Grand park memories help ease not-so-grand times
In this centennial year of our national park system, a recent conversation with a friend has reminded me of how important my memories of park visits – but even more so, the actual experiences leading to the memories – can be to remind us of who we are.
That friend had stopped by to get digital copies of a substantial number of photos. We started a conversation about how sharing the photos and the stories behind them can help us bridge gulfs that might otherwise seem too wide to get over.
This particular friend related a story about an extended family member who had occasionally been at odds with her, but deeply appreciated the recreational time their separate nuclear families had experienced together and then relived through media. Pictures, video, music and words bring back the joys, sorrows, growth, change and ultimately, love, that we experience but may occasionally forget.
So here’s to old memories. And to a couple of potential new ones in Stevens Point, including a bike-shopping jaunt around Stevens Point and an upcoming celebration of art and summer.
Remember when we hiked?
One of my favorite pieces of art is a 13-year-old drawing by our niece Shelby that graces the transitional space between our kitchen and living room.
The crayon has faded and the 6-year-old’s rendering of the Grand Canyon’s walls and the sky above may look like a mashup of several Middle Eastern countries’ flags: three brownish curved bands that trap a bunch of oversized five-pointed stars and a crescent moon, all above a couple of tents, including one that looks a little more like an outhouse if you’re not sure of what you’re looking at.
But I’m sure of what I’m looking at when I gaze at it.
I see my wife, Yami, and my sister, Penny, driving a van across the Southwest with her daughter (Shelby), my sister Betsy’s son (Tom) and a couple of dogs (Ranger and L.T.). Her family has come from Clarksville, Tenn., via College Station, Texas, on their way out west. Penny’s husband, Chuck, drives his pickup truck with a trailer-load of necessary household goods.
We join them in Texas to visit the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, accompanying them part way as they drive to their new home in Alaska.
I see a flat trailer tire in Amarillo and a delay at Sam’s Club for a new one. A soft-sided cooler we purchased there that has worn out and for which I’m still seeking the replacement because it served so well on other outdoor adventures over the years. A 1 a.m. arrival in Albuquerque and the bagels that tasted so good when we left the next morning with a crystal-clear desert sky overhead.
I see the worst Chinese restaurant ever, in Merced, Calif., the one that didn’t let its customers past the door without charging for the buffet. Its selection was so awful I only ate about three things (and remember one: the garlic green beans).
I remember the restaurant’s bathroom/mop closet with no light that required keeping its door open along the back hall to use it; fortunately, there were no other customers (a clue we should have attended to). I see Tom’s early-morning sickness in our crowded Sacramento hotel room at 2 a.m. the next morning.
I can feel the heat of a record-high June day in northern Arizona, one in which the Grand Canyon rangers required a one-hour midafternoon stop for everyone at a water station on the Bright Angel Trail below the South Rim. My wife, pregnant with our first child, was hiking with a pack a few pounds below the doctor’s recommended limit; Shelby, barely over 5 at the time but now a college freshman, had her own pack and was handling the whole thing like a trooper.
We had brought slightly more water than was recommended, but it was so hot that we already had started worrying about our return trip to the lodge from our Indian Garden campsite more than halfway down into the canyon.
I can see the spectacular walls of the canyon continuing to rise above us, the blessed and shady strip of green at the campground on Garden Creek, the stars in the indigo sky, and the satisfied looks of our party as we sat in our fold-up three-legged stools that night after dinner.
Mostly, I see the triumphant grins as we emerged the next day from the steep, dusty, slippery path of the trail, slightly dehydrated but safely back up on the rim. Our worries about heat stroke or Shelby slipping off the trail evaporated like the steady perspiration that had marked our trip. The burgers and cold, cold shakes we had in the iconic El Tovar Hotel were, we agreed, the best ever.
There would be more: the biggest, sweetest strawberries in the world at a motor lodge in Panamint Springs, Calif., on the edge of Death Valley; the grand, but water-deprived, Owens Valley east of the Sierra Nevada, robbed of its birthright by an aqueduct to Los Angeles; bears on the side of the road in Yosemite; the bracing chill of the Merced River in the Yosemite Valley, a blue sky above and heavenly waterfalls threading their way down the massive walls on both sides of the river.
Those curved brown bands on our framed and faded Christmas gift from Shelby, as abstract as they might look to others, are the perfect representation of how small we all were when enveloped by those awesome sandstone cliffs in Arizona. The stars were what we reached when we came back up.
May we all find them many more times and in many more places.
Mark your calendars
We’re on the cusp of that fantastic time of year when there’s a new event or festival practically every day. Wisconsinites can’t seem to get enough celebration after the long winter and even longer spring, and a couple of local events have caught my eye.
One is by the group Poky Pedaling Stevens Point, which on May 21 will meet near the skate park in Bukolt Park at 12:45 p.m. for a 10-mile looping ride that will stop at three local shops to purchase useful items for the CAP Services Family Crisis Center.
The group will deliver the items to CAP Services, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, riding on quiet streets and also celebrating Bike to Shop Day – a counterpart to Bike Month, which also encourages bicycling to work and school.
There’s a lot more to this event, with information available at www.PokyPedalingStevensPoint.org.
The other is the Sculpture Park Summer Celebration on Saturday, June 11. There will be new art in the Stevens Point Sculpture Park on North Second Street, just south of Zenoff Park, as well as poetry readings, live music, a chance to meet the artists and, along the trails, peace flags made by area elementary students.
More information is available from the website www.stevenspointsculpturepark.org or from the Stevens Point Parks & Recreation Department.