I always enjoyed the outdoors as a kid. My parents had a mile section of land with plenty of brush and a creek running through it. I had my favorite spots and would spend time when the weather was good exploring all over — pretending I was everything from Indiana Jones to a Power Ranger.
As I got older, my interest in the outdoors waned. I’d get home from school and play videogames with my friends or watch a movie. I was too old to play pretend and I’d seen nearly every edge of the land.
I was a typical teenager from my generation. Video games and other forms of indoor entertainment were big parts of our lives. But I think that many of us grow out of it. At least I know that many of my friends and I have.
As I get older I’ll jump at any opportunity to be outside. When the weather is nice, there’s not much else I’d rather do. Food truck festivals, outdoor live music, fishing, hiking, yard games, even just sitting outside in the shade. Once the weather starts to warm, it becomes my ideal way to spend my free time.
As I get older, my appreciation for nature also grows. The earth itself has created some of the greatest, most awe-inspiring structures in the world. Mountains, waterfalls, canyons and more — it’s hard to think that at one point they weren’t even there.
One of my bucket-list dreams — if I ever get the chance — is to take a road trip and hit as many national parks as I can. And not just for a quick tour. I want to spend time in the parks, explore and take in what they have to offer — before they’re gone, but that’s a conversation for a different time.
I’ve never even set foot in a national park, which is a sad thought. But one of my favorite places has always been the Cross Country Trail Ride in Eminence, Missouri — where my family vacations every year. It sits right along the Mark Twain National Forest, which has trails through some of the most beautiful country in Missouri.
I have some of my best memories there. And I want to make more memories with the backdrop of land important and beautiful enough that it is protected and maintained by the government. The main spots on my list are Big Bend, Grand Canyon, Arches, Zion, Redwood and maybe even Death Valley, but I’d also live to hike part of the Appalachian Trail and Shenandoah National Park.
There are so many others. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to make it to all of them, maybe not even one. Sometimes life gets in the way — or at least we convince ourselves it does — with work, friends, family and other responsibilities.
But I hope to hit as many as I can before I call it quits.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.