National Parks: A Celebration of Beauty Pt. 1
2016 finds us celebrating 100 years since Yellowstone, the first national park, was founded. National parks are an exceptionally important part of my life, and so I write this in the hope that sharing my story will persuade you, reader, to experience their natural beauty for yourselves.
This is part one in a series.
Sixth grade was both intimidating and boring, and stayed that way until we were given a particular project in English class: describe a beautiful place. I can’t remember how I stumbled across the pictures of Yosemite National Park, but they changed what would have been a long, uneventful school life into something most kids only dream about.
I kept coming back to those photographs. There was nothing I wanted more than to see Yosemite for myself. The towering, waterfall strewn cliffs and giant trees, the likes of which I didn’t even know existed, captured my imagination and wouldn’t let go.
In the end, I approached my mother without much hope. I offered my project, printed pictures and all, and said, “I want to go here.”
“Yosemite?” She looked me over and smiled, lit up with absolute delight. “You were too young to remember, but we used to own an RV. We sold it after you started school, but …”
I held my breath. My mother spent most of her life traveling across the United States. Having left England at 19 without a backward glance, she kept bouncing across the country until she met my father in Hawaii almost 20 years later. Even then, they were living in an RV when I was born.
“Well, why not?”
If I finished the semester with good grades, we’d leave this summer. School was still boring, but now I had something to keep me going.
My mother kept her promise, and by the time June began, there was an RV, white and green and new, sitting in our driveway. We went, but not to Yosemite — I would not reach Yosemite for years — because there was just so much to see, and if we were doing this, my parents wanted to do it right. Instead of going west, we headed north. And I got my first taste of what a national park is really like.
In fact, I visited several national parks in the summer of 2004, the beginning of a tradition that continued for years. Through the Great Rocky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks, where I encountered my first bear, holding my breath as Mom leaned out the open window to take a picture of the brown predator, lazy head lifting to follow our progress until the road curved out of sight.
Some of my most vivid memories follow us through the New England states. In New Hampshire, old family friends took me kayaking on a lake, alive with the calls of loons, until my shoulders burned and even the protective gloves didn’t stop my hands from blistering. I was exhausted and hurt for days afterward, but I loved it more than I’ve loved anything in a long time.
We went hiking up steep hills, too, something my parents — older than most, already in their fifties — were in no shape for, and I dangled my legs over the edge of a cliff, leaning forward to take in the land spread out for miles as a breeze dried the sweat on my face. There is a picture of that moment somewhere, maybe lost to a decade of time, but it was one of the best I’ve ever taken of me.
From there, we reached Maine, the very tip of the U.S., which I remember through the filter of Acadia National Park and McDonald’s serving lobster rolls. It was a cool day, and as the sun began to set, the fog rolled in, thin and cold in my lungs. We’d stopped at a lodge for dinner, and I hung back as my parents went inside. Instead of following them, I wandered around the side of the building and discovered a trail up a small hill, covered with flat rocks I used to jump from one to another, up and away from the lodge.
Without paying attention to how far I’d wandered off, I continued up the hill, vision limited to only a few feet in any direction. Sometime later I realized I was lost but didn’t care, too caught up in an absolutely brand new experience. I shivered as the last red sunlight disappeared, but left my jacket tied around my waist, wanting to feel the dampness of the fog against my skin.
It wasn’t until something began moving towards me that I hesitated, but it was only a family descending the trail. I’d have kept going, only it was getting dark now, and I was lost, so I followed them back to the lodge, still leaping from rock to rock, still unable to see much of anything and enjoying it. My parents weren’t as happy.
One day, I’ll go back.
School was just around the corner, and my mother was worried we wouldn’t make it back in time. I looked up at her and said, “So what?” because I hated school, couldn’t stand the thought of giving this up for something I barely tolerated at the best of times.
“You want to be homeschooled?” she asked, and I nodded. “What about your friends?”
I had no reply to that, because I hadn’t thought of them at all.
“It’s not like they’ll disappear,” I said, because these were friends I’d known for ages — five years and counting. None of them would even consider trying what we were living right now. Suddenly, school wasn’t the only boring thing in my life. I liked my friends, but this was something I’d never be able to share with them.
“You’re sure?” I nodded again. Mom sighed, quiet. “Well, why not?”
And so, rather than turn around, we went to Canada instead, and I experienced Niagara Falls from both sides of the border. The noise was unbelievable, and as the tour boat approached the falls, I clapped my hands over my ears to muffle the thunderous falling water. The roar reverberated through my body and drowned out the rush of blood in my head until I thought I’d go deaf, but who cared, because I was wet and cold with the spray of some of the largest waterfalls in the world. That night, we watched the Falls light up in a rainbow of colors from an overlooking restaurant.
All this, and I was only 12 years old.
To be continued next week.
Apply to Write for Uloop NewsJoin the Uloop News Team
Discuss This Article
More Uloop Campus Life Articles
FSU STUDENT TRAVEL LISTINGSSee all FSU Student Travel Listings
FSU Student Travel Listings
WRITE FOR ULOOPApply to Write for Uloop News
GET TOP STORIES DELIVERED WEEKLY
TOP 5 NEWS ARTICLES
BROWSE OTHER COLLEGES
- By CollegeUniversity of Central FloridaFlorida Atlantic UniversityFlorida International UniversityFlorida State UniversityUniversity of FloridaUniversity of South FloridaUniversity of North FloridaSaint Leo UniversityValencia Community CollegeBarry UniversityFlorida Community CollegeEdison State CollegeMiami Dade CollegeUniversity of West FloridaEmbry-Riddle Aeronautical UniversityClearwater Christian CollegeFlorida Institute of TechnologyAi Miami International University of Art and DesignAmerican Intercontinental UniversityBethune-Cookman UniversityCarlos Albizu UniversityChipola CollegeDaytona State CollegeEckerd CollegeFlagler CollegeFlorida Agricultural and Mechanical UniversityFlorida Coastal School of LawFlorida Gulf Coast UniversityFlorida Hospital College of Health SciencesFlorida Memorial UniversityEverest UniversityFlorida Southern CollegeFull Sail UniversityInternational Academy of Design and TechnologyInternational Academy of Design and TechnologyJacksonville UniversityKeiser UniversityLincoln College of TechnologyLynn UniversityNova Southeastern UniversityNorthwest Florida State CollegePalm Beach Atlantic UniversityRingling College of Art and DesignRollins CollegeSt. Thomas UniversitySoutheastern UniversitySouthwest Florida CollegeSt. Petersburg CollegeStetson UniversityThe Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale IncThe University of TampaWarner UniversityDaytona State CollegeHillsborough Community CollegeBroward CollegeSanta Fe CollegeTallahassee Community CollegeSt. Johns River Community CollegeBrevard Community CollegeManatee Community CollegeSeminole State College of FloridaKaplan UniversityIndian River State CollegePalm Beach State CollegeEastern Florida State CollegeFlorida Gateway CollegeGulf Coast Community College Lake-Sumter State CollegeNorth Florida Community CollegePasco-Hernando State CollegePensacola State CollegeSouth Florida State CollegeSt Johns River State CollegeValencia CollegeAcademy for Five Element AcupunctureAcademy for Nursing and Health OccupationsAcademy of Career TrainingAcademy of CosmetologyAcademy of Healing Arts Massage & Facial Skin CareAdvance Science InstituteAdvanced Technical CentersAM College LLCAmerican Advanced Technicians InstituteAmerican Health InstituteAmerican Institute of BeautyAmerican Medical AcademyAnton Aesthetics AcademyAparicio-Levy Technical CenterArgosy University-SarasotaArgosy University-TampaArtistic Nails and Beauty Academy-LakelandArtistic Nails and Beauty Academy-TampaATA Career EducationAtlantic Institute of Oriental MedicineAve Maria School of LawAviation Institute of Maintenance-OrlandoAviator College of Aeronautical Science and TechnologyBarry University Law SchoolBeacon CollegeBeauty Anatomy Institute of Cosmetology and WellnessBeauty and Health InstituteBeauty Schools of AmericaBeauty Schools of America-HialeahBeauty Schools of America-HomesteadBeauty Schools of America-MiamiBeauty Schools of America-North Miami BeachBenes International School of BeautyBoca Beauty AcademyBradford-Union Technical CenterBrewster Technical CenterBurnett International CollegeCambridge Institute of Allied Health & TechnologyCambridge Institute of Health & TechnologyCape Coral Institute of TechnologyCDA Technical InstituteCelebrity School of BeautyCentral Florida InstituteCentura InstituteCharlotte Technical CenterCHOICE High School and Technical CenterCity College-Altamonte SpringsCity College-GainesvilleCity College-HollywoodCity College-MiamiCollege of Business and Technology-KendallCompu-Med Vocational Careers CorpConcorde Career Institute-JacksonvilleConcorde Career Institute-TampaCortiva Institute-FloridaCosmix School of Makeup ArtistryCozmo Beauty SchoolD A Dorsey Educational CenterDade Medical College-HollywoodDade Medical College-JacksonvilleDade Medical College-MiamiDade Medical College-West Palm BeachDaytona CollegeDigital Media Arts CollegeEast West College of Natural MedicineEdward Waters CollegeEmpire Beauty School-West PalmEternity Cosmetology SchoolEureka Institute of Health and BeautyEverest Institute-KendallEverest Institute-North MiamiEverest University-BrandonEverest University-JacksonvilleEverest University-MelbourneEverest University-Orange ParkEverest University-South OrlandoEverest University-TampaEverglades UniversityEverglades University-SarasotaFashion Focus Hair AcademyFirst Coast Barber AcademyFirst Coast Technical CollegeFlagler Technical InstituteFlorida AcademyFlorida Barber AcademyFlorida CenterFlorida College of Integrative MedicineFlorida College of Natural Health-BradentonFlorida College of Natural Health-MaitlandFlorida Institute of Recording Sound and TechnologyFlorida National University Training CenterFlorida National University-South CampusFlorida Panhandle Technical CollegeFlorida Polytechnic UniversityFlorida School of MassageFlorida Technical CollegeFlorida Vocational InstituteFort Myers Institute of TechnologyFort Pierce Beauty AcademyFortis College-Winter ParkFortis Institute-JacksonvilleFortis Institute-MiamiFortis Institute-MulberryFortis Institute-Port Saint LucieFutura Career InstituteFuture-Tech InstituteGalen College of Nursing-Tampa BayGeorge Stone Technical CenterGeorge T Baker Aviation SchoolGolf Academy of America-Altamonte SpringsGooding Institute of Nurse AnesthesiaHair Design InstituteHeritage Institute-Ft MyersHerzing University-Winter ParkHobe Sound Bible CollegeHollywood Institute of Beauty CareersHollywood Institute of Beauty Careers-CasselberryHollywood Institute of Beauty Careers-West Palm BeachImmokalee Technical CenterInterAmerican Technical InstituteInternational Training CareersITT Technical Institute-BradentonITT Technical Institute-Deerfield BeachITT Technical Institute-HialeahITT Technical Institute-Lake MaryITT Technical Institute-PensacolaITT Technical Institute-TallahasseeITT Technical Institute-TampaITT Technical Institute-West Palm BeachJohnson University FloridaJones College-JacksonvilleJose Maria Vargas UniversityKaizen Beauty AcademyKeiser University- MiamiKeiser University-LakelandKeiser University-OrlandoKeiser University-Pembroke PinesKeiser University-TallahasseeKeiser University-West Palm BeachKnox Theological SeminaryLake Technical CollegeLee Professional InstituteLindsey Hopkins Technical Education CenterLively Technical CenterLoraines Academy IncLorenzo Walker Institute of TechnologyManatee Technical InstituteManhattan Hairstyling AcademyManhattan Hairstyling Academy - NorthMarchman Technical Education CenterMarion County Community Technical and Adult Education CenterMattia CollegeMattia College -MCI Institute of Technology-Boca RatonM-DCPS The English CenterMedTech Institute-Orlando CampusMercy Hospital School of Practical Nursing-Plantation General HospitalNew Concept Massage and Beauty SchoolNew Professions Technical InstituteNorth Florida Cosmetology Institute IncNorthwood University-FloridaNouvelle InstituteOrlando TechParisian Spa InstitutePaul Mitchell the School-Fort MyersPaul Mitchell the School-OrlandoPaul Mitchell the School-TampaPinellas Technical College-ClearwaterPinellas Technical College-St. PetersburgPolytechnic University of Puerto Rico-OrlandoPrestige Health & Beauty Sciences AcademyProfessional Hands InstituteRadford M Locklin Technical CenterRasmussen College-FloridaRasmussen College-Fort MyersRasmussen College-New Port RicheyRasmussen College-Tampa/BrandonRegency Beauty Institute-CarrollwoodRegency Beauty Institute-ClearwaterRemington College-Tampa CampusRidge Career CenterRobert Morgan Educational CenterSAE Institute of Technology-MiamiSaint John Vianney College SeminarySaint Vincent de Paul Regional SeminarySanford-Brown College-TampaSarasota School of Massage TherapySheridan Technical CollegeSouth Florida Bible College and Theological SeminarySouth University-TampaStenotype Institute of Jacksonville Inc-JacksonvilleStrayer University-BrickellStrayer University-Fort Lauderdale CampusSummit Salon AcademySuncoast Technical CollegeSunstate AcademySuwannee-Hamilton Technical CenterTalmudic College of FloridaTaylor CollegeTaylor Technical InstituteThe Baptist College of FloridaThe Salon Professional Academy-MelbourneTotal International Career InstituteTraviss Career CenterTrinity Baptist CollegeTulsa Welding School-JacksonvilleUltimate Medical Academy-ClearwaterUltimate Medical Academy-TampaUnited Education InstituteUniversity of South Florida-Sarasota-ManateeVirginia College-Fort PierceVirginia College-PensacolaWalton Career Development CenterWestside TechWithlacoochee Technical InstituteWolford CollegeWyotech-DaytonaYechanlaz Instituto VocacionalYeshivah Gedolah Rabbinical College
- By State
- By City