National Park Girl Steals My Heart

“Do you have any experience in the backcountry?” asked the ranger.

“Yes,” I replied, even though I’d only once stayed overnight in backcountry.

“Do you have the proper gear?”

“Yes.” I was pretty sure I was prepared. I’d gone camping at campgrounds countless times, and I was well read on venturing into the backcountry.

“Well then, she’ll take care of you.” The ranger pointed me to the young lady working the register in the visitor center gift shop. She was beautiful. She had a contagious smile and was naturally friendly, asking me where I was from and where I was going. She shared with me how it was her dream to visit Acadia National Park in Maine. She turned over the back of one of the calendars being sold and pointed to Bass Harbor Lighthouse. “Isn’t that just beautiful?” she said. I shared with her that I would be going to Acadia in July. “I’m jealous,” she said in a playful way.

She proceeded to take out a large white binder that had been hidden behind the desk. It was full of wilderness information and forms for backcountry permits. She showed me a map of the wilderness area which was separated into five zones. She made a recommendation on where to go and told me it would be great to visit the Onyx Bridge- a nearly complete tree, fallen and petrified, forming a bridge over a wash. The paper she gave me had a picture of the bridge and the GPS coordinates.

I filled out the paperwork and she gave me instructions. I was to take the wilderness permit with me at all times and return it to the visitor center when I return the following morning. If I were to return before the Visitor Center opened I could hang my permit on the door. The piece of paper had a sort of wire string so that it could hang- most intentionally to hang from a backpack. She told me to park at the Painted Desert Inn, and from there descend a steep trail into the canyon wilderness area. There would be no trails nor markings, and I would be free to camp anywhere at least one mile into the wilderness area. I also had to set up camp before 8:00pm.

This moment was exciting. Just the thought of having an official wilderness permit from the National Park service was super cool. It made me feel like big stuff. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep the permit forever, so I took a picture to document the momentous occasion. I then, of course, bought a pin, and left.

I sat out in my car thinking about the young lady who issued me the permit. She intrigued me. She did not fit the stereotype of someone I would expect to find working for the National Park Service. My limited experience and ignorance sort of led me to this idea that most young ladies who work for the National Park Service are tall, blond, thin, athletic, and rather stern. There’s nothing wrong about that. It’s attractive in its own way, but this young lady seemed more like a city girl who one day fell in love with nature and never turned back. She was short, African American, and had a personality that ran free. I felt like in our interaction there was something- chemistry, an instant connection. I had to do something about this.

Typically I am very passive in my interactions with people. This approach probably naturally formed out of low self-esteem in my younger years. The thought passing through the back of my mind is: If someone cares about me enough to talk to me, let them instigate the conversation, otherwise keep to myself. It’s certainly not the best approach, and I had been working on becoming more bold and proactive in forming relationships. And so I thought, what can I do?  It would be too forward to give her my number since we just met and she lived in Arizona and I in Kentucky, but there had to be some way to stay in contact. I had an idea! I just started a travel blog while utilizing the free wi-fi on the airplane. I would give her the link to my blog, and therefore she would have a way to stay connected with me. I tore a piece of paper out of my journal, wrote down the link, and went back into the visitor center.

“I just wanted to give you the link to my travel blog, because I am going to upload pictures from Acadia later this summer.”

It all seemed like a good idea, but unfortunately the summer came and went, and I never added a single thing to that blog. I left the solitary entry about Death Valley remain. Now I don’t even remember how to access it. So this fanciful connection with this National Park gal is gone, but I’ll always remember her. She was very unique.

The previous summer when I was in Zion National Park, I remember sitting somewhere at the trailhead to the Narrows after completing my journey. There were two guys, probably college age, sitting nearby.  

“There are so many hot girls on the trail,” one said.

The other confirmed it.

“I need to have like a card or something with my number on it to pass out.”

I’ll never forget this, because it truly and comically resonated with me. There’s something really attractive about a woman who embraces nature and adventure. Part of it is simply the thought of having not only a companion but a companion to adventure with. Physically, a lot of the young ladies out on the trails are very fit, and fitness is such an attractive thing as it displays health, vitality, and says something about self-worth. Also anyone seriously adventuring into the parks has to have a certain level of intellect- because intellect is needed to brave the wild. Although nature can be a place of peace, it requires alertness, planning, and constant decision making. Lastly, most people who venture into the wild know themselves, because they must know their limits and know how far they can stretch those limits. There is something very attractive about  people who really are in tune with themselves and know who they are.

Maybe one day I will have an adventure babe, but for now I venture alone. And here I was with my wilderness pass in hand, on the brink of a new adventure, and ready to explore the Petrified Forest (and perhaps evade any inquisitor or Imperial raid I might encounter).

Check back for my account of exploring the wilderness area of the Petrified Forest.

Read the Previous Entry “Becoming ‘One with Nature'” here: https://joshthehodge.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/becoming-one-with-nature/

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