Okay, I’m not really in to politics, although I love the West Wing. I couldn’t accurately tell you how our government works (my brothers would kill me), I don’t know what bills are being passed, who some key players in our government are or how anything gets done. Obviously right now with the shutdown, nothing is getting done, but I don’t understand why or how this could happen. So in my ignorance I will write a post about how mad I am that I can’t go camping next weekend at Mt. Rainier National Park and why, when this shutdown is over, you should visit your nearest National Park as often as possible.
1. The views are indescribable. No matter which National Park you visit, I can guarantee you you will see, hear and experience things you can’t put into words. National Parks are protected areas of land that are there purely for you to enjoy. Untampered with, untouched, wild landscape. The views are indescribable because you can’t see mountains and rivers and trees and birds and snow and rocky cliffs and waterfalls in your everyday routine (unless you have the COOLEST job ever!). These views can’t go to waste. You want entertainment? Go to your nearest National Park, stand in one spot and wait. Nature will happen right in front of your eyes and no TV show will ever compare.
2. Hiking is so much better than the gym. National Parks are notorious for endless hikes and trails. There’s no rush, no one waiting to jump on the treadmill behind you, no pressure to burn a certain number of calories. My favorite thing to do is pick a hike I know is going to be challenging, start early on a Saturday morning and just go. I don’t give myself a time limit; I don’t even look at my phone. I don’t think about calories, although you’re burning them up like crazy! I don’t need my iPod, iPhone or iPad to entertain me because I have mountains, rivers, waterfalls, chipmunks, birds, rain, rocks and trees to keep me plenty occupied. If you get tired, you stop for a minute, down some snack, then keep pushing on. If you’re smart you pick a hike that ends at the top of some ridiculous peak overlooking what feels like the whole world where you can just sit and take it all in. This is the best kind of exercise. I hope someday in my life, when I don’t live in the heart of a city, that this is my only form of exercise. Jillian Michaels ain’t got nothin’ on Mother Nature.
3. Your body, mind and soul needs nature. Can you picture a world without any form of nature? No green trees, purple flowers, soaring mountains, raging rivers, open fields or cascading waterfalls. Just man made, wasteful, technological cities as far as the eye can see. This is my hell. Even if you’re not an “outdoorsy” person, you need nature. If you sat in front of a screen all day you’d eventually die (this might not be a proven medical fact, but I believe it). If you stayed inside all day, everyday you’d physically and emotionally be a different kind of human. We all need to unplug. If not for our health, then for our sanity and for perspective on what’s really important in life. We, as humans, stress out about EVERYTHING. Money, relationships, weight, jobs, bills, health, the future, the past, etc. Do you know why we stress? Because our perspective is all out of whack. When you’re constantly surrounded by people who are loud, busy and stressed, you’re naturally going to become stressed out yourself. When you’re far far away from these noisy, busy, stressed out people you’ll naturally become stress free. Nature will cure you of stress! Let yourself de-stress. Choose a Park, choose a hike, sit in a field and get perspective. When you get home, back to the noise, you’ll be prepared to look stress in the eyes and say “not today.”
4. They make your friendships stronger and your family closer. Whether you’re day hiking, backpacking or camping with other people, you’re bound to get closer. With less technology and distraction you essentially have to talk to each other, otherwise that’s one loooong trip. I’ve had my best experiences with my friends and family while being outside, usually a weekend camping trip. Things go wrong, which make for the best stories. I LOVE when things go wrong. I don’t think I’ve had one non-eventful outdoor experience which is like living in a reality TV show without the fake drama. In the woods you’re going to get close to each other. You’re going to pee in front of each other, trip down trails, sweat, stink, not wash your hands, drop your burrito on the ground and still eat it, curse, fart and fail miserably at setting up a color coded tent. All of this in the presence of your fellow campers, hikers, and/or backpackers. Nature creates memories you can’t get anywhere else. I crave my National Park weekends purely for the memories I know will be made.
5. You feel like a badass. Nature makes you feel like the coolest person on earth. You can’t stand by a 300 foot waterfall and not feel like a badass. You can’t hike for 10 miles in pouring rain without feeling like a badass. You can’t build a fire without a hatchet, proper kindling or paper without feeling like a badass. Cut your leg while hiking over a boulder field? Badass. Got a picture of a bear in the wild? Badass. Ate 6 dehydrated meals in 2 days? Badass. Haven’t showered, washed your hands, or wiped in 4 days? Badass. Accidentally swallowed a spider while drinking from your water bottle? Badass. Hiked for 8 miles, felt exhausted, but still chose to hike another steeper 2 miles to the fire lookout? Badass. Fit 3 people in a barely 2 person tent? Badass. Carried bear mace, ever? Badass. I could keep going, but my point has been made.
It breaks my heart and makes me mad that our National Parks are shutdown. The silver lining might be that people realize what we could lose and begin to value these majestic places that wait for us to come visit. Trust me, National Parks are not something you want to take for granted. Go once and you’ll know what I mean. If you share the same love I have for these Parks, then make sure you spread the word, live a life that makes sure places like this can last and visit often to remind yourself of what matters. As soon as I’m “allowed” to go back in, you’ll find me at Mt. Rainier on some beautiful trail soaking up as much nature as I can.