I have a thing for National Parks. I can’t explain it other than by suggesting that my fondness for them comes from spending almost every other weekend hiking and camping with my father in my youth.
To be honest we probably didn’t go hiking and camping as much as I remember us doing so, but a chunk of my childhood was spent sleeping on the ground, in a tent, my body temperature hovering in that strange cold-but-sweating zone and laughing at my sister pee on herself during a hike*.
While we were usually sequestered to the handful of State Parks Indiana boasts my family would generally stop at any National Parks while we were traveling. Thanks to parents who were willing to ensure their children saw as much of the world as they could and my living in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Idaho I’ve seen a lot of National Parks, Forests and Monuments.
My mother would always make us take a picture with the National Park sign at the beginning of every park. She told us over and over again that “everyone did it and it was a tradition” and my sisters and I would just comply to stop her from going on about it. Oddly enough, when I started my own road trips with Jas we always found ourselves begging other groups to take our picture with the sign. Pictures with Park Name signs must be some sort of primal need bred into every American. If we left a park without a sign picture, we had to return and take one. Not to do so just felt so wrong**.
While I was living in Idaho I happened to be no more than an hour away from Yellowstone National Park. I lived in Idaho for three years and almost left it without ever going to visit it. I was insane. Not to visit the first national park in the world would have been a regrettable and frivolous mistake while I was so close to it! I finally managed to go when driving out for my penultimate semester in September 2009. My mother, our German Exchange Student and I road tripped to my school so that the German could see some of the vast and inspiring geography of the Western United States… or, you know, get her out of a week of school. (Probably the latter).
We saw just a tiny, tiny part of the park, and to have seen the entire park would have required staying at least a week. What we did see was stunningly beautiful. Since it was fall and winter was coming in just under a week (Intermountain Winter starts the third week of September, trust me) most of the foliage was scrubby and brown, but it contrasted beautifully with the color that held fast.
I remember being so amazed by all the greens, blues, reds, golds, pinks, turquoises and copper colors that all I wanted to do was sit on the ground and stare at them for the length of a day—to se how they changed and developed from sunrise to sunset.
Call me terribly Romantic but my views on nature are such that I cannot help but to be touched by the beauty and perfection in all that surrounds us. It is a joy more restoring and healing to be in nature than any other provided by books or TV or Twitter or music.
Besides, I also have a terrible weakness for bison. They’re so cute!
Though we only saw a few parts of the park: some small hot springs, Yellowstone Lake, Old Faithful, an Elk, a couple bears and The Grand Canyon (of Yellowstone) and its miraculous waterfall, it was sufficent for the one day we had set aside to explore it.
Apparently I was so in awe of Old Faithful that I didn’t take any pictures of it… while I’m not really surprised by this behavior (I tend to be a terrible photographic recorder) I will admit that it was quite stunning and very, very fun to watch… even if it was freezing.
Naturally I did happen to get a picture of myself, watching Old Faithful.
Yellowstone is a park I think often of returning to to explore more of its beauties and wonders… I’ll just have to think about breaking that vow I made never to cross the Mississippi River ever again***.
*I’m a terrible sister. :)
**I know I have a sign picture of myself, my mother and our German exchange student at the time at the Yellowstone Park sign, but I can’t seem to find it. This upsets me in a weird way.
***On my last drive from Idaho to Indiana after completing my time at University I swore, as I drove over it, that i would never, ever, ever cross the Mississippi River ever again and that I was confined, forever to the Eastern half of the United States. That might have been a dumb vow to make.