For the longest time during my childhood, my favorite book was “Nature’s World of Wonders,” from the National Geographic. My favorite picture in it was a two-page spread of the Grand Canyon at sunset. It captured my heart and my imagination, and I wished with all my heart to go there someday.
My wish soon came true. In 2006, my family took the road trip of a lifetime. We would drive from our home in Atwater, California, to Wyoming, home of Yellowstone National Park. We would then head south towards Arizona. Our car was stuffed with suitcases, a cooler, food, and more. It was a miracle that my dad could see through his rearview mirror.
Our first stop was Yellowstone. The instant we drove into the park, I fell in love. We had not been inside the park for ten minutes, when we saw a young bald eagle in its nest. And the adventure was only going to get better from there. We stayed at the Canyon Lodge and Cabins. And we stayed in one of those cabins, set apart from the lodge in sets of three. There were ants in our cabin, but my dad promised that it would be worth it. Sure enough, we woke to find an elk grazing right outside our cabin.
I was obsessed with animals at that time, so Yellowstone quickly became my heaven. Buffalo blocked the roads everywhere, and a mother black bear and her cubs walked right by our tour guide’s car. Even the animals we saw from a distance- a full-grown bald eagle, a pack of wolves, pronghorns, mountain goats, and more- were equally amazing to witness. Yellowstone was a place of magic to me, for its creatures and beautiful scenery, for the power of the hot springs and geysers- like Old Faithful, which erupted as soon as we arrived to see it- indicating the danger that lays right underneath the feet of all who travel there. I will never forget that incredible place.
Next we drove through Grand Teton National Park, in hopes of seeing a moose- sadly we did not- and then into Utah, were digging for trilobites cost us $800 in tires and cut short our trip so we would not get to see the Hoover Dam, which, honestly, did not seem that much of a loss to me. But then it was off to the Grand Canyon, the place I had always longed to go. We checked into the Yavapai Lodge, and then walked out the go see the canyon at sunset.
No picture could ever have prepared me for I what I saw there. The sheer massiveness of the canyon seemed almost unreal, as I stood near the edge. I had never felt so small or so insignificant in my life, next to this huge, ancient, wonder. But I had also never felt so alive. I realized how easily we forget the beauty, wonder, and power of nature. A river created the Grand Canyon, a super volcano lies underneath the beauty of Yellowstone. Both touched me, in their own ways. Yellowstone made me feel closer to the Earth, and the Grand Canyon left me in awe of it. Both put me in my place, which is as a part of nature. We tend to forget, thinking ourselves above it, but this world is our home, and we need to treasure every part of it. Both parks taught me how if feels to be small, how it feels to be a part of something bigger. And that is an experience I would never trade for anything.
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