travel is my world

Wild Delight

Posted by wrldtrvlgrl on 1 October, 2009

This week PBS is airing Ken Burns’ National Parks series. The series looks back at the development of the National Parks service and the people who had the foresight amid the Industrial Revolution to see the need for preserving these awe-inspiring lands. While some men were eager to cut down trees and develop these lands, others, like John Muir, fought to save them. When I think back to some of my favorite travel destinations, most of them involve a national park. Big Bend, Grand Canyon, Denali, all amazing expansive places that fundamentally changed me each time. How could one look across the depths of the Grand Canyon and not feel insignificant amongst its beauty? I came across a line from Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows.”  Emerson writes about the spirit in nature. As I experience each of these parks, I’m touched by that feeling of spirit, of the feeling that there is something much greater at work in the land.


Denali was the “wild delight” for me after a particularly devastating time in my life.  We arrived in early September at the end of the tourist season. As we took the train from Fairbanks to Denali, Alaska gave me the sense of truly getting away from it all. There was nothing but trees and more trees and they were all the rich golden hues of fall. I was mesmerized, pointing and sighing as if trying to look at every individual tree along the way. Arriving in Denai to the remaining buzz of tourists, that isolation subsided and the fantasy of how I would meet Denali was met with the reality. But then I went into the park on one of the green park buses. They’re used to keep the amount of traffic to a minimum in order to maintain the pristine nature of the park. We got off at the Savage River stop and walked down river away from the parking area. The world was over there, away from me and I couldn’t imagine that Earth was any bigger that this spot. The park is 6 milliom square miles. Wow. I wanted to take off on foot and explore each one. I felt physically bound to the land and it fully lifted my “sorrows.”

As I watched the Burns’ documentary this week, I was moved by the passion of the people to preserve these spaces for future generations. And I understood why they were compelled to protect these lands. As part of our morning routine, my fella and I used to heat our water in a pot on the stove for tea and instant coffee. It would take forever to heat up and I had the idea of buying an electric kettle. Truly instant coffee and tea. But this past weekend, as we sat by the campfire at Olympic National Park, waiting for the water to boil for tea, we talked briefly of throwing out the electric tea kettle back home. There was something meaningful in waiting for the water boil over a campfire we’d built. Something in the slow process that forced us to connect to the nature surrounding us. It’s why we go to these parks. It’s why they were preserved – to remind us of that connection to nature and how it can invigorate us and help us preserve ourselves.


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