Our great National Parks
I really thought I was doing a part of my civil duty—showing our children a few of the great national parks that speckle our country. They are jewels of amazement that are, if you think about things in the scope of the world, right in our backyard. And so we flew out west, rented an RV, and headed out to see the sights.
And what sights they were.
My husband and I have never been to the Grand Canyon before, and we wanted to make sure we gave our kids the experience while they were the right age: old enough to remember and young enough not to think we were totally dorky parents. I think for their sake, we hit it just right. But for my sake, it was incredible.
They say the Grand Canyon is a fantastic hole in the ground, but I will tell you that upon walking up to it for the very first time, I got a little choked up. I don’t know that I have ever seen such amazing beauty, so vast and powerful. Even as a writer, I was without words when someone asked me about my first view of the canyon. Maybe I could put it into a haiku:
Wow. Wow wow wow wow.
Amazing, amazing, wow.
The Grand Canyon. Wow.
Because that’s what you do when you walk up the edge, after of course you realize that it’s 5,000 feet down to the bottom and your kid is doing some little boxing dance, antagonizing his sister. Once you get him settled and everyone is safely holding hands behind the guardrail, you stand there, as a family and bask in the glory.
And then, if you’re as lucky as our kids who have parents with degrees in geology, you can stare off into the red wonder and pretend you are listening while your mother blabs on and on about limestone and schist and faults and joints. By the end of it, you think you are hearing some other foreign language….because you probably are.
One of the biggest things we noticed while traveling through our country’s national parks was that the visitors were not from our country. American English speaking people seemed a minority, even more so if you counted the elk and mule deer that graced our presence every so often.
I understand that visitors come to the USA and hit the landmarks. I certainly would as well, if I were traveling somewhere else. But we were really surprised at how few Americans were hiking the trails with us. And it got me all fired up. Or maybe it was hiking the six miles in the canyon with temperatures reaching 100 degrees…but still. There seemed something wrong with the picture.
Our country, the United States of America, is big. It’s diverse. And it’s beautiful. From sea to shining sea, our country has protected and preserved incredible natural landmarks so that we can view them and learn about the nature that surrounds us and makes up the very land on which we step. And yet, so few of us actually take the time and make the effort to see what there is to offer.
Since 1872 when Yosemite was named a National Park until today where we have over 400 areas that make up the National Park Service, there is no good excuse for us Americans. National Parks cover over 84 million acres in every single state, and chances are that a visit to one or more of them might be something you may have thought of but never followed through with.
Please do. Please visit a National Park. Even a State Park. Find a piece of American nature and get a taste of the frontier on which this country was founded.
I promise it’s good for your soul, and maybe even for your collection of haikus.