Journal

See the National Parks Project

Some time ago I came up with an idea. It was definitely bigger than anything I've tried before. It wasn't something that I could do from the safety of my home, I would have to pack up my car and go. I decided that I wanted to get a sunrise and sunset photo of every national park. There are 59 of them from Maine to Florida to Alaska to American Samoa, and I plan on going to all of them. Whether I do this through one big trip or pieced together through shorter stinks, time will tell. But whatever the time frame and logistical challenges this presents, a stop at each park is in my future and I am looking forward to it. 

Since this idea crept into my head, it has been on my mind constantly. Planning, wondering, research, etc. Along with excitement of organizing a trip like this comes some negativity also, thoughts intermingle with my research... "I don't have enough money, I don't have enough equipment, traveling by yourself is lonely, the time just isn't right...". 

Then a strange thing happened. I just decided to do it. Overthinking of this can lead to this indecisiveness and the thought of "I can't go yet because I don't (insert your excuse here)." There will never be the exact right time to go. I could save more money, wait for better weather, do more research...but that keeps me here. Now the questions are "What am I packing, where am I sleeping, which route do I take, etc."

I plan on driving my Subaru to as many places as I can. With a mix of car camping, ground camping and asking anyone I know that lives near a national park if they have any couch space, the journey will be as much a part of the story as the destinations. So if you live in an area that is close to a national park, you've been warned.

I'll be hitting the road January 5th. The first leg of this trip will take me towards Arizona and California. I like these times in the winter months because, while still cold, there will not be as many other humans out there. It will also provide a different photographic perspective than what is seen by most people. There are three parks in Arizona - Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon and Saguaro. The first two are well known but the latter is a little more obscure. I will be able to give more detail about these parks when I get there and start exploring.

I will be updating this as often as I can. I'm sure I will be without an internet connection for long stretches of time and, quite frankly, I'm ok with that. A computer has dominated my life (and paid my bills) for the last few years and stepping away from one is going to be a challenge in itself but one I am looking forward to facing. 

I realize this is a very unconventional thing to do, leave your job, your home and all the comforts that come with that, but it is an idea that has gotten ahold of me and won't ease up until I am actually doing it. So after the new year I will be in the Southwest, taking photos, trail running and exploring. If anyone lives in the area or has done this type of thing before and has any advice, I would love to hear it. 

I want to send a big thank you to Don and Shelly from 59nationalparks.com for the help so far. They answered a lot of my dumb questions and have pointed me in the right direction to get my trip started. They also have some really good photos and stories about their travels. Besides their website, you can find them on Twitter @59NationalParks or on Instagram at 59NationalParks.

That being said, I'm ready to go. Wish me luck and you can find me and what I'm doing on this blog, my twitter and/or Instagram

Jackson Hole - Yellowstone Part 2

Having not seen anywhere close to all I wanted to while we were in Jackson but short on time, we packed up our room, went out for breakfast and headed north on US 26 towards Yellowstone. I wasn't really sure what to expect as we drove up, but the Tetons were just outside of the drivers side window and I hoped the next stop was a stunning as this was. 

When we first entered the park through the south gate, there were lots of trees. They were certainly nice, but there was not the big, expansive views I was hoping for. As we drove a little further (and higher up) the trees started to get a little sparser and the views a little bigger. The closer we got to our lodge in Grant Village, more of the picturesque National Park started to show itself.

Once we arrived at Grant Village, we dropped our bags off and started exploring the park. We were there for four days and I knew that I still wouldn't have enough time to see everything I wanted to so we had to get started right away. Pulling out of the long, winding path from the driveway we saw our first elk. As any Kansan with a camera would do in their first hour in Yellowstone, I stopped the car, got out and took about fifty pictures of the elk just standing their eating. Once I was satisfied I had captured every conceivable angle, back in the car I went and off to do more exploring. We didn't get thirty more feet when we saw another three elk roaming around. Lesson learned, there were lots of wildlife in the park and most of it was right by the road...you don't have to stop every time you see one. But, as you can imagine, I usually did. 

I wanted to find a spot to see the sunrise the morning of my 40th birthday. A little internet research before we left and some driving around lead me to the West Thumb Geyser Basin. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of the trip. I couldn't have asked for a better sunrise with the steam coming off the lake and a singular cloud over the mountains to give it some color. Also, no tourists. Getting up at sunrise is the way to beat traffic and see the most wildlife in the park. 

Later that day and the following days we continued to drive around, and that's how we found my two favorite spots, Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley. The amount of wildlife in these two areas is more than I have seen in my entire life and I could have spent our whole trip there. There were bison, pronghorns, elk, badgers, bears and big horn sheep. 

Tourist season from mid June to Labor Day is the busiest with time with literal traffic jams on the roads but if you can get there before or after that and can get up early, you will see the park few others get to.