We love our National Parks! They are quite a departure for our city-loving personalities, and they have provided us with some of the time and experiences that we value the most. In honor of the 4th of July, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned over two years visiting our nation’s best idea.
What silence sounds like.
This is perhaps my favorite part of visiting the National Parks. On our second day at the Grand Canyon during a slow November tourist season, we stood by ourselves looking at the spectacular natural wonder before us, and I felt absolute quiet sink into me.
As if the evening quiet of sleeping children had stretched across the country and taken up residence in the sunlight and cold of that remote ledge. I love the energy and excitement of busy cities, but I never realized how much my soul craves the quiet of nature as I did in that moment.
I am more adventurous than I thought.
We arrived at Zion National Park in the mid afternoon. We had visited Arches National Park and the Grand Canyon in the days before, but as we drove through the east gate our jaws dropped at the overwhelming beauty of our surroundings. We had planned to do a short hike and return to our hotel, but when we arrived at the lower falls, we couldn’t stop.
With a child attached to each of us, we climbed over uneven rocks and up steep paths, on and on up the mountain until we reached the upper falls. It was magical being halfway up a mountain in the most beautiful landscape we’d seen after an exhilarating climb that pushed us beyond where we thought our limits ended.
My children are more capable than I assumed.
We visited Bryce Canyon when Molly was three and half and Emma was almost two. Jeff and I assumed that we would carry them through the majority of the hike down to the canyon and back up as we had in Zion the year before. The girls had other plans.
When we reached the bottom, they hiked together and explored every crevice of the lower canyon, thrilled with their adventure. As we started to head back up, they insisted on climbing themselves. They hiked almost the entire 800 feet of elevation change, winding back and forth up the canyon wall, only relenting to going back in the carriers when we insisted as the drop offs became precarious at the end.
Jeff and I still tend to forget how capable and adventurous they are, and Molly is quick to remind us of their growing list of hard-earned feats.
We are lazy.
Living in and visiting cities the majority of our lives, we are used to convenience. And in most situations luxury. Traveling to the parks, we have to remind ourselves that the comforts of restaurants, water fountains, and even bathrooms can’t be taken for granted.
We have eaten some of the worst pizza in existence because it was all that was available in a remote park in the off season. We have gotten dangerously low on diapers and wipes assuming they would be available in the next town, which turned out to be a row of three houses and a 24 hour gas pump. We constantly assess our water and gas to make sure we won’t run out of these absolute essentials.
I love these inconveniences. They remind me of how much we take for granted in our everyday lives. Spending time focusing on seemingly mundane items also reminds me of the luxury of not needing to spend the majority of my life and energy to obtain things that are necessary to our wellbeing and safety. This is a luxury that many are without.
Much like my experience of Rome, being in nature and surrounded by beauty grounds me. In the midst of political chaos, war, terror, and unimaginable pain, nature remains calm. It absorbs disaster, destruction, and death and continues. The stress and pain of centuries become rings in a tree or lines in a mountain. Part of the structure, but not its entirety.