Admittedly, as a child, I had very little personal interest in the outdoors. It’s shocking to look back on but growing up, I was very much an introvert and a homebody. Until I was 11 years old, I was so used to creature comforts like electricity, hot food, and a warm bed. Looking back today it’s something that I cringe at and I’ve made it a personal goal that my children don’t grow up the same way. My parents though, were the ones who brought me out of my shell. From the time that I was less than a year old, they took us on a year-long road trip that brought us to the edge of the Grand Canyon, and the sandstone spires of Monument Valley. Although I was too young to understand, the outdoors has always been a huge influence on my upbringing. This past month I had the pleasure of having my parents visit me in Seattle. Among the culinary and cultural highlights of having them here, one of the best days was last Friday when I took them on a drive through the North Cascades. This is where I’ve grown up as a climber and an outdoorsman, so I was naturally excited to show them the very reason I moved to the Northwest. During that drive, as we drove through snowy passes, waterfalls, and soaring mountains, we were reminded first hand what a trip like this means to our family.
My first experiences with national parks came from the summer that my mother took us to Yosemite. This was the place that she had trekked as a little girl, when the valley was desolate and still being explored. There’s a special bond in handing down an experience like that to a new generation. We stayed near the Ahwahnee, hiking to Bridal Veil Falls, and picnicking in Tuolumne Meadows. Although I was young, and that remains the one time I’ve been to Yosemite, the passion that was transmitted to me made it a pivotal moment in my outdoor life.
When I was 10 years old, we drove an RV through the Smokey Mountains, across Georgia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee and I fell in love with the rural, country lifestyle. Being out there had a way of connecting us like no other place, because with every rock formation we passed, every forest, every waterfall, we were awed, and for my brother, sister, and I, standing on a hill overlooking the Mississippi River from a hill at sunset is one of the moments that we don’t easily forget.
Passion for the mountains grew, and in the summer of 2000, we took our first trip to Alaska with my grandparents and my aunt. Our cruise sailed up the Inside Passage, escorted by whales and dolphins as we cruised from Seward to Sitka, and Ketchikan to Victoria, British Columbia. The cruise parked in Glacier Bay, where we watched icebergs and calving glacial shards crash into the water. My mother herded us into a seaplane and flew over the glaciers, an experience I would experience again 12 years later.
Of all the family trips that we took, we never bonded as closely as we did when we were in National Parks. It sculpted us as children and made us respect and revere nature. It’s a torch that my parents passed on to me, and one that we intend to pass on to our children.