Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Four National Parks Visited

Last night I checked into my hostel in W. Yellowstone two hours later than planned, explaining to the clerk that it had taken longer to drive out of Yellowstone because of the wildlife, once when a family of elk were grazing by the creek, and another when a humongous bison was sauntering down the road in a zig zag pattern. I don't think he was drunk, so he probably just enjoyed having control of when the long line of cars could start moving. Maybe it was his way of saying, "Hey, this is my home so deal with it."

"Yes, and then all the nuts stop to gawk, or whip out their cameras and snap a few dozen pictures."

"Uh, oh, guilty on both counts" I replied raising my hand, and we both had a good laugh.

It's hard to believe that I have been on the road for only one week. When I stop to think I have four more weeks of being wowed and stimulated by all the natural beauty that is in my path, I am rather overwhelmed.

So far, Teddy Tripper and I have visited four national parks: Rocky Mountain, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton. Each one was uniquely beautiful, and hopefully, when I have had time to digest them all, I will write about my impressions.

But, for now, a personal experience ---

When I arrived at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, I stopped at the Visitors Center to ask the ranger for a map and suggestions on what part of the park I should visit given my time frame. Without hesitation she said I should drive up to the top of the mountain (over 14,000 feet, in fact, the highest mountain in our national park system) Now, every time that I considered this option while planning my trip, I had felt apprehensive.

"Well, I'm not sure since I don't like driving on narrow, winding roads with no guardrails."

She chuckled and said, "The roads are not narrow, and we haven't lost anyone yet."

"You mean no one has gone over the side?"

"Not unless they wanted to."

Isn't it interesting how past experiences influence our thinking even 37 years later? In this case, it was a crazy uncle-in-law that drove like a maniac up a Swiss mountain on a rocky dirt path. Every time one of us would gasp (our form of communication since he didn't speak English and we didn't speak Italian!) he would press harder on the gas pedal and flash a toothless grin.

As it turned out, "my" road was not only paved, it was a two-lane road just like the ones I drive on a daily basis, with yellow lines down the center; it was also a gentler climb that I had imagined. Still, it was over 14,000 feet and curvy, so I kept my eyes fixed firmly in front of me, never once looking over the edge.

At the top, I was rewarded with a stunning view, but the real reward was the jubilation for having pushed through my fear and then feeling lighter and more free.


Gina said...

"Feel the fear and do it anyway.."

Giddyup, Jan and yeeeeeeeeha!

Chris R said...

I'm so glad you got to "the top" of RMNP! It is truly a stunning view, and worth a little white-knuckling on the steering wheel.