My very first travels, ever, were family vacations. Every summer, my parents would pile all of my brothers and sisters into our van and then head west for weeks on end. I learned quickly that “travel” meant three things—enduring Nebraska, visiting national parks, and surviving on Nature Valley granola bars.
I remember so well how my mother rationed out the green packages of Oats and Honey granola bars for us children, followed by our general sense of joy and relief, when after three days of uneventful landscapes, we arrived in Wyoming with its wall of awesome mountains.
Thus, it is no small coincidence than that you, our readers, voted (by an overwhelming majority) to send me to Grand Teton National Park in far western Wyoming. You chose Grand Teton from the range of national parks in the United States where Nature Valley conducts restoration projects, beating out places like Acadia National Park in Maine and the Everglades in Florida.
. . . and so here I am, in Wyoming, in late September, beneath the snow-dusted Teton range, with my suitcase packed full of work clothes. This next trip of mine is unlike any other I’ve done before because I will be volunteering alongside so many other volunteers as part of Nature Valley’s Preserve the Parks initiative.
Now in its fourth year, Preserve the Parks has contributed thousands of volunteer service hours to maintaining and restoring our country’s greatest treasure—our national parks. This year, National Geographic has partnered with Nature Valley and the National Parks Conservation Association to focus on these restoration projects and to encourage all of us to help where it’s most needed.
I am grateful for Nature Valley’s sponsorship and very excited for the opportunity to participate in some of these projects. It all began with you deciding on my primary destination. Now that I’m here, I’ll be volunteering in Grand Teton until it’s time to move on to the next place, and the next, and so on. My hope is that you will follow along on my travels and be inspired to volunteer in preserving our national parks.
Though I only just left the seacoast of Scotland, I am now at 7,000 ft elevation, in a cabin on the shores of Jackson Lake, watching the snow fall upon the pointed peaks of the Tetons. Even as I write this, several adorable deer mice have come out from their hiding places beneath my bed and are now sniffing around the corners of the room in search of breakfast. I suspect they are after my box of granola bars, which I have just safely stowed on the top shelf—so now they are looking at me with big shiny eyes, begging me for a snack, and though I do not doubt the fundamental nutritional value of crunchy oats slathered in peanut butter (for example), feeding wild mice is not the right way to preserve our parks.
Instead, I must shoo them away, strap on my boots, pull on my gloves, go outside, and get to work.
Here’s a quick preview: