**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 is 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.
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?
I’ve recently listened to Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks by Andrea Lankford. This book was probably my favorite of 2017 so far, simply because it kept me laughing while not losing it’s serious undertone. My eyes were opened to things I had only speculated about in regards to the National Parks. I’ve listened to a lot of books this year, and this one is the only one I’ve been excited to start back up each day. John Muir’s books were excellent, but much more fluffy than this. To some, these stories are things they’ve all heard, but to me I was ignorant to many of the situations that park employees are put in on a daily basis. I’ve always respected the park ranger, park employee, and anyone else working there that helps me see the beauty of this country. I know most are underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked but this book reminded me with a few extreme examples of why I need to remember their services as that: a service.
Some takeaways from the book:
- Too many people don’t grasp the reality of hiking the Grand Canyon despite signs, warnings from rangers, and news stories.
- People just don’t respect National Parks and what they stand for
- The general population, myself included, do not understand how hard it is to be a park ranger at a National Park
- Park Rangers inevitably deal with death
- I had no idea how many people visited Yosemite – I mean, I had a general idea, but holy shit.
- The NPS, like any other organization, doesn’t always spend their money wisely.
As a tourist, I pride myself on at least a little bit of planning ahead and knowing what I’m getting myself into. In the age of information, we have everything at our fingertips. I can understand wanting a little bit of surprise, but generally a trip can be planned without spoil.
- When hiking, backpacking, etc, know what you’re doing.
- Know what it means to change elevation while hiking, backpacking, etc.
- Know the climate you’ll be in – prepare for extremes.
- Ask questions, legitimate questions.
- If you’re an average person, maybe think twice before attempting an extreme hike.
- Don’t drive like an idiot, don’t park like an idiot, and don’t disobey signs in parks. Seriously, don’t feed the animals or drive like a maniac.
- Always let someone know where you’re going that isn’t with you.
- ALWAYS take water when going on long walks, hikes, or backpacking. Seriously, how do people forget this? Don’t drink too much water, either. Also, bring a salty snack to help with sodium replenishment.
- Sometimes it’s as simple as changing plans to accommodate an unplanned situation.
I’m no expert when it comes to hiking, backpacking, or the desert but I know enough to make sure I stay hydrated and to avoid exhaustion. Western Texas has some dry, hot places and I’ve been lucky and learned some valuable lessons in terms of hydrating and planning ahead when hiking. No view or accomplishment is worth dying or putting rescuers lives in danger because I didn’t plan ahead.
I’m not saying this book was the best book I’ve ever listened to or read, but it was just a book that came in with the right message at the right time. I am looking at things from a different perspective and I’m also inspired to be better at planning and communicating.
Things I need more of in my life:
- Vacation days – weekends just aren’t enough it seems. Well, they would be if everything in this awful state wasn’t more than 3 hours away
- Good beer – I was reminded of all the good beer that every other damn state has to offer on my recent trip to Minnesota. Texas has some good beer, but it doesn’t seem to be as big of a deal here.
- Isolation – almost 4 days without the ability to connect to anything besides a Bluetooth speaker (against my will) is something I try to do without being in the middle of nowhere anyway so I can always use more of it.
- Camping trips – this will happen on more weekends until it’s too hot, since weekends are about all I have the rest of the year if I want any time off to visit Alaska this summer or Michigan this winter.
- Fresh air – again, the recent trip reminded me of how smelly the city (and Texas in general) is and how much I miss clean air
- Live music – this will be remedied soon. Weekends here offer all kinds of shows, don’t require much travel, and are relatively inexpensive.
- Books – I’m listening to books almost exclusively on my commutes, but I need to read a few too.
- Social interactions – less facebook, more face time (so cliche it hurts). My twitter is mostly preaching about saving public lands, my facebook is a collection of nature photos, and instagram is just more or less the real life stuff. I don’t get too political but this past weekend I did in person and it was much more rewarding to have an actual debate vs one on the interwebs.
- Hiking – I know, I’ve committed to the 52 hike challenge. It’s time to step up my game and make these hikes more involved and at least a few more miles each.
- Water – I’ve been slacking on my water intake. Hydration is key to healthy weight and digestion.
- Exercise – between hikes, I need to be doing more little hikes or getting my running more consistent. I am going to work on this; trying to find the motivation.
- Porch time – either at our apartment or visiting friends and family, porch time is usually relaxing and it’s a good way to incorporate social interactions.
- Positive energy – the world is kind of on fire right now with politics, war, deforestation, and dying oceans. I need to refocus on what I can do to help these causes, and others, while remaining positive and upbeat. The increase in exercise and hiking usually helps boost my mood and keep it level – as does the disconnecting, good beer, and fresh air.
It’s been the little things that make life so great, despite all the despair. This past weekend I heard the wolves howl – that’s an intense and fantastic experience. I drank ice cold water from a lake in Northern Minnesota. I came home from a long vacation to love. I heard some comedy that put things in to perspective and made me laugh. I remembered I had a snack left in my still-packed bag from vacation that I get to eat when I get home. Sometimes the little things are all I have to hold on to, and it’s really just as simple as that. My recent weekend away, disconnected, reaffirmed the plans my better half and I have set in motion to get out of Texas and live mindfully of spending and consumption.
Current songs that I recommend: (mostly indie vibes)
- Said The Whale “Step into the Darkness”
- Knox Hamilton “Never My Love”
- Ryan Adams “Do You Still Love Me?”
- Yukon Blonde “Saturday Night”
- James Reed/Christopher Norman “Drip Dry Gloves f/ Silas Green”
- Geographer “I Want it All”
- Saint Motel “Born Again”
- Arkells “My Heart’s Always Yours”
- The xx “On Hold”
- Kings of Leon “Waste A Moment”
- The Lemon Twigs “I Wanna Prove to You”
- Boy & Bear “Limit of Love”
- Bishop Briggs “Pray (Empty Gun)”
- Kopecky “My Love”
- Christopher Norman/James Reed “Haunting”
- Said The Whale “Heaven”
My most recent hike/northern adventure!
Good things that happened in 2016:
- I got a job in February, after being unemployed for 3 months
- We took a road trip and explored BEAUTIFUL Northern California and even wandered into Oregon. I also go to see my best friend after damn near a decade.
- We moved into a more affordable, logically laid out, and first level apartment.
- We consolidated some of our debts and are saving money!
- I got a new job in August with better pay, benefits, and opportunities for growth.
- We went to Michigan and got to hang out with friends and family for a week in May.
- Many of my dearest friends got married!
- Had a successful fall camping trip with friends & family
- I had a lovely day date with my bestie Nikki at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens.
- I refinished an ugly dresser
- We took another trip to visit friends and family in June.
- I saw the Dallas Arboretum in July.
- I went to Michigan two more times for various weddings and a memorial.
- We explored the Ozarks for a day.
- I got to go to Bronner’s Christmas store in Frankenmuth.
- I got to go out of town for work a few times, which I find exciting.
- We saw the Liberal Redneck himself with his two buds in Dallas!
- I got to reunite with old coworkers at my previous employer’s xmas party that I crashed.
- I got to see my BFF, many Michigan friends, and family for one whole weekend in November and got to celebrate Thanksgiving with them.
- I saw snow and went to several antique stores while in Michigan.
- My dog is healthy.
- Our cats are sorta healthy.
- I’m sorta healthy.
- My better half is healthy.
- Our bills are caught up, our roof doesn’t leak, our heat/ac work, and we have food/water.
- I met at least 5 new amazing friends!
- Obama named Gold Butte and Bear Ears as National Monuments!
Yeah, the election sucked. Yeah, all the people who died – famous or not – really sucked. But, I’m focusing on the good shit…however small, unimportant to others, or irrelevant to the big picture it is.
I worked hard this year to be more mindful of my choices and to be more present in my life. I worked hard to overcome the demons that lurk – not always winning, but coming out ahead in the end.
Here’s to 2017, even though it’s an icky odd number.