I started visiting the U.S. National Parks during the summer of 2002, when I was spending the summer in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had never loved the outdoors, and was a obese guy who spent my time behind a computer screen. I fell in love with these places, and after visiting a few, decided to set a goal to visit all of them–not really knowing what all that was to involve.
The first few that I visited, out in the Desert Southwest really just involved driving around from one overlook to the next, taking pics of whatever feature you could see from the road. A few required hiking for a couple of miles, and the occasional couple required hiking a few miles. I survived–usually spurred on by friends. Over time, I got in better shape, lost a lot of weight, and really began to enjoy the adventurous aspects of visiting these amazing places.
One of the biggest turning points came with my visit to Isle Royale. In order to visit this park, I had to learn to hike/camp with a backpack, otherwise, I wouldn’t get to see what that park had to offer. After this, I went back to a lot of parks that I didn’t do a good job of visiting the first time, usually including more hiking and spending more time that I had done on my first visit.
The culmination of this is coming this Summer of 2017, when I will be visiting the two most difficult parks up in Alaska, and will have to backpack for 9 days to visit Gates of the Arctic.
Visiting these places has helped me get into better shape, increased my interest in geology/science and enhanced my appreciation of history and what this country has to offer. I can attest to the transformative experience that spending time with nature can provide.