However, the side benefit of this job is the ability to see historical sites, tour amazing buildings, share others lives, and enjoy the wild. On Arbor Day four years ago I had the opportunity to buy a lifetime senior pass for the National Parks. A ten dollar one time fee promised me and whoever is with me in the same car unlimited access to any park, anytime, anywhere. Of course I took the offer, and ten dollars later we were continuing in to the Painted Desert. I could have never anticipated the pure delight of seeing the vibrant colors that awaited us as we rounded the first curve. Stretched out in front of us, and as far as the eye could see, were the deepest orange and vermilion, greens and white, seemingly painted with a giant paintbrush over the cliffs and hills of the park. After sitting in the parking area in silence for a good five minutes I looked at my husband and burst out laughing. His mouth hung as far open as mine had been up to the second I turned to see his reaction. The jaw-dropping view in front of us was like nothing we had ever seen.
We continued to drive, soaking in the views, stepping out of our vehicle to look at fragrant flowers the likes of which we had never seen, walking a few trails towards the center of each panoramic vista. Soon the colors changed from the brilliant reds and oranges to blue, green and lavender pastels that now covered the hills in bands like new blankets with stripes. We saw very few animals or birds, those sightings would have to wait for another park, another day.
Then we scored an unexpected bonus – because the road we were on traversed two parks – the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest — we were able to see trees that were eons old, and because of the chemical reactions of different elements, the trees had turned into stone, colored as vibrantly as the hills and valleys had, only in different hues. To see these trees, rock hard, beautiful pigments where the wood should be brown – was something that I had wanted to do since I was young and my parents came home from a business trip, trying to describe the colors and features of the Petrified Forest. (Can I say, the reality was MUCH better than their description).
The one thing that I saw then, and continue to witness daily, that makes me sad is families, mom and dad oblivious to what their children are doing. Climbing on trees that are fragile and several million years old, remains of the changes that our world has gone through, jumping up and down on a jutting rock hard branch, trying to break it, children bent on destroying the irreplaceable. And parents, either ignoring or egging them on, part of the problem. I felt then, and I feel even more strongly now, that parents need to teach their children about what they’re seeing, how important protecting these natural treasures is, and not letting them video a piece to share online about how they broke one of the branches. (Or whatever they vandalize). Trash belongs either in trash cans or their cars, not thrown out on the side of the road. Some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve seen has been sullied by lazy people just dumping their fast food bags, cartons, drink bottles, condiment packages out of their windows. (The question that always comes to mind is, “do they do this at home?”)
These two parks were absolutely worth the drive. Lots of places to pull off and have a picnic, (being respectful of the landscape and cleaning up after the meal), short hikes, longer overnight hiking and camping opportunities, and wide open spaces will fill your soul to overflowing. Plan at least a day – there are motels and RV parks close. Be sure you have a jacket the nights, even in the middle of summer, can get chilly.
This was our first stop at a National Park since starting this new job. I consider myself blessed because of what we’re able to do. Next blog – Alcatraz/Angel Island in San Francisco. This is a really cool park to visit, accessible only by boat. We got to see firsthand what a slow moving ferry hitting a dock will do – both to the boat and to the dock!
I’m a big follower of pertinent news. This means that I might check out the national news, but since I travel, I also read the regional news of the area we’re in. As a result, my phone keeps popping up with stories from the region we were in two weeks or three months ago. I’ve…
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