Posts Tagged ‘USA’


Today marks 100 years since the inception of the US National Parks Service. Normally I’m not much more than a passing history buff, certainly not when it comes to government programs, but this one in particular not only represents some truly great moments in my life, but is tasked with preserving and representing what are to me some of the greatest and most important parts of the country. In a time of burgeoning industrialization and expansion we had the foresight to not only set aside these places against our own talent for destruction, but to recognize that they needed an agency to continue their defense and to educate new generations about what makes them truly remarkable.

My introduction to the wilderness of the US actually started in a state with very little federal parks presence, but with an extremely visible delineation between protected and unprotected land. As I was growing up whenever we would travel from the valley into the hills and mountains we would pass vast areas of barren hillsides, denuded by logging. The contrast to the rich, lush green of the still untouched forests of protected wilderness areas was as stark a lesson as any children’s book, more lasting even than the pastel pages of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. This was very real loss happening before my own eyes. Growing up around logging and mills and with my dad working for a stint as a reforestation tree planter I knew that this destruction was not undertaken frivolously, but it was nonetheless a visible scar, the hills a Frankenstein patchwork of tree growth and the obvious sweeping hand of industry.

Ironically my first real exposure to the national parks was Volcano National Park, a place notable for a significant lack of trees. But the most important aspect of this park wasn’t necessarily preservation, but education. This was one of the best places in the country to see the earth itself function as a living, changing thing and see how we came to understand it. This park was also a prime example of protecting us from ourselves, as without guidance a shocking number of people would try to wander into a live volcano.

In 2005 I set out on my first ever multi-state road trip that spanned a significant section of the northwestern US in just under 2 weeks. Initially I had intended to hit a few highlights on my way from Oregon to Colorado and back, but the further I went the more I realized just how many parks I passed, some I had never even heard of. When I saw a park or monument on the map near my designated route, I had to detour to it. Some were iconic, like Devil’s Tower or Little Bighorn, others were simply grand and could only be sampled in relatively small portions like Rocky Mountain National Park. Each place was a unique and humbling experience.

On this trip I began my habit of keeping every National Park Service map as a souvenir, marking off the seemingly endless number of parks. While not representative of all the places I’ve been, for instance just last month my dad and I visited Crater Lake National Park however I neglected to get a map as we walked in off the Pacific Crest Trail, it reminds me of all the fantastic places in the US I’ve been and have yet to see, and for most cases would love to go back to. Before I even moved back to the US from my time in Australia I began compiling road trips to nearby parks, eager to see more of these amazing places I’d only experienced secondhand through glowing and breathless accounts and ethereal footage.

These parks to me represent not just the icons of America, but a gateway to appreciating the greater whole. They are a guiding hand into enjoying and understanding the larger world around us, its past and its future, and by proxy our own. And for those of us with the curiosity and enthusiasm, they represent the opportunity to rejoice in the best of what the natural world has to offer.

“There is a delight in the hardy life of the open. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm. The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value. Conservation means development as much as it does protection.”

– Theodore Roosevelt



La-la Land

Posted: June 5, 2014 in Personal
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venice lights

The return to the US has been a process to say the least. Rebuilding your identity when you have effectively disappeared for 6 years save a passport, a social security number, and an idle bank account takes a tremendous amount of tedious work. And a fair amount of money.

The initial panic comes with finding a car, especially in a town like LA. If the US was built on the foundation of the roads that connect it, LA has crammed everyone into the basement. Then comes finding somewhere to live, followed immediately by things to put in it, and how to find your way around. In the midst of all this physical disorientation, there is also the sheer amount of bureaucratic paperwork that the US thrives on. Banks suddenly become alarmed that you are withdrawing money. Or depositing money. Or doing much of anything related to money. Banks here seem to have the emotional constitution of a traumatized fieldmouse. And of course there’s getting health insurance, which somehow feels sleazier than when you bought the car. And everyone wants your social security number for even the smallest transaction, which would be more reassuring if there weren’t all those stories of dogs getting credit cards.

Finally, when we had dealt with the part of getting here and we felt reasonably established, we had to tackle the particular issue of keeping Liesel here. Despite some bumps along the way, we had managed to survive the move with our relationship intact and even significantly improved, helped along by the lack of roommates and a drastic increase in people who actually thought we were kind of cool. Our wedding had been miraculously successful, due in no small part to that same sudden explosion of friends, but the paperwork was insane. Forms, letters, taxes, proof of second cousin’s car insurance, and of course the meetings and interviews. But nearly 6 months after our arrival, the last piece fit. We are now well and truly living in the US again.

going the distance

Posted: August 24, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Even with a week left in Australia and two weeks before we hit LA, I’ve already begun planning road trips. Not A road trip, multiple road trips. And there really lies why I’m moving back.

That first month I moved to Australia, despite having an entire new city at my disposal, I needed to keep moving. Whenever I get to a new area, I tend to wander quite a bit to get my bearings and get some perspective on where I am. So, for my first bit of vacation time, I rented a car and drove for 2 days to Byron Bay and back, roughly 2000 kilometers. While the trip was interesting, I quickly realized on that trip that in Australia, there is a tremendous amount of nothing between often mediocre destinations, making road trips incredibly ponderous. I’ve only done one here since. Instead, I made my trips overseas, using the lack of local inspiration to send me anywhere a plane to take me.

The US has the opposite effect on me. There are so many places I still want to see within North America, international travel, something that has for so long been #1 on my list of priorities, has taken a back seat. Now the to-do list of places I planned to someday see, the road trips I had always pondered, and the destination trips friends and I had whimsically laid out, are all waiting to be realized. My destination potential has just skyrocketed, and I find it difficult to think about much else.

The added bonus of moving to LA is that this is a gateway to so many of the places I’ve wanted to see. The number of national parks within a couple days of driving is staggering; iconic names like Big Sur, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Arches. Many even defining landmarks of the ultimate US road trip icon, Route 66. These are part of the US road trip legacy, and ones I intend to add to my own.