public lands, a love story.

last year we were so fortunate to be able to experience so many of our public lands, parks and monuments. I decided to start collecting patches along the way as a way to remember the places we had seen.

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I bought our first official patch at the padre island national seashore. the kind volunteer behind the counter at the gift shop explained to us how we could drive onto the beach and camp there. he also told us how the beach in texas is considered a highway, and if we chose to we could drive for miles on it. we were thrilled with the possibility.

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it was there that I started thinking about this quilt. from every park, monument, forest or historical site that we stopped at with a visitor center, I bought a patch and added it to this quilt. it’s like a living memory, a work in progress. hand stitching the patches over fabric that is covering holes in the antique bedcover that is older than me.

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when we were at yellowstone, it just happened to be the month of the 100 year anniversary of this amazing place. we were lucky enough to be caught in the middle of a herd of bison crossing the road; they were feet from our car, and I will never forget that feeling, the feeling that we were visiting their home. we were their guests. it was humbling. and it was my favorite day.

death valley was spectacular.

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our year of travel took us from cleveland ohio to the eastern shore of texas,

to the peaks of alaska, and back around…

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we stopped at badlands national park after visiting deadwood and sturgis.

we were not disappointed. even saw the elusive big horn ram.

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this is one of our favorite campsites; a wildlife preserve in western nevada.

without the bureau of land management, the national forests, the department of antiquities, the national monuments or the national forests none of this would have been possible. we have so much left to see. and we saw so much.

it is vital that they stay funded, operating and protected.

finding life in death valley.

my son needed a little break from the winter doldrums back in grey-skies-will spring-never-arrive-cleveland, so we sent him a ticket to fly into las vegas and planned a few days of camping and a visit to death valley national park.

now the name death valley conjures up a desolate, barren wasteland of nothingness. a mad max-like expanse of desert as far as the eyes can see, with nothing growing, just the occasional blowing dune, or skeleton of the tourist before you who didn’t bring enough water. (always bring enough water)

so, we were pleasantly surprised when we found that death valley had really more life than death. and just as many highs as lows.

one of the most spectacular highs being dante’s view.

I mean, come on.

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from the top you could see 360 degrees for miles. and on the way up there (you climb a mile high over 13 miles of winding road) was so much green, and wildflowers…..no death anywhere. 

stunning.

and the sunset from there, well, it sure takes the mind off dreary cleveland weather.

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there were lots of opportunities to climb things.

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and climbed they both did.

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this is called the artist’s palette: it’s mounds of colorful mineral-rocks left after volcanic activity. it basically looks like a melted ice-cream sundae.

the lowest point of the trip (get it, lowest) was badwater basin: literally the lowest place in the western hemisphere. we got there before 9am and it was already climbing above 90 degrees. it’s the craziest place I’ve ever been, will probably ever be. the smell in the air is like sulphur/salt; the “ground” crunches beneath you and the silence (once you get away from the other tourists) is deafening. you’re almost 300 feet below sea level, and surrounded by mountains that reach a mile into the sky that are topped with snow. 

insane. 

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view from above:

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there’s 250 square miles of the white stuff; looks like snow from up here, it’s basically table salt. 

my favorite part was hiking through mosaic canyon. the boys left me to do their own climbing of the walls instead of just hiking the path, so I enjoyed the cool canyon walls and the silence all by myself. 

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(hikes in a skirt)

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even though it’s name is intimidating, and some of the days were hot and tough, I think we conquered death valley. it is now one of our top five national parks; it is park number 25 (if you’re keeping track) that we’ve visited since december (including national monuments, not including national forests) *btw: national monuments, like white sands, are not “national parks” merely because it takes an act of congress to make it so. death valley didn’t become a national park until 1994; it had been a monument since the 30’s. your history lesson for the day 🙂

onward, we go!

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 All images © 2013-2016 Jeannie M. Starks / two daisies life