As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

Today is Independence Day, and I’m feeling just a smidgen patriotic.  I haven’t been everywhere in the world, (queue end of quote:”but it’s on my list”)  However, I can’t help but tout the beauty that we have in the USA.  We have desserts, beaches, mountains, lakes, rivers, corn fields, flower fields, and more. We have so many places that are just begging to be visited.  Consider some of these facts about the USA:

  • It is one of the top ten countries with the highest biological diversity (meaning we have some of the greatest variation of amphibians, birds, mammals, reptiles and vascular plant species in the world)
  • It established the very first National Park, Yellowstone, in the world in 1872.  Now, there are 59 national parks.  (Look at this awesomely cool map.)
  • It is the country with the most diverse climate in the world.  From Hawaii to Alaska, we have quite the extremes.

I am excited to continue to explore the rich diversity on our soil.  When I judged Ohio History Day this year, the theme was Exploration, Encounter and Exchange.  Naturally, many students did their projects on the exploration of America through the eyes of Lewis and Clark.  They both kept journals throughout the expedition, so we’re able to read their descriptions of viewing places for the first time.

“Ocean in view! O! the Joy” “This great Pacific Ocean, which we been so long anxious to see, and the roaring noise made by the waves breaking on the rocky shores (as I suppose) may be heard distinctly.” William Clark on the Pacific Ocean, November 7, 1805

“The hills and river cliffs, which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance. The bluffs of the river rise to the height of from 2 to 300 feet and in most places nearly perpendicular… the soft sand cliffs worn into a thousand grotesque figures . . . with the help of a little imagination are made to represent the elegant ranges of lofty freestone buildings… columns of various sculpture both grooved and plain… with the help of less imagination we see the remains of ruins of elegant buildings.”  Eagle Creek, Montana on May 31, 1805

If you’ve watched any of the Ken Burns PBS documentary National Parks, you were probably moved by some of the beautiful quotes from the diary of John Muir, who fell in love with Yosemite.  He traveled around the USA and wrote very poetically, about nature and what he experienced.  One of my favorite quotes of his has to do with travel in general.

“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” Letter to wife Louie, July 1888.

Doesn’t that just describe traveling, when you aren’t really in the moment?  If you can’t stop and really appreciate the beauty of what you’re looking at, it’s just “dust, hotels, baggage and chatter.”

Another one, that requires a little more thought, I feel is a good place to consider how much beauty we have in the places around us. 

“It is a good thing, therefore, to make short excursions now and then to the bottom of the sea among dulse and coral, or up among the clouds on mountain-tops, or in balloons, or even to creep like worms into dark holes and caverns underground, not only to learn something of what is going on in those out-of-the-way places, but to see better what the sun sees on our return to common everyday beauty.”  Mountains of California, 1895.

Maybe we won’t get to the bottom of the ocean today, or visit the volcanoes in Hawaii, but the sun is shining on the trees and flowers around us.  And here in America, no matter where you live, you don’t have that far of a drive to see something beautiful.  What’s why we call it “America the Beautiful.”  What a cheesy, patriotic post this is.  But come on, it’s a national holiday, right?  Get out your sparklers and shout ‘Merica!  

If you haven’t seen this, you can watch my husband and I sing along with Woody Guthrie as we drive through Zion National Park.  You’re welcome, and happy Fourth of July!

 

 

 

 

Nina Thomas

Travel lover and writer

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