When my pilot friend (who also happens to be a flight instructor) said, “Let’s go flying”, I was 100% onboard – literally.
It was a crisp, clear day with views for miles. I observed the lacy patterns on the semi-frozen Potomac River that lay surrounded by snow-dusted grounds. The deciduous trees stood as tiny skeletons while pockets of deep green marked the clusters of their evergreen friends. The Chesapeake Bay was a sight to behold with its glossy surface reflecting the sun, making the light dance as we flew lazy eights above.
I was experiencing my world from a completely new perspective, and thoroughly enjoying it. Things looked prettier from up high, away from the concrete and busyness on the ground. My birds-eye-perspective rendered everything as smaller, simpler, yet somehow even more beautiful.
And yes, getting a chance to take-off and actually fly a bit myself added to my sense of awe.
I was surrounded by air, far from the world as I know it, yet still experiencing the natural world in a phenomenal way.
I cherished every minute of it.
* The commercial flights I’ve taken wherein I share elbow space with other humans and have just a peek of blue sky out a too-small window don’t truly count as a “nature experience”
My winter hiatus has absolutely flown by. It seems like I pulled back into the Northern Virginia area only a short time ago, tugging along Clarence (the teardrop trailer) like a faithful pet.
Now the days are getting longer, and the temperature is gradually rising. I’m eager to get back on the road to visit the remaining 23 national parks. The Pacific Coast promises a whole new world of discovery: deserts, mountains, forests, and beaches. The northern border of the U.S. will be rife with intriguing flora and fauna, adjoining up with the natural areas in Canada, my homeland.
I will do some things differently. I’ll plan out my time a little better depending on the size and available activities in each park. I’ll be smarter with where I lodge each night – warmer temperatures will mean less need for pricey electric hookups. I also intend to adjust what I’m bringing with me. During Part I of my trip, I toted a variety superfluous goods around the country that I barely even looked at, nevertheless touched.
What’s Staying Behind:
Half of my clothes, particularly cotton
Unnecessary camping gear
My climbing rope (I decided I didn’t trust strangers to prevent me from falling)
Some books, puzzles, office supplies, and activities
What’s Coming Along:
Knitting materials (I taught myself over the break)
I wasn’t looking forward to the long drive from Arkansas to Colorado, but it turned out to be full of kicks and giggles.
I got my fill of kitschy roadside attractions, including Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo, TX.
I found this adorable RV Museum that was FREE! It had a bunch of campers from the 20’s to the 70’s. It was really well-kept, and had a lot of little historical touches that made touring each unit quite memorable.
I stopped at 2 state parks, one for a quick picnic lunch and nature walk, and another to camp for the night. Red Rock Canyon, in Oklahoma was a little piece of paradise off of the interstate.
Lake Clayton State Park in New Mexico was simply enchanting. The landscape was gorgeous, and it felt like I was in another world.
So I assume you’ve all heard of runner’s high – that state of contentment and elation that runners reach during which the miles seem to pass by in seconds?
I recently experienced a similar phenomena during one of my travel days.
My back was aching, I was thirsty (yet trying to avoid too many bathroom breaks), and there was a truck that had been hanging out in the left lane for way too long. The clock was taunting me with its slow pace and the odometer appeared not to be functioning.
And then something mysterious happened. I zoned out. I literally don’t remember what I was thinking about, but I reached a strange level of satisfaction regarding my current driving situation. Before I knew it, an hour and a half had passed and I only had 20 miles to go.
It’s only happened once so far, but I’m trusting that this elusive feeling will return.
Until then, I’ll have to settle for my audio books and Orbit gum.
Apparently visiting all of the 47 national parks within the continental U.S. isn’t an original idea. I assumed that others had attempted this journey before and decided to do some recon to support my suspicions.
Isle Box has mapped out the optimal route (although they claim there are 48 – not true)
Scott Cochran, a photographer, visited all of them within a year and documented his journey through mainly pictures back in March ’14
Some other, non-American peeps have attempted the voyage, but the jury’s still out on whether or not they actually completed the circuit
And then there was me. Starting at Shenandoah (that’s point “C” along the East Coast for those of you who are map illiterate), I’ll be working my way clockwise around the loop. I’m estimating about three days per national park, with no more than five hours of driving time during my in-between days. This means I’ll have some fun stops along the way. Atlanta? Yep. Nashville? Prolly. Dallas? Heck, yeah!
This is my Great Plan, but right now it’s the forest rather than the trees. Details will need to be worked out as June 29th, my launch date, approaches.
And to all those who have gone before me, I salute you.