While National Parks are relatively few on the East Coast (only seven east of the Mississippi), there are three in Florida alone. The recent storms and devastation along the Florida coast highlight the high human habitation in the area, but in our weeks there we were amazed at the wildness and wildlife concentrated at America’s southern tip, so alive it felt like a fight against encroaching mankind.
Wendell Berry’s poems, fiction, and non-fiction have been a near-constant companion on the road. As some of you who have read earlier posts know, we started this trip with the goal of restoring body and spirit in some of the country’s most beautiful places. There are few authors who better speak to that desire than Mr. Berry.
As an example, here’s a short poem that I used to read in the urban jungles of Beijing. It may have single-handedly brought us back to the American wild.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
And I wake in the night at the least sound
In fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I knew nothing about Saguaro National Park before arriving in Tucson. Relatively small in size, with the city splitting the East and West sides of the park, I didn’t know what to expect other than to see some enormous cacti. Who knew everything would be so utterly delightful?
Saguaro itself only has backcountry tent sites on the East park, so we took the Whale to the Tucson Mountain State Park campground (Gilbert Ray) near the West entrance, and feeling lucky enough after snagging the last spot I wasn’t expecting much besides a square of concrete to call home. But it was great. Not only was it cheap and 5 minutes from the Saguaro visitor center, it is tucked away up in the Tucson mountainside, with saguaro and all kinds of prickly friends scattered around nicely spaced campsites. It even had electricity! (I am learning to savor the days we are plugged in and I can turn on lights and charge computers without a care.)
All this time,
the life you were
supposed to live
has been rising around you
like the walls of a house
designed with warm
As if you had actually
planned it that way.
As if you had
stacked up bricks
and built by mistake
a lucky star.
“Lucky” by Kirsten Dierking from Northern Oracle.
On the first day of the Year of the Chicken, we started our road trip with the last National Park to be added to the register, Pinnacles, which only became a National Park in 2013. It’s a two hour drive from our starting point in the Bay Area, and given it’s small size and quiet/new reputation, we hadn’t been expecting much. I’m learning it’s nice to be wrong. Continue reading “Pinnacles, CA: Starting out the Year of the Rooster with Condors”