PROTECTING NATIONAL PUBLIC LANDS | FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE WILD PLACES
I spend a lot of time adventuring on our national public lands - places like national forests, state parks, and national parks. It is my hope that by sharing my adventures and my photography of these beautiful places, that it will inspire others to get outdoors, to immerse themselves in nature, to fall in love with the wild places. Once, people were part of the land - we lived off the land, and acted as stewards for it. We depended upon it for our very survival and knew that to destroy it was to destroy ourselves. Somewhere along the way, we got lost. We isolated ourselves in cities. We distanced ourselves from nature, sought to conquer her rather than live harmoniously. We maechanized our agriculture and turned our farms into factories. We polluted our air and our waterways. Our advances are nothing short of amazing, but all too often, greed trumps conservation. How does this happen? Many people live their whole lives away from wild places, never having set foot on a trail or a mountain top. It is all but impossible to miss what you have never known. In your bones, that connection to nature still exists, as it does in every one of us. It must - because we still come from the Earth, and still depend upon it for our survival. That connection lies dormant, just waiting for a spark to ignite it. It is my hope that others will see the beauty of the natural world through my eyes, through the lens of my camera, and read my words and feel my reverence for and connection with the natural world, and they too will learn to love the wild places.
I wish for everyone to know the calm that the forest can bring – the stillness, the peace that infuses your being when you sit, and breathe, and notice every little thing happening around you. The birds singing in the trees, a caterpillar munching a leaf, a butterfly fluttering past, a spider building an intricate web. All living perfectly in the moment. To notice the way the dappled sunlight glitters and glows and dances on every surface. The warmth it imparts when it lands on your skin. The smell – piney, damp, peat-like, and earthy. The way water from a spring feels cool on your skin and tastes fresh and minerally and so unlike tap water that you won’t even believe that they are the same substance.
I wish for everyone to know the triumph of completing a hike to a summit. To know the feeling of being able to accomplish anything as you look out over the mountains and valleys below. Watching the clouds move in the sky, storms rolling in the distance. Taking in the bluest lakes you will ever see, sparkling, almost glowing in the bright sunlight. The snow capped mountains, with the last bits of snow hanging on all through the summer, the glaciers ebbing and flowing. Watching the stars appear and knowing that you are the closest to them you have ever been with two feet planted firmly on the Earth.
I wish for everyone to sit on the sand and watch the tides change. To feel the salty spray on your face as the waves crash down on the shore. Watching crabs scurry and build their homes. Finding secret tide pools full of surprises. Diving head-first into the cold waves. Not only building sand castles, but sitting and listening and feeling – the pull of the moon, moving your heart like the tides. Feeling it burst with in your chest as you watch the sun slowly drop over the horizon, the sky burning in its wake.
To visit the desert for the first time and realize just how alive it really is. It is full of more beauty and color than you can imagine. Shades of red and orange and purple you didn’t know existed. To look out over the expanse and see the work of nature over millions of years, putting rock together, and taking it apart again, one tiny grain of sand at a time. The buttes, the towers, the arches – the wind and water carved castles of the desert. You will cry out at their beauty, their stripes and swirls of color will leave you breathless. The aroma of sage will fill your lungs. The cacti, the flowers, the insects buzzing in the flowers. So many more animals than you thought could possibly live there. Then the hawk flies overhead and a thunderstorm comes rolling toward you. Lighting, with its wicked tongues licking and laughing as they rip through the air. And when the storm clears and you see the unobstructed night sky for the first time, so far from the light pollution of the cities, your jaw will drop.
It is my hope that when people see the adventures that I have had, that it inspires them to do the same. Not only because it makes your heart beat wildly in your chest, not only because you feel free, not only because it it fun and exciting. Because it does, and it is. But because once you have immersed yourself in the wild places in the world, they leave an imprint on your soul. They become a part of you. It is hard to explain, but once you have felt it, you just know. And once that place is part of you, just as you are part of the Earth, just as you come from the Earth, and from the stars in the heavens – all made of bits of star dust from stars that burned out in fiery supernovas billions of years ago – you will know that you must care for this Earth and the creatures that call it home. That in the wild places you will always belong. You will always have a place that feels like home.
Most of the photos that you see on my blog and in the little squares on my Instagram feed were taken on public lands. Our public lands include our National and State Parks, National Forests, and lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. If these lands hadn’t been set aside as public lands, their resources would have been plundered and their natural beauty marred long ago. Our public lands and park systems not only provide areas for us to go adventuring in the wilds, they also protect areas that act as sanctuaries for native species, many of which are threatened and even endangered, and the unique ecosystems which they call home. Many of these areas are in danger of being sold off to the highest bidder, especially in states like Utah, where millions of acres of public lands are being sold.
If you love what is left of the wild places in this beautiful country, please make your voice heard! Let your elected officials know that public lands need to stay public, and National Parks need to stay protected. Visit the wild places when ever you can, and always take with you only memories (or photos) and leave only footprints.