Monthly Archives: June 2014

The National Parks

Ken Burn’s documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” highlights the wonder, majesty, and necessity that perserving the wonders that surround us. There seems to be an infinite connection with observing nature and understanding one’s connection with the divine/universe. The forefather and driving force for the creation and maintanence of our natural parks not only was an avid adventure man/wilderness expert but a spiritual seeker. He states, “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” (John Muir) The sojourn to nature is used throughout the centuries and throughout the cultures.

My parents were instrumental in showing me the awe and beauty that surrounds me. Some of my earliest memories are of our family road trips up and down the state of California going from national park to state park. It was at the Grand Canyon that I heard the voice of my Savior telling me that the power it took to make that beautiful masterpiece was the same power and beauty that made me. It was the trees of the mighty General Grant at Sequoia/Kings Canyon that I started to see the rhythms and purpose of my life. Yet again Muir states, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” (John Muir) It is through nature that I am always reminded to always be positive, to always strive to do good, be good, and love instead of hate. It is nature that reminds me that the universe is all connected.

It is with this in mind that I made sure to carve out time to visit two different national parks while I was driving through Utah. I had been to Zion National Park as a kid. The colors had stayed in my mind’s eye and it was even more special as it was one of the first stops I made on my crazy solo journey across country. I felt emboldened doing something adventurous on my own. I walked along the river at the Temple of Sinnewawa and listened to the sounds of nature seep into my being. It was the recharging of courage, fortitude, and wonderment that I needed to complete my journey.

While Zion was lovely, it was Arches National Park that was truly calling me. I left Salt Lake City in the early morning so that I would have enough time to wander and soak it all in. The drive alone was magically. Full of colors streaming over the open plains, rocks, and canyons through the mist and sunrise. It felt like every mile was not only a mile closer to the park but to a new me. The red rocks were magnanimous. It was interesting the amount of stares that I received by other visitors when they saw that I was alone. It caused me to yet again think, would they look that strangely on a solo man? Why is it so weird or concerning to see a young woman wanted to experience the awesomeness of Arches? 

ImageThe mighty awesomeness of nature, of its beauty, and its place in the grand scheme of things helps to become a visible reminder to why, what, and who we all are. It is also a reminder that even nature experiences change and imperminance. The mighty arches succomb to gravity and erosion and will eventually disappear. Just like each and every one of us must wax and wane in our human existences. We must remember that we all carry purpose, even our deaths allow for new generations to come forth. While our physical appearances will disappear, the aftermaths, the remnants, and the connections we make will always continue on.

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“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” (John Muir)

 

 

 

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“The national park idea has been nurtured by each succeeding generation of Americans. Today, across our land, the National Park System represents America at its best. Each park contributes to a deeper understanding of the history of the United States and our way of life; of the natural processes which have given form to our land, and to the enrichment of the environment in which we live.”
George B. Hartzog, Jr., NPS Director, 1964-1972:

The Prep Work

The work that needed to be put in for the 1900 mile journey has been quite prolific. It all started with ensuring my vehicle, my control agent was ready for the task. New tires, struts, oil change, and clean from the inside out. I have two coolers packed with drinks, energy bars, and enormous amounts of snacks and gum. I have packed five bags of cloths, one bag of shoes, bags of dry staple food, and certain luxuries that I know I could not be comfortable without. (not excluding my electric kettle, my tea stash, some scented candles, a scented plugin, and of course some of my movies.)

The 1900 mile journey has brought up many different elements, is my preferred gas station available outside of California, what happens when my cell phone starts loosing battery, what about if I’m driving through an area without cell phone reception? I recommend anyone undertaking a driving journey to visit their local AAA branch. I have been taught by my father from the beginning of my diving career to read maps, to be able to rely not only on GPS. As a single woman I knew I wanted to be able to find my way regardless of cell reception and battery life. It was this that compelled me to go to the AAA office. I receive physical maps, travel books, and a step by step guide/map book of my journey. All of which were free with my membership.

I have gas stations, restaurants, and tourist sights mapped out, check in times with certain people to ensure that on the off chance something happens, cavalry can be easily located. I am purchasing a National Parks annual pass so that I will be able to hit up at least 4 different parks on my adventure. I have even planned out undertaking a micro-brewery/pub driving crawl across the US. I am going to take my time driving, having a two day stop in Utah and a two day stop in Kansas. It is shaping into not only a cross country adventure, but a journey of a lifetime.

 

 

The Storm

The Calm before the Storm i.e. the days before the Journey

 When I realized that I would have to go a different institution for the summer to further my education career I had a choice to make. Do I fly or do I drive. Could I live without my car for 8 weeks? Could I move for 8 weeks to a new place without some shred of my property? The answer became a resounding NO. So the task became how one goes about driving the 1900 plus miles from sunny California to the Midwest cheese state of Wisconsin. There were many hours spent on the internet tracking and mapping out my journey, I have been blessed to be able to arrange my trip and my overnight pit stops with friends and family. I logically weighed every element and factor and realized that the amount of money I would spend flying (plus shipping clothes and materials) would be just as expensive as the gas money and possible food on the road. I am a very thoughtful, logical, and almost extreme planner with all aspects of my life. So it was with this in my back pocket that I started to tell people my plans.

To say I was surprised about the reactions I received is an understatement. I knew that there would be a fair amount of responses surrounding the fact that I am driving by myself but I wasn’t truly prepared for the amount of disagreement and disbelief. I have had to endure on two different occasions people telling me that not only was I stupid, but that I could not undertake this journey. I was told that I wasn’t aware how long the trip it was or that I was stupid for wanting a car for the short 8 weeks. That as a single woman, it would be too dangerous for me to be driving across country. That because I couldn’t find someone to drive with me, I should just scrap the whole plan. (Yet, these people were unaware that the majority of my friends are also fellow students, who do not have the amount of disposable income to not merely go on this trip, but afford a flight back from Wisconsin. Added to the fact that I do not have the money to pay for their flights) they couldn’t understand my need for my car. Interestingly enough these naysayers were male.
It has been interesting that people outside of my inner circle; friends, acquaintances, even strangers were hopeful and exciting about the journey, about the adventure, and about the sites to be seen. Many of which were still supportive after they found out this was a solo journey. They offered suggestions about being smart while driving such long distances. But it was the responses of some of my closest people that took me for a loop. On one hand, I see that their responses were because of their deep connection and investment in my wellbeing and safety. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder 1. Would they be as vocal in their concern and disapproval if I was a man? 2. Would they be this concerned if I as a woman was going with others (and more specifically if one of those said companions was a man?)

As a woman, I have been conditioned, trained, and molded to understand that lurking around every corner is a potential threat towards my person. My father paid for self-defense classes, I attended many rallies about female safety and rape prevention events at my undergraduate university, and I even had an ex-boyfriend proceed to teach me many different ways to kill, maim, and evade physical threats. One of the lasting fragments from all these years of ‘prevention’ has taught me that one of the best things a single woman can have is the ability, independence, and a form of control over a situation. It just so happens that my car has become all of these. The ability to not only transport more of my stuff for this eight week intensive program, but also the capacity to go and come as I please for these said eight weeks. The locality of my gender and my relationship status seems to dictate a life which is not acceptable any longer.

The best situation would have been to have company along the way, to share the memories with someone else. Alas, it is not so. So despite the optimal outcome, I have decided to make lemonade out of life’s lemons, to grab the bull by the horns, and to take the plunge. The naysaying only encouraged me further. It only lit the fire more to show that as a single woman, I can be smart, I can be aware, and I can drive the 1900 miles all by myself. It is my rite of passage, it is my quest to show the world that despite the hardship, ugliness, and violence that lurks around every corner, it will not deter me it will strengthen my resolve.