The sounds of chainsaws shattered the silence of the desert landscape at Joshua Tree National Park while the stench of human feces rose from the ditches along the pull outs at Yosemite National Park. It was a great start to 2019. Across the nation, at Wildlife Refuges, National Forests, National Parks and federally funded Public Lands, trash piled up deeper and deeper. Toilets, if not locked, became cesspools of refuse, a physical representation of the current administration’s view of not just Public Lands, but of functional government. As the Government Shutdown of 2018-19 lingered on without an end in sight, our Public Lands, the jewels of the nation, were under attack.
Each new year, we find ourselves full of hope and optimism. When the clock strikes midnight, we look ahead to wonderful times with friends and family, as well as ourselves. In those few few hours, days and weeks of the new year, we have a pep in our step and feel motivated to make the next 365 days the best of our lives. We make promises and resolutions, set goals and make plans. For many of us, the start of a new calendar also signals the time to daydream toward adventures in the outdoors.
Born and raised in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, anytime I explore a public lands location that doesn’t get feet of rainfall each year feels, I feel incredibly strange. I am used to endless green, to rivers constantly flowing and to signs of life around every corner. I am accustomed to seeing towering trees and sword ferns, salmon filled rivers and glaciated peaks. That is what makes the desert so intoxicating, and why I, like millions of other millennials, have fallen in love with Utah’s Public Lands.
The first taste of wilderness is an unforgettable high, forever altering the chemistry of your brain. Surrounded by seemingly endless nature, your perception of life, the universe and everything becomes forever changed. For most of us, that initial high we get from the great outdoors becomes our addiction, leading to us searching over maps and driving down dirt roads looking for our next fix at all hours of the day. We chase it day in and day our, blinded by the addictive properties of our public lands.
This post was written and posted in one hour for #NatureWritingChallenge. Join us for this weekly writing challenge!
All we knew is that we wanted to hike in snow. After a weekend of snow dumping down in the mountains, adventure was filling our blood and we were becoming drunk off of potential wanderlust. Reports of feet of powder were trickling in and we longed to be a part of it. It didn’t matter where we had to go to find snow, we just needed to explore the mountains on a pair of snowshoes. We checked roads, checked our gear and headed up Highway 101, eager to reach the wonderland of winter weather that was waiting for us.
Sometimes, random encounters with a stranger on a Public Land can become incredible memorable, inspiring a story that gets retold more than you mean to. For this week’s #NatureWritingChallenge, I decided to share one of my frequently told stories about a stranger I encountered in a National Park. Unlike many stories I tell a lot, this has never been put down on paper. Until now. Enjoy.
I was recently asked what my wishlist for Public Lands would be, and since we are just days away from the 2018 mid-term elections, I wanted to give a thought out and carefully crafted response. However, this question was posed as a #NatureWritingChallenge, meaning I only had one hour to write this. This is what I wrote:
The entrances to National Parks are like gateways to another world, granting access to breathtaking landscapes that are mostly untouched by human interference. The provide entry to lands full of wondrous wilderness and wildlife, where adventures await all who are fortunate enough to enter. While there are no bad entrances to National Parks, each of us has a favorite, one that speaks directly to our soul. Sparking our sense of adventure and increasing our love for public lands, these entrances are special, and are filled with amazing memories.
I have been called a fair weather hiker by quite a few people. For awhile, I denied this, hoping I could convince myself and others that I would be outdoors in rain, snow, sun, wind, whatever. I have tried, and I often fail to shake this label off of me. For as much as I feel the call of the wild on sunny days, I experience a pull toward comfort on rainy cold days. Wrapped in a blanket, sitting in front of a fire, drinking whiskey and hot chocolate, this is where my brain longs to be during inclement weather. Sure, I have hiked the rainforests in monsoons, trail ran Yellowstone in blizzards and climbed towering peaks in severe winds, but if you ask me if I enjoyed it, my voice may waiver as I respond of course. Bad weather and I usually not friends, but when I hear of a storm raging toward the Olympic Coast, everything changes.
Some stories need to be told. Some are so incredible, inspiring and bigly amazing that to hold them back would be one of the great injustices of the world. This might just be one of those tales. Written in just one hour for this week’s #NatureWritingChallenge, I present the following.
2003. What a year. Some will recall it as the start of the decline of post-September 11th patriotism. A few will remember it was the year the Florida Marlins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Jersey Devils and San Antonia Spurs won their sporting championships. A handful will relive the explosion of space shuttle Columbia as it reentered earth’s atmosphere. Many will remember this as the year the US invaded Iraq on faulty pretenses. For me, 2003 was the year I knew public lands needed to play a larger role in my life. For the past 15 years, America’s Public Lands have been where I find sanity, serenity and happiness. As George W. Bush said on May 1st of that year, Mission Accomplished.
I have been told that I am very observant, but that isn’t true. I usually don’t notice people’s new haircuts. I rarely pick up on small changes, like new pictures in room. I gloss over details so much that doubt I could describe a family member in detail for a police sketch artist. I forget names easily and tend to space out on meaningful dates. Yet, when it comes to the outdoors, all of this changes. I know names of creeks and waterfalls. I can describe the seat stacks along the Olympic Coast perfectly. I can see the first sign of fall from a mile away. In wilderness I become the Sherlock Holmes of Public Lands, noticing the most minute detail.
There are few moments as rewarding as experiencing a National Park with someone who has never been there. As they gaze upon your favorite places, overcome with wonder and feeling awestruck at the splendor of nature, I become filled a true happiness. For many of us, when we get to share our happy places with others, we have a chance to play guide and lay out a full blown, interactive presentation of why these areas are so spectacular. Like a dealer getting someone hooked on a drug, that is what I try to do with National Parks. We give them a taste and watch them become addicted with heading outdoors. This week on #NatureWritingChallenge, I share where I usually introduce people to the beauty of Public Lands.
I am not a morning person. Everyone who knows me is aware of this, thanks largely to my inability to do much before sunrise. Or, more realistically, even before 10am. For me, mornings are when I hold onto the warmth from my bed or sleeping bag for as long as I can until the sun’s rays can warm me. Dawn and I typically don’t get along, but I do have to admit some of my favorite moments on public lands do come during the morning hours.
It is with much excitement that The Outdoor Society announces Season Two of #NatureWritingChallenge! We took a break for the summer months, but now that signs of fall are all around us, it is time to pick back up this awesome writing exercise. With a whole new layout and new topics, those who love writing about the wonders and experiences found on Public Lands have another chance to share that passion with other like-minded explorers. Starting on September 10th, 2018 and running through Spring of 2019, Season Two of #NatureWritingChallenge is going to be awesome.
Tumbling down from the craggy summits of the Olympic Mountains, the rivers of Olympic National Park are as wild and scenic as anywhere in the world. Fueled by glaciers, melting snowpack and endless deluges of rain, the waterways of the Pacific Northwest’s iconic peninsula are our lifeblood. Water transforms the region into a hydrological wonderland- a land where being damp and wet means you are home. For thousands of years, the rivers of the Olympic Peninsula were a source of food and remained mostly untouched. The riverbanks shifted through the valleys in which they ran, swinging wildly back and forth, searching for the lowest point to reach the ocean.