You will learn soon enough that I am full of dreams, and while dream #1 will always be getting published- that is, having both my writing and illustration out there in the world- another significant dream of mine is to travel.
I have a specific interest of seeing natural lands and the biomes that make regions unique. To zero that idea down even further, I have a particular pull to see all of the US national parks. While that is a hefty wish to fulfill, I realize it can be done. So far, I have seen three, my first being Acadia National Park in Maine on a family trip back when I was ten or so. I actually do remember the trip very well, it was incredible. We stayed in a cozy lodge and much to my delight, had the chance to see my favorite animal, a moose! My next national park trip would not be until this year, where my university offered a once-in-a-lifetime spring break trip of camping and backpacking inside of the Grand Canyon. I signed up on a whim and it was one of the best decisions of my life. The backpacking was strenuous and camping was not at all glamorous since Arizona is hot and dry even in March, and running water was not available at the bottom of the canyon (unless you qualify a few streams and the Colorado River), but that didn't mean much to me as I was over the moon to even be there.
Just last weekend, my best friend Katie and I decided to go to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, which was also amazing (I don't really think you can go wrong with a US national park, unless of course you despise nature). The park itself is situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a range that is a part of the larger Appalachian Mountains. The name comes from the mountain's hazy shades of blue, I believe it has something to do with the chemicals the trees release, but nevertheless, in August, there were a bounty of green leaves and plants and from a distance, the mountains really did appear blue. Katie and I spent Saturday hiking Old Rag Mountain, the park's leading attraction, and while hiking, we came across two bears- one was digging, the other was eating berries (it was really neat to see them interact with the wildlife), a fair amount of ravens at the mountain's summit, and also a rattlesnake, which I almost stepped on while walking on the trail, but to be fair, I had no idea it was there and it didn't hiss, rattle, or make any noise even as it slinked off. She and I want to visit more parks together, which I am absolutely game for. We're planning on going South to see Congaree in South Carolina and Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee/North Carolina next year. It's beautiful to see all of nature and what God has created for mankind.
A couple of people I know that are into national parks want to visit them in one big road trip, which would make sense if you head out west where the majority of them are clumped together, just look at a map. One day I'd like to do something like that, but I also like the way I've been visiting them in special week-long or weekend trips. By travelling that way, I can really experience the individual park and not have my memories muddled together of all the places I've been.
I'm glad I have my best friend as my adventure buddy, and hopefully in the future, my future husband (wherever he is) will be into US national parks, although if he's not, I'll be questioning why I'm married to him. I do wish I were situated closer to some of the parks; the nearest one from my current home is Shenandoah, and that was 3 and a half hours away by car, but again, the joy is in the journey, and I wouldn't mind road-tripping out west in an RV, van, or Airstream. It's a dream that'll come true with time, patience, and of course proper budgeting.