At the start of 2016, I had no idea that this would become “A year of 100s,” but it has and I am grateful for how it’s going so far.
At the start of each new year, I set 10 goals I want to accomplish, call them resolutions, if you will — they’re places I’d like to visit, things I’d like to see and professional goals. This year, one of my goals is to hike 100 miles and to accomplish that, I’m visiting national parks. To add to the excitement, the National Park Service is celebrating its centennial anniversary this year. That’s 100 years of natural beauty right in our own back yard.
Speaking of traditions, another one that I have is an annual girls trip with my Alpha Phi Omega fraternity “brother” (technically a fraternity, so we are “brothers” not sisters) from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. This year, Leticia and I decided to explore Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and I couldn’t have had a more amazing time. On a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 100 (See what I did there?).
Henry David Thoreau said there is a “subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, it will direct us aright.” For me, that magnetism isn’t subtle. Over the years, nature has drawn me to it in a way that’s hard to explain. Visiting Colorado’s Rocky Mountains was not only a way help accomplish my goal of hiking 100 miles, but a way to immerse myself in nature, fall out of the rhythm of daily life and strengthen an already amazing friendship.
This park is stunning — from wildflowers, to waterfalls, lakes, trees, and ridges — the beauty surrounds you. Leticia and I went white water rafting, which was incredible, and saw a ton of awesome animals. Elk roamed the valleys and weren’t afraid of a human’s gaze. Chipmunks will actually approach you, and exotic birds fly free in their natural habitat. It’s literally a photographer’s dream.
As with any trip, we did run into our fair share of mishaps. But do you know what’s kind-of crazy? When you’re with your best friend, burdens are lighter. I came to a realization that in order for friendships to grow, people have to be on the same road. They need to experience challenges and work through them together. You don’t always have to be on the same page, but it’s each person’s selflessness that helps a friendship flourish. Things don’t always work out how they’re planned, and that’s ok! It’s your attitude and willingness to make the most out of any situation and will propel you to the finish line.
I don’t know what next year holds, but as for my 100 miles of hiking — I’m 70 in. I can’t wait to see where I’ll work in the last 30 miles and what lessons this challenge will teach me.
There are 413 national parks all over the country. These parks are breathtaking and each has something different to offer. As humans, it’s important to immerse ourselves in nature. It’s also important to help keep these treasures alive for future generations. I encourage everyone to find and support a park, but most importantly, visit and see its imagery for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!