July 1, 2019


O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

-Katharine Lee Bates

Here I am.  This is the first day of the second half of my great American adventure. In the first six months, I have visited 217 of the 419 parks administered by the National Park Service.  I have driven over 40,000 miles and visited over 20 states and two U.S. territories. I have overcome the setbacks from a government shutdown that stalled the early part of my trip.  I have dodged, and dealt with winter weather that has lasted far longer than normal in some parts of the country. I have hiked hundreds of miles, camped under the trees and stars, met friendly and interesting people, and found a new serenity – an inner peace and comfort in solitude.  I am learning every day. This tour has revealed so many American facets. It has given me a broader and deeper understanding of who we are, and who I am in this country and of this Earth.  

Purple mountain majesties.  Among the most iconic American landscapes, few places evoke the sheer beauty of The Grand Teton mountain range.  Rising up from the Jackson Hole Valley of Western Wyoming, the jagged rocky peaks appear specifically designed by nature to fill the eyes and hearts of us with incomparable beauty and wonder.  Across these peaks, the sun dances in a daily display of color and drama. Natures great show. Nature showing off. Grey granite. Piercing the clouds. Veined with snow. Grabbing light right out of the sky.  Purple in the morning. Purple in the evening. Majesties. I have never climbed these mountains, or even hiked up their trails. I have never boated their waterways and lakes. I have only ever observed, and that is more than enough.  Just being here – seeing these magnificent mountains, is more than fulfilling. Just knowing they exist, knowing they stand eternal and ready to remind us all of the awesome grace of nature, is ample comfort. Here all seems balanced. The mountains and lakes.  The sun and clouds. The rain and snow. The bears and elk and moose and ducks. The trout and the ravens. The sage and pine and cottonwoods and larkspur. All in their place – a rhythmic clockwork of natural cycles. Grand Teton National Park – a heaven feather gently lighted upon the earth, eliminating the distance between the universe and the soul. 

O Beautiful.  Deep underneath the Northwest corner of Wyoming, a roiling cauldron of hellfire churns.  Here, the beating heart of the Earth itself is closer to the surface. You can feel her pulse.  The Earth is alive, breathing and heaving. Her breath, an exhale of steam and sulfur. Her sweat, a spring and stream and waterfall.  Her heartbeat, a tremor in the rock. All the while, the heat from her fire drives all on the surface in a grand elemental crucible. Earth, wind, fire, and water all collide in this one place.  Each bent by the force of the other in a primordial chemistry unlike any other place. Yellowstone. Nothing here is inert. All is in motion, stirred by forces within. Here the rainbows in the sky are mirrored by the spectrum of color on the ground.  Microbial mats thriving in the mineral rich water concentrically band outward in vibrant prismatic colors. All is alive here, including color. It is hard to imagine any place more full of movement and life. Birth, rebirth, struggle, growth, over and over marked in time by each season.  And in time, when her big heart breaks, we will lose dear Yellowstone – a lesson to love each moment, to not wait, to live today, not tomorrow, to cherish what we have in the here and now.

America!  America! Here I go, into the second half of my journey.  I am continuing on, but somehow feel as if I am starting again.  New wisdom and new clarity light my way. New challenges and unknown horizons await.  There will be trials and tests. The path in front of me is much less familiar. I am out of my comfort zone and once again charging, unbound by gravity, into the void of discovery.  There is a peace out here on the road – a hard won serenity fiercely guarded. I am undaunted by the challenge. I am embraced in the arms of America. The parks are my worthy companions, from sea to shining sea.  

Parks visited since June 21st:

Fossil Butte National Monument

Grand Teton National Park

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway

Yellowstone National Park

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument

Minidoka National Historic Site

City of Rocks National Reserve

Golden Spike National Historical Park

Timpanogos Cave National Monument

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Andy Magee