Eight years ago my brother, my father, and I stood in wonder of the intimate loneliness of Joshua Tree National Park. Saying more in our silence than words could ever hope to capture, the three of us formed an unspoken bond that has united us ever since. This was my younger brother’s first real exposure to wilderness. Overcome by the depth of majesty before his eyes, all his six year old heart wanted at that moment was to stay in that moment for the rest of his life. Nothing would stop him from asking my dad the most influential question that has ever passed his lips.
‘Dad? Wouldn’t it be cool if we could see all of the National Parks?’
I have heard countless questions uttered from that mouth and I assure you that by far the majority of them leave me one step closer to a headache, but this particular question reverberated inside my father. For a year the thought was in the back of his mind like a nagging fly refusing to leave him alone. Given enough thought my dad arrived at the conclusion that there was no plausible reason why we shouldn’t see all the parks. So, every spring or summer for the past seven years, the three of us get together for our annual ‘three guys crazy road trip’ to continue the tradition forged in the dry heat of the desert summer.
We have seen everything from majestic faces of Yosemite’s patriarchs to the eternal lameness of Cuyahoga Valley. Once a recreational area, Ohio now proudly boasts Cuyahoga as its very own National Park. This is not to say that it takes a sight on the same level of grandeur that one might encounter at Grand Teton National Park to move my heart. I find beauty in the very small as well, but by far the overwhelming magnificence of the great parks of America’s west have captured me.
We are sadly drawing near the end of our quest to visit all of the National Parks within the continental United States by the time I graduate from high school. We have only three left. Excitement has worked its way into the sadness as I realize that this means that I will now be able to go back and spend serious time in the parks I enjoyed most. Vacations are never endless and thus one could say that our quest has been something of a sampler tray. At each park we take just enough of a taste to wet our palate. I believe that we have saved the sweets for last.
This past summer we made our pinball trip to wrap up most of the stragglers. We traveled through twelve states in nearly as many days ending our trip in Maine. Maine has but one National Park situated on its coast, Acadia National Park. Although located on the very eastern tip of the country, Acadia is most reminiscent of those beauties of the West that I am so in love with. My dad and brother couldn’t have shared my feelings more.
We spent hours upon hours watching the tide come and go from a jagged rocky shore. The silence was broken every now and again by the clicking of a shutter on one of the antique 35mm manuals we all carry. Photography, another of my dad’s passions that he has passed down to my brother and me. We weaned every last gleam of light the sun graciously offered before repacking our camera bags and heading for dinner and our hotel. As my dad had mentioned time and time again in his ridiculous impersonation of a thick Maine accent, there were three things that defined Maine, lumbar, lobster, and leisure. Of these my dad insisted that we experience at least two of the three, and since hauling lumbar back home in the car was out of the question, we set out for a lobster dinner at ten o’clock.
Maine lobster was mighty tasty but its flavor has long since left my mouth and the memory faded. However, there are memories that I can still recall as vividly as if I was experiencing them again for the first time. The lingering memories of my summer spent traveling the country, of cold sunsets watching the light die to the west, of warm days sitting as ocean spray kissed my lips, but most importantly the company I had on the journey and that unspoken bond that still resides within each of us.
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