The last time I was in a national park, it was August 2016 and I was in Grand Teton National Park. It was a few weeks before the NPS’ 100th anniversary, and there was a festive, reverential mood in the park. There was going to be cake, Ranger Brian informed us during our three-hour hike through the Tetons, but the celebration was about a lot more than cake. He asked all 15-20 people on the tour to tell him what the national parks meant to us. Other people in our group, who hailed from as far as Poland, talked about their love of outdoors and appreciation for preserving so much it. By the time it was my turn, tears were springing out of the corners of my eyes — and not just because of that three-hour hike.
I was just so grateful for all of the experiences the national parks gave me just by existing. The parks formed my understanding of geology, history, biology. They symbolized fond memories, unforgettable sights, togetherness as a family. Our trips there were the biggest gift we could possibly be given, a haven from buildings and corporations and anything that remotely resembled the stressors of everyday life.