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Slowdown You Move Too Fast!
These aren’t just lyrics in a famous duo’s song, it’s what, in my opinion, and every visitor to a park should do – slowdown. I’ve visited several national, state and local parks and I’ve noticed a growing trend. People are transferring their busy, hectic lives from the cities to the solitude of the parks. They hike the trails as if they were driving on city streets or freeways. They seem to be cramming as much as they can in their park visit instead of visiting less areas but taking the time to really experience the park. They have no idea what they are missing.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m just as guilty as the next tourist. There have been times (and my family can attest to this) where I’ve been occupied with reaching the destination, whether it’s a waterfall, mountain overlook, or whatever the main attraction of the park is. I’ll completely miss the journey along the way. We’re all missing the point. It’s not just visiting such icons as El Capitan, Old Faithful or the Grand Canyon. The point is while we’re visiting these icons we are surrounded by nature. As in life, we shouldn’t focus just on trying to reach the destination: it should be about the journey along the way.
Recently, I’ve experienced this “hectic” phenomenon first hand. On a trip to Grand Teton National Park, my family and I experienced this several time including a trail we accidentally discovered. We decided to take a nice leisurely hike around String Lake. We began hiking what we thought was the shoreline trail; after all, the trail began next to the lake. Stopping every once in awhile to make photographs of our journey, we experienced our first “hectic” incident. A father/son fishing expedition passed us so they could beat all the other fishermen (there wasn’t anyone else) to the best fishing spot on the lake. After all, fish are on tight schedules and would only be that certain spot for a short period of time.
Continuing on the trail, we gradually ascended into the mountains (notice the word ascends). We began to realize the lake was at our back. Undeterred by this mistake, we decided to continue on the trail for awhile, just to see where we’d end up. I began; again, making photographs of our adventure when we came upon something we hadn’t seen since March (this was June): Snow, lying across the trail. There wasn’t anyway to avoid the white stuff, although by this time it was looking a little brown. We hiked through the snow when we realized there was a small family behind us. We stepped aside to let them pass. I would have thought they would have at least stopped long enough to play in the snow, but I guess they were in a big hurry.
Realization took over when we headed into fairly dense forest. Backtracking on the trail, we were hungry (we didn’t bring any food for fear of bears) and we wanted to get back to our car. We thought we were making good time until we heard a loud commotion behind us. Out of nowhere (at least it seemed that way to us) there were about fifteen teenagers with their chaperones. Let’s just say we didn’t have to worry about bears. They were busy talking about everything but what they probably (again, in my opinion) should have been discussing: The gorgeous landscape surrounding us. I understand they’re teenagers; when I was their age I would have done the same thing. Maybe. See, I was raised in Ohio; we don’t have any type of landscapes like Wyoming. My family and I figured we’d better step off to the side so the teens to hike by (it was safer that way). I’m sure the chaperones were teaching the students about the environment and how important the outdoors is to all of us, but to me it looked as if they were sprinting toward their bus. Quickly, the gaggle of teenagers disappeared and we were back to the solitude of the mountains; the teenagers unintentionally forced us to appreciate the quiet, beautiful landscape that much more. We finally reached the trailhead and the parking area to our car. By this time there more tourists preparing was talking on their cell phones, listening to their MP3 players, paying little attention to the surrounding environment. Automobiles were weaving around the people exhaust fumes were polluting the clean mountain air. Boy did we miss civilization.
Eventually, we found the lakeshore trail, and of course, more “hectic” hiking, however, we still managed to take our time, enjoying the landscape and natural beauty surrounding us. I know there are many people out there who travel to parks, taking there time to enjoy the natural beauty. Some of you bring your hectic lives with you. To those people I’m addressing right now. Slowdown, these aren’t the streets of a big metropolitan city. These are hiking trails meant to be enjoyed slowly, so you can take in all the wonder and beauty of nature. Slowdown, you move to fast.