Glacier National Park
- Wonder -
a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by
something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable
My aunt and I set off on a two-week adventure with only two stops planned and little scheduled for when and where we would stop along the way. This left us the freedom to make changes, sporadic stops, and see aspects of the country we may not see if each hour was planned to a T.
When I envisioned driving out west, I imagined huge mountains, big blue skies, and animals everywhere. Although I saw these things in many aspects of the country – and they were more beautiful than I imagined – many hours were spent driving through the Midwest Great Plains where the land held a dry vastness.
During the first few days, I was constantly thinking about the mountains and anticipating seeing the Rocky’s. When days went past without seeing mountains, I learned a large portion of the country consisted of vast plains. Many of these areas are reservations that were portioned out to various Native American tribes many years ago. On an area of land that seemed empty from the road, a history of culture, rituals, resilience, joy, and heartbreak is rooted deep in the soil.
Where I imagined experiencing wonder only in the aspects of the country that carry outright beauty, I experienced a new wonder I did not expect on land deep with the history of the people who first lived in this country.
Reservations in Montana and Kansas
About two days into the trip, multiple lightning strikes started wildfires in a few states throughout the west. As my aunt and I drove through Colorado, Wyoming, and parts of Montana, the smoke was thick and covered the majority of the landscape. This is an aspect of nature I had never experienced first-hand before. We began to worry about our safety and the safety of others living in the area, for our ability to drive to the places we intended, and that we would not get to see and experience all we wanted to.
When driving through Wyoming, we asked some locals at a gas station about the fires and they responded nonchalantly about how “it’s that of time of year” and “the smoke would be here for a few days.” I learned this is a normal part of the season and what people in this part of the country experience on a yearly basis. Knowing about forest fires happening every year and then experiencing the normalcy of it in areas where they happen yearly is a wonder in and of itself. I learned about how the land out west has adapted to thrive, grow, and rejuvenate through the fires each year.
Redwood National Park was one place we intended to visit, but due to the fires were unable to. Yet, I learned how these trees are created to withstand and grow from something as severe as wild fires and will continue to be here for years to come. There is immeasurable wonder that something as uncontrollable as fire cannot fully destroy the beauty that exists. Rather, it burns the old so the new aspects of the land can come through even stronger. Like the world around us is resetting, the land in the west is resetting along with it.
I experienced wonder in the vibrant colors, clear blue waters, unique flowers, and mountains larger than I have ever seen. I also experienced a new wonder in the aspects of the country that are easy to simply drive through and in the characteristics of an environment that is new to me.
Wildfire Areas in Montana