arches in Arches as well as several short hikes in Canyonlands and Grand Staircase Escalante – this was all on our way to US 50  to drive, camp, and hike along the loneliest road in America before reaching Sacramento to pick up a friend at the airport.  In that 2013 trip to Oregon, we stopped at Arches along the way and hit up the Rocky Mountains on the way home – just to see them!  During our 2014 visit to Big Bend, we hiked as often as we could for as expansive a place as it is.  In Colorado, we took some dirt roads through a national forest along a winding river to get home.  Our 2016 trip to Redwoods included an abundance of scenic drives, hikes, and even a spontaneous trip along the Smith River up to Oregon Caves National Monument for a tour.

Not every road trip is going to allow extra time to stop and explore, or include the most adventurous people, but it doesn’t mean giving up.  There is always a thrill in not fully planning a trip, but nowadays I will at least check the map before finalizing anything in case there is a spectacular piece of public land to explore or some attraction to see.  All of this rambling is just a reminder to myself, and anyone choosing to read this, to slow down.  Slow down, check stuff out, and enjoy every little trip you get.  You can be efficient and adventurous all at once, I promise.

Keep Swimming.

This morning I got out of bed, walked the dog, got some coffee, and headed towards the trails to go hiking.  I’m a week behind, so I was going to do one this morning and one tomorrow morning.  I get there, and overflow parking is full and people are being redirected down the road to the community center.  Seriously?  Screw that.  I kept driving, figuring I’d head to the state park nearby because it never fails me as a backup location. Get there, and there is a huge mountain bike race on the multi-use trails and only one other trail is open outside of that loop.  What the hell?  So, I talk myself down, take deep breaths, and leave the park because there is no parking and no where to hike that isn’t in the way of a bike race.  I head home.  I tend to my plants, eat lunch, and do some other chores.  I’m just now calming down, as I sit on my patio in this BEAUTIFUL weather with some ice cold water.

I hate this city-nature bullshit that I have at my disposal.  It’s entirely too small, overused, and underwhelming.  These trails don’t really allow me to fully escape much, and the people using them don’t give a hoot about actual nature.  I feel so stuck with the choices I have when I can’t drive over 3 hours to a better, more authentic location.  I have to continuously remind myself that we have a plan and this isn’t necessarily forever.  This is just now.  We are working to get to better place – hopefully literally – with a plan.  I know, I sound like a whiny millennial, and I probably am.  But, I also realize that I must continue to work hard to get better things in life.  Nothing is free, nothing is handed to me, and nothing good comes easy.  I truly understand the concepts of hard work and patience…I just never have patience at all.  It’s as if I came to this realization that I love nature, wanted to be more involved with it, and now I live the furthest from what I find appealing.

As I was speeding off from the blocked entrance and man waving a sign saying that the overflow was full, I thought that if we lived in Grand Rapids or if we had moved to Portland, I could be hiking already and could easily name 50 different places off the top of my head between the two cities.  I think that only fueled my hate fire more, but I just kept driving to the next place.

Here’s to hoping when I go this evening it’s a little less obnoxious, though I can almost bet there will be more than enough people there crowding the parking lot.  Just give me a parking space so I can go to the only legitimate place within the DFW metro area to hike and not hear traffic.  PLEASE?!

California Trip – June 2016

Wednesday, June 1 & Thursday, June 2

We departed Texas and started the boring part of the drive until nightfall.  I slept most of the way through the state and some of New Mexico.  I started driving at dark and we made our way through Arizona, and Southern California.  Light broke as we were getting to Bakersfield, no real treat there but at least we were in California.  Made our way through the boring parts of Cali – Central and the 5 – and then up towards the Golden Gate via a nice state road through golden hills.  We went through Silicon Valley and crossed the Golden Gate.  We took the 101 up, up and away.  Stopped for lunch in Santa Rosa and drove to Leggett and decided on a whim to go to a “drive through” tree park.  It was evening, it wasn’t busy, and it was our first taste of the trees and tourism of Northern California fort this trip.  Drove through a big redwood, took some pics, had our first encounter with big trees, and hit the road north to Arcata.  We arrived at the Red Roof Inn, a total dump, and checked in to our room.  I had to deal with a crazy man in the lobby, obnoxious smells in the hallway, and a generally worn down and unclean room.  We were exhausted, but hungry so we had to choose a place to eat.  We found a place in Arcata called Crush which featured local brews and food along with entertainment – it was trivia night when we happened upon the place.  With some research, we learned that Arcata passed an ordinance/zoning law allowing only a small portion of all restaurants to be chains – to encourage local growth.  Sleep felt so good after 33 hours in a car – even if the hotel was shit.


Friday, June 3

Woke up, hit up the Starbucks (in the neighboring town) and headed north.  We got up to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and stopped for a bit to see if we could see any elk.  We hiked down the Lost Man’s Creek trail for a bit, and continued our drive.  We hiked around the Big Tree and Chandelier trees, and just took a few other short trails.  Spent several hours driving and hiking around, and had lunch at the Harvest Café in Crescent City, CA.  It was a nice, clean place to eat with a variety of items.  We were pleased, and would go back.  After lunch, we loaded up and took off to do a scenic drive.  We found the Howland Hill Road, a narrow dirt road through a redwood grove for about 11 miles.  It was a very scenic, slow-paced, and relaxing little drive – even in a Chevy Cruze.  We wound our way through and eventually followed, then crossed, the Smith River and came out on US 199.  We decided to follow US 199 North and see where it took us.  The scenery along the Smith River was breathtaking, the roads were winding, and the trees were plenty.  The traffic moves quickly, so we turned out a lot as we were in no hurry to get anywhere.  Eventually, we ended up crossing into Oregon and found ourselves in Cave Junction, OR.  I had recently applied for a job there, and knew about the National Monument/Park called Oregon Caves, so we went the 17 miles east to the caves!  We did a cave tour with a nice Park Ranger that had a degree in geology.  Our group was okay, but there were some teenagers trying to prove something with their words.  Overall, the caves were amazing and cold.  It was a nice break and an unexpected destination that will be recommended to all of our friends.  The road up to the caves was a trip, and the scenery just amazing.  We made the trek back to Arcata, got some shitty fast food, and went to bed very early at 9:30.

Saturday, June 4

Another morning and I was up early due to the early bedtime the night before.  I waited a while, eventually woke the partner up,  and we left for the Avenue of Giants.  We found the scenic route and some hiking spots along the way.  We stopped within the first 500 feet of the drive, to check out some trees and groves, and then stopped again at a nice loop known for berry picking later in the season. We managed to go down to the riverside and saw where the locals swam and partied, along the South Fork Eel River.  We then went to the Rockefeller grove and saw the trees.  Sat on a log by the river, listened to the stream flow by, and just took it all in.  We drove out to Ferndale, CA and saw the historic Victorian homes and quaint little town that it is.  We saw a neat cemetery on a hillside, the big park, and took a mountain road for a bit to enjoy some scenery.  We attempted the trek to the Lost Coast, but it was a bit too far and traffic was intense on that little road.  We ended the day with lunch-dinner at Lost Coast Brewing in Eureka, CA.  The beer was okay, all kind of mellow and low alcohol, and the food was tasty.  We went to bed VERY early, nearly 7:30 I think, and have zero regrets about that.

Sunday, June 5

Our intention was to wake up early, but we still managed to lay around for a bit.  Got up, and did leave before 8:00 to head south toward Leggett again.  In Leggett, we can take the California 1 (Shoreline Highway) west and south and follow the Pacific Ocean.  Had a nice jaunt through the mountains to the coast and we stopped at a little park near Fort Bragg.  I could immediately smell the ocean and feel the salty air when we exited the car.  It was amazing.  We go from redwoods to the ocean in minutes.  Soaked it in, got back in the car, and went on our way down the coast.  Plenty of little towns and quite a nice drive if you have the time – which we did – that follows the in and out of the rocky cliffs through groves of trees and cow pastures.  We only saw 3 free range cows near the road, but we did see plenty of other happy cows in fenced areas.  The further south we got on the California 1, the busier it got.  We hit Marin County and it was slammed with people and festivals and congestion.  We made our way down to the Golden Gate via the Point Reyes National Seashore.  We proceeded across and down to Campbell, CA where my friend currently resides.  We checked in to the Campbell Inn, a much nicer and quainter hotel with a nice pool and an excellent breakfast.  We met up with my friend, whom I haven’t seen in eight years, at a place called Orchard City Kitchen.  It’s a high quality, high priced place that I would recommend again – with caution.  I spent a lot of money there, because the food was good and the drinks were strong.  You could get away with a decent bill if you stick to a few things overall.  A bit of an elaborate experience overall, but very fun indeed for meeting old friends and getting a little tipsy.  They have a huge selection of booze – from the fancy to the fanciest to accompany any type of food.  We went back to the hotel, walked that is, and ordered pizza because we’re fat kids.  I regret the pizza, a lot.  To bed we went.

Monday, June 6

I woke up feeling like I was going to die at 3:00 due to all the excess of food, abundance of salt, and probably the alcohol consumption.  I proceeded to toss and turn for another six hours.  We finally got motivated and went to San Francisco around 10.  We went to the Golden Gate, explored the Marin Highlands on the north side of the 101, and then parked in Daly City and took the BART into the lower financial district.  Found some grub at Super Duper – a burger place – and then continued our exploration down to the waterfront.  We explored the market, saw Sur La Table, and wandered through the city streets.  This portion of the trip makes us want to revisit the city – and allocate enough time to enjoy the city.  From here, we took the BART to the car and headed back to Campbell.  We went city streets via Palo Alto, Mountain View, and other rich suburbs.  It was a nice drive, filled with Tesla dealerships and a fun game of spot the Tesla on the road.  We met up with my friend and walked to downtown Campbell for dinner and relaxing.  The town of Campbell is quaint and yuppie, which is perfect for visitors.  We settled on a place called Sushi Confidential for dinner with some ice cream nearby for dessert and some coffee after that.  Overall, it was a nice night to close our trip in California.  We headed back to the hotel, snuggled in and went to bed with intentions of leaving by 6:00 in the morning.

Tuesday, June 7 & Wednesday June 8

Well, 6:00 came and went and we hit the road about 9:00.  We opted to take the route skirting Los Angeles and going through Phoenix and Tucson on the way home instead of the way we came through Flagstaff and Bakersfield.  It was an interesting drive, with car fires in the desert hills and carpool lanes working to our advantage.  My favorite sign was when we hit the desert and it just said “other desert cities” as shown below. We got to Phoenix about sunset, and the rest was a dark history until morning came and we were still only in West Texas.  We made a detour to Granbury, TX to stop by an eye doctor and visit our friend’s new house quickly.  I got to sleep about 4:00 and slept for about 3 hours on top of the naps I took in the car.  Work was happening at 10, regardless if I wanted it to or not.