Oct 12 2015

“The Incomparable Sanity”

e_DSC9538It is good for us when we are young because of the incomparable sanity it can bring briefly, as vacation and rest…  It is important to us when we are old simply because it is there.”  Wallace Stegner

For the past week I have been in California traveling with my friend, Rob Sheppard. We have covered a lot of territory during this time. We have driven through the Mojave desert, wandered around the mountains and valleys of the eastern Sierras, visited Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks on the west side of the Sierras, and traveled farther westward to take in Pinnacles National Park. We saw first light on Mount Whitney from the Alabama Hills, watched a glorious sunrise from high on Onion Valley, walked reverently among the ancient bristlecone pine trees high atop the White Mountains, and marveled at the truly giant sequoias in the park that bears their name. At Pinnacles National Park we got to see a plethora of wildlife and enjoy the scenic beauty of our newest national park.  Without a doubt we  have been blessed!

e_DSC0793The words of Wallace Stegner that begin this blog I saw on a wayside exhibit at Kings Canyon National Park a couple of days ago. They concern Stegner’s view of wilderness and why he thought preserving and experiencing it is important for both young and old alike. Even though I certainly fall in the “old” category when it comes to age, I still find wilderness necessary because of “the incomparable sanity” it brings me in a world which sometimes seems mad. Recent school shootings, terrorist attacks, the craziness that comes with each political season, and a lot of other things I could mention. makes me at times want to stop the world and get off. Every time I read the news or watch it on television here lately I get either angry, depressed or discouraged.

e_DSC9655Spending a week in wilderness settings has helped put things in perspective a bit. Walking amongst bristlecone pine trees that have been around over four thousand years and looking up at giant sequoias that tower to the skies has a way of doing that. In the wilderness one finds a peace and quiet that is next to  impossible to experience in the regular hustle and bustle of everyday life. Walking in the woods and observing the miracles of God’s Creation has a way of restoring peace and rekindling one’s faith. At least it does for me. And I honestly believe that God intended this to be true for everyone else. The awesome Creation we have been blessed with was not made just to provide for our physical needs; God ordered the natural world so that spiritual needs might be met as well. That’s why in Psalm 23 David writes about God making him lie down in “green pastures” and leading him beside “still waters.” I also get the impression that’s why Jesus during difficult times in his life often got away from everyone and communed with God in “lonely places.” In the beginning God declared the goodness of Creation and that goodness is seen, in part, in the therapeutic and spiritual benefits it provides us all.

e_DSC0138I’ll not elaborate here on the second part of Stegner’s words but I happen to believe it to be true. Now that I am “old” or older I find myself just grateful knowing that there are wilderness areas still available for people like me who sometimes find this world to be anything but sane.  I just hope we can preserve such places for future generations.  I have a feeling they are going to need them…


(The pictures used above are some I took this past week in California.)

Jul 4 2012

Our National Parks

Happy Independence Day!  This is a day when most Americans pause to celebrate and offer thanks for our country’s freedoms and blessings.  We truly do have much to be thankful for.  On this particular day I’d like to express my gratitude for our national parks.  I think anyone who enjoys “seeing Creation” would have to acknowledge that some of God’s most beautiful and awesome handiwork is found in these parks that have been preserved for us.  Wallace Stegner once said “National Parks are the best idea we ever had.  Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best…” 

There are currently 58 national parks.  I have visited 38 of them so far.  In addition to these national parks, the National Park Service maintains numerous other types of units.  Some of these include national monuments, national preserves, national rivers, national recreation areas, national seashores, and national scenic trails.  There are hundreds of such units and I have had the privilege of visiting and photographing many of these.

I am so thankful that we have so many beautiful places preserved and protected.  What a rich treasure they are!  John Muir, who was instrumental in developing the idea of national parks in America, once said we all “need places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”  The national parks have been such places for me.  In them I have been able to read God’s “other book” and been moved to worship the Creator who is “the Giver of all good gifts.” (James 1:17)

I cannot imagine our country without its national parks.  I’m glad that over the years people have fought long and hard to make sure that special places are protected from destruction and development.  I’m thankful that our parks are “absolutely democratic” so that all are welcome.  I’m thankful that those who will follow us will also have a chance to see the Grand Canyon, marvel at Yellowstone’s amazing geysers, look up at America’s highest mountain in Denali and down into its deepest cleft at Death Valley, view Yosemite Valley, and enjoy all the other wonderful sights, sounds and smells that await them in our national parks.

On this day we will likely hear many people say “God bless America.”   I’m convinced God already has.  I cannot think of any other nation that has been so blessed.  Our national parks are part of that blessing.  But with all these blessings comes responsibility.   We must be good stewards of God’s blessings and that applies to our parks too.  Our national parks deserve our support.  We would not be the same without them.


(The top image shows a picture I took of the Grand Canyon from its south rim.  The middle image is of “Old Faithful” at Yellowstone National Park.  I took the bottom image of El Capitan at Yosemite National Park.)