Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt!

by Kathy H. Ely

As the Olympic cries of “USA, USA” fade away, and the air has just a little hint of fall (OK, tomorrow is going to be 94 in the Washington D.C. area), I still don’t want to let go of summer. My garden is long gone, overgrown, the tomatoes eaten by the deer and the basil gone to seed. I’m holding out for just a few more dinners on the patio, drinks on a sun-setting beach, maybe one more dive into the waves.

But first, let me tell you about my summer vacation! (Mostly, I worked a lot, after flirting with retirement, but more on that another time.) The cries of USA, USA rang again in my ears as we drove around the western plains to some of the most amazing national parks you’ll ever see.  It was fitting that this August was the 100th birthday of the national park system; I had newfound appreciation of the whole idea of setting aside glorious landscapes, untouched ecosystems, wild places that made me literally gasp on turning around each and every bend. Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt!

Here on the East Coast, we have no shortage of natural beauty; especially in the Chesapeake region, there’s a wide range, from the mountains to the ocean, with lots in between. And yet, nothing could have prepared me for the red, molten, seemingly melted rocks of Utah. Or the almost Disneyfied hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. (I feel guilty for even saying that they looked carved; surely, nature can do better than man, as she kept reminding me.) The cleft sheer boulders of Capitol Reef. The dazzling carved spaces and gravity-defying giant stones that went on and on and on in Arches National Park.  Who knew?

One of the things that happen to us when we get to a certain age is that we are somewhat jaded. We’ve seen a lot, traveled close and far. Even those of us not as adventurous as our younger compatriots have tried a few things along the way. So when we venture into an unknown, even a safe unknown (we did the three-mile hiking loops, not the seven or ten, the overnights, the sheer faces), it serves to wake us up a little. To remember that life’s not all traffic and monthly bills, family drama and what to make for dinner. There is still wonder in the world. And I’m going to keep looking for it.

What amazing sights still set your heart ablaze?

If it’s not travel and the nature wonders, what adventures do you want to share?