This well-worn passport is not the little 3 x 5 booklet used for international travel, but rather the “Passport to your National Parks”, what I call the ultimate adult sticker book. If you have ever watched a child, head bent over a new book filled with colorful stickers, mesmerized until the last little figure has found its rightful home, this is similar to what we feel when flipping through the National Parks Passport book.
I coveted this book, given our love of national parks, but not the small version. No, I had to have the deluxe Explorer Edition, complete with space for cancellation stamps and stickers for national parks, monuments, memorials, battlefields, seashores, lakeshores, etc., etc. What began as my fancy has become Terry’s infatuation, and as he slowly turns the pages, like a slow-moving kaleidoscope I watch the memories drift by.
If nature is not your thing, this book and the many sites listed within may not excite you. But if hiking a mountain trail on a crisp autumn day, walking through a golden meadow kissed by late afternoon summer sun, or standing on a bluff looking out over an azure sea finds you contemplating a higher being, you might enjoy the Passport book and the memories it can capture.
Flipping through the pages recollections of watching a sunset from atop a mountain, aglow with the sun’s fire, striking fall colors cascading down a mountain ravine, elk, bison, and bear grazing in the backcountry, the crash of a wave reverberating off a cliff face as it races to shore, all dance before me.
Nature is where the common thread that connects us all can be found. It is the perfect place to just be, in the moment, eyes and flesh melting into earth and sky, where every cell of our being moves to Mother Nature’s rhythm.
When John Muir, one of the earliest advocates of the National Park Service, walked through the Sierras, he understood this better than most. His support was the catalyst for the signing of the act creating the National Park Service in 1916. Today there are 59 National Parks in the U.S. and over 100 nations now preserve over 1200 national parks for future generations to enjoy.
“The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.” ― John Muir
Although our passport was born of the desire to see all 59 of these parks, we have found many gems beyond the obvious - monuments, memorials, battlefields. They have taken us back through time, reintroduced us to our nation’s history.
Each time we visit another site and place another stamp in our treasured book I find myself contemplating who may have touched this same earth so long ago. Were they too in awe of the beauty that lay before them…wild coastline, snow-capped mountains, rivers snaking through towering cliffs? Hopefully generations to come will stand on these same grounds in wonderment, with a deep reverence for all these sacred places.
P.S. If you have not had the opportunity to visit our national parks and would like to experience them through the eyes of a professional photographer, I urge you to visit Rick Braveheart’s blog here. While on this journey referred to as his Earth Walk, he conveys the majestic of this place we call home and his images reflect the deep reverence he holds for lands set aside as national parks.