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?

I fell in love with public lands in 2009.

**Disclaimer: This is a blog entry I’ve put together describing how I fell in love with our public lands and where I think we need to go with them.  I don’t claim to be an expert and this blog entry is strictly my opinion.  My ideas are my own and are subject to change with conversations, education, and experience.  Thank you.**

Late Bloomer.

If we go back to my first National Park, it would be Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  I am almost sure I went to both as a teenager, with my grandparents, because my parents never took us anywhere out of the county – because of work, money, and time.  I grew up far away from the beauty that was Rainier, Yosemite, Yellowstone, or Rocky Mountain.  I knew not of these places until high school, but really not until college and beyond.  I’ve always had nature, just not public nature.  We had a couple hundred acres to roam, ample state land in Michigan, and plenty of friends with land.  I never really grasped the concept of National Parks, designated wilderness, or the like until college.  I took a course in wildlife management, learned a lot, and within the next few years visited some national parks.  I had student loan money, so I was invincible.  Not really, but it paid the tuition/rent and I had a few bucks left over for a spring break road trip.  I don’t advise on having a few bucks left over – borrow only what is necessary.  I do, however, advise saving hard-earned money for a spring break road trip that isn’t to some beach somewhere.  Traditional spring breaks did not appeal to me – but a road trip with my buds to places people weren’t going sounded amazing.

In 2007, my two friends and I, set out on that spring break road trip driving from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Denver and through the Rockies and beyond.  We went right past Rocky Mountain National Park and visited a friend in Grand Junction, Colorado.  We drove down through Utah, right past the Arches and Canyonlands, and onward to Texas.  We drove past EVERYTHING because we didn’t know much about it and one of us wasn’t into the outdoors.  The next year, my outdoor friend and I insisted on a better, more thoughtful trip that included national parks.  We went from Grand Rapids to Seattle, down to Redwoods NP, and onward to Death Valley.  We saw two parks the entire trip – which was better than nothing for us;  we had to compromise for time and interest of the parties involved.  I mean, forget that we drove right by Badlands, North Cascades, Olympic, Crater Lake, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Petrified Forest.  If 2017 me went back to 2008, I’d punch myself in the face for being so dumb.  Anyway…

In 2009, my buddy and I drove out to Arches and camped – determined to see more of our public lands this year.  We traveled onward to some BLM land in Nevada and then over to the Redwoods.  Up the coast, we went to the Olympic Peninsula – which was pure magic.  Saw more, stopped more, spent more time on public lands – really understanding what they were now and what they meant to me.  This trip was the one that really cemented how important these places were.  When 2010 came around, and we were half in college, half not sure what life was all about, half employed, we naturally decided to go to Vegas in the spring.  Sin City was exciting, but I feel the real excitement was about the road trip to various national parks.  We hiked in Death Valley, saw the sights from high to low, and I saw how big that place really was.  From there, we went to Capitol Reef, Arches, and Zion before flying back to Michigan.  If 2009 cemented it, 2010 sealed that cement.  I was in love with our national parks.

In 2011, after moving to Texas I met a new friend and we went to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in October.  It is hard to put into words how I felt about the views, the yellow leaves, and the crisp air.  In love?  Probably.  2012 brought a revival of the random road trip with my outdoor buddy (since he moved to Texas) and we ended up in Tucson at Saguaro NP.  2013 Included Carlsbad Caverns, Arches again, and the Grand Canyon South Rim.  In 2014, we went to Big Bend in January and Rocky Mountain NP in August.  In 2015, my other half and I took our friend on a road trip to Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, and Zion.  Later in 2015, we went to the Arch in St. Louis.  In 2016 I made my return to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with visits to Redwoods, Oregon Caves, Point Reyes, and Golden Gate.  This year, we’ve visited Kenai Fjords, Redwoods again, and Sequoia/Kings Canyon.  It’s true love.

In the past few years, I’ve spent more time exploring public lands than I had my whole entire previous existence.  I’ve hiked in national forests, visited the parks mentioned above, and have plans for so visiting so many more public lands.  I was lucky to find the parks in 2008 and luckier now because I can afford to visit more frequently.  The more I visit, the more I love these places and value their existence.  The more I visit, the more I want to fight to keep them public.  The more I visit, the more I see that they may be all of ours, but they’re really not available to everyone.  The more I visit, the more I want to use my privilege to open these parks to those who have never visited or can’t visit due to distance, cost, or any combination of reasons.  I can’t imagine the level of passion and devotion I’d have if I’d been visiting these parks since I was a kid.  It is absolutely VITAL that youth of all backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, and age groups be exposed to (and educated about) these places.  Maybe these lands are not for everyone, but maybe a few of them will grow up to protect, love, and fight for them.  We need to work to include everyone in the outdoor world.  We need to diversify the DOI and hire people from all walks of life.  We need to designate more parks/monuments/etc in more places representing the spectrum of Americans that exist.

I’m not sure quite how to accomplish the tasks at hand, but I’ve decided a vital step is to find a way to get more people involved and interested in our public lands.  I need to immerse myself in projects, organizations, and maybe even a career shift to building a diverse following for our public lands.  It may be a new love, but it’s a true love.  I feel as though I’ve finally found my place in this fight to make sure our public lands are open to all and I’m determined to make a difference.

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!

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!

Tuesday is the new Wednesday

…or Monday part II?  A little of both.  Tomorrow I fly to Portland, Oregon to meet up with my other half and drive back to Texas.  We are going to the Redwoods, Sequoia, and hopefully Death Valley on the way home.

The Redwoods make me happy.  To spend a few hours under the giants, hiking about will be good for the soul.  I’m excited for Sequoia because we are going to see a few of the main events.  I have driven through the National Forest before via the Kern River Valley out of Bakersfield.

I’m hoping to get a good 1-2 hour hike in Redwoods on Thursday and at least the same at Sequoia on Friday.  Saturday will be spent driving nonstop until we can’t anymore in hopes of making to at least Amarillo, TX if not home.

This trip is simple, and mostly just a more scenic drive home.  I would have liked to hike at Crater Lake on Thursday, but the wildfires mostly crushed that plan.  I’ll take the Redwoods any day, really, so I am not complaining.  I honestly think of the Redwoods often, as if they were a part of the family that I miss.

Road trips in general have always been my greatest source of joy.  At first, it looked as though I would not be flying to Portland to drive back and that was kind of depressing for both of us.  The vacation gods came through, and I found out I had more time!

I hope you all have a good week – don’t let all the news stories crush you completely.

Full stop.

Today started with a Starbucks mobile app order for TWO venti iced Americanos.

Woah, vacation is over and that is poopy.  I spent the past 11ish days in Alaska and I miss it already.  The air was so fresh, the trees were so green, and the people were so fit.  Talk about motivation – these people hiking to glaciers and on trails were inspiring.  I’ll do a full write up of our adventures in Alaska in a few days, but I’ll sum it up as being one of my favorite places ever.

We boarded a plane on July 4 at 11pm local time, which is 3 hours behind Dallas time, and arrived via two flights to Dallas at noon July 5.  Yesterday was a blur.  I must have snuggled the cats for a while and fell asleep.  We went to get Chewy the dog, and boy did I miss his rotund body.  So happy to be reunited with the pets and so happy that the cats did not go crazy and ruin anything while we were gone.  We are lucky dudes to have friends to watch the dog and check in on the cats – but I think we’ll start using services to relieve them of the burden.

Today, I’ll be working one of two days this week and let me tell you – it’s weird.  My brain can’t really comprehend that I’m at work and my body just wants to be in bed.  I slept weird yesterday due to the overnight flights and such, so I was up at 3 and kind in and out since then until it was time to shower and go.  My work pants are a little tight, despite increased activities over the vacation – the food was just too good I guess.

 

Hope you all have a great week(end) ahead.