Once, during its original battle to become a park, described by an especially clairvoyant politician as "a breathing place for the American lungs," Yellowstone National Park and the thousands of other parks that sprang up around the world in its wake have become just that. These pockets of wilderness remind us to respect the power of nature and the necessity of restraint in our Western society that seems constantly hungry at the expense of others.
On August 25, 2016 the National Parks Service will turn 100 and reflect on a century of positively impacting peoples' lives around the globe. The NPS oversees and cares for 407 national parks across the United States.
The well of interest has far from run dry in the past 100 years, and only seems to increase every year. Yellowstone in 2015 saw the greatest number of "recreation visitors" ever recorded, with the total number soaring above 2014's 3,513,484 visitors to a staggering 4,097,710 attendees total.
Pictured above: Yellowstone's Grand Prismatic Spring -- lovely and lethal.
I have personally been fortunate enough to spend the past five days exploring and absorbing Yellowstone's personal brand of natural magic. Walking away a more grounded, inspired person, I feel grateful to have had the chance to come face to face with wildlife and the natural world the likes of which I never have before.
Recently, I've been feeling myself in a bit of psychological rut and overly attached to technology in a way that doesn't serve me or my life path. I always get more outside-and-away-from-phone time in the summer, of which I am thankful. But there are still days when I feel myself spiraling down the social media sink, and becoming drained by the polarity of it all. Taking the time to focus on what's important and immediate is the best treatment around, and what better place than a stunning slice of nature?
Luckily, a family reunion of sorts was in the works, and I had the opportunity to turn my head the right way around.
The first day, we arrived and took off into the park for dinner with other family members. Our introduction to the park couldn't have been cooler: a giant bull bison casually strutted by our car, inches from my nose on the window glass, and to top it off, a glittering double rainbow spliced the sky over the dramatic hills as if to say, "It's about time!"
On our drive, I could feel myself battling the urge to take pictures, capture each moment and live for other people -- that's, after all, what these Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat posts really are. We want to help our friends experience what we're experiencing, and in the process get so caught up on making sure they're enjoying it that we forget to enjoy it for ourselves.
I had an epiphany that what was feeling "off" about my day-to-day was that I had become not only addicted to living for other people on social media, but in life as well. I was caught up in trying to make everyone else happy and lost a little bit of myself in the process.
Supporting people is a fantastic and imperative part of any compassionate person's life, but there needs to be a balance and a chance to blow off steam on your own time.
Back to Yellowstone, and here I was in utter bliss. The longer I've been here the easier it has become to focus on the immediate and absorb it for my own memory banks. I'll still share the odd picture or two, but the difference is that it's not on my mind until I'm done with the experience and have a minute to share a snippet with my loved ones.
Though it seems ironic to be spouting this as I'm writing for an online publication, but as I look up at the mountains across the street from where we're staying, I find myself filled with so much more joy thinking about the deeper connections I've made this week with my family, and with Mother Earth. For those that know me, early mornings are not my thing, but I can proudly tell you all that I even got up at 4:30 a.m. for the extremely exciting opportunity of seeing a wolf pack in their natural habitat! A pair of black bears even moseyed by, and I couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the day.
I've learned that the Earth is more powerful and capable than we realize.
I am here to tell you that the national parks are one of our nation's greatest and most under appreciated assets. If you have the chance to take a trip, cut costs and take a road trip to a national park near you for a week of camping. As the saying goes: you may have less reception, but you're sure to find a better connection.