At NPCA, we are often fortunate enough to attend staff trainings, retreats, and other work-related gatherings in or near national parks. Since my job involves lots of time sitting at a desk with a computer, I look forward to these opportunities.
Recently, I attended a staff training in southern Arizona. After the training, I made my way to Saguaro National Park, which sits in two separate units on either side of Tucson—the Tucson Mountain District to the west of Tucson, and the Rincon Mountain District to the east. I spent time in both. This was my first visit to this awe-inspiring park. As a resident of the gray and damp Pacific Northwest, I was quite grateful to experience this desert wonderland, complete with big, blue skies and daytime highs near 80. And cacti! The stately saguaro, along with cholla, prickly pear, and barrel cacti, dominate the landscape. But it wasn’t just cacti vying for my attention. Desert flowers were just starting to dot the washes and benches of the park. I saw poppies, penstemon, brittlebush, lupine, globemallow, and several others. The most special sighting of my visit was a western diamondback rattlesnake, just off a trail in the Rincon Mountain District of the park. Since I grew up in Tennessee, rattlesnakes are nothing new to me, but I always get a thrill when I see them in the wild.
I love exploring new places, and to visit a national park for the first time is to taste adventure, to see the world anew. National parks allow me to feel similar emotions and to see similar sights as those who came before me—American Indians, explorers, homesteaders, generations of park visitors, the hiker just ahead of me on the trail. Imagine the thrill others might have experienced rounding a bend to find a porcupine or a black bear in the Smoky Mountains. Or, those who have caught the sweet aroma of lupines blooming in the late afternoon air at Mount Rainier. Or those, who have sat on a rock, like I have, overlooking a wide valley in Yellowstone and heard nothing but the wind pushing through the trees.
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Each national park is unique, but they all offer a sense of adventure, wonder, and awe. So whether I am admiring cacti in Saguaro or standing at the edge of the continent at Olympic, my heart is full and my life is richer from the experience. And when I return to my desk job, these national park experiences stay with me and inspire me to continue my work advocating for the parks.
About the author
Shane Farnor Online Advocacy Manager
As online advocacy manager, Shane provides NPCA members and supporters opportunities to take online actions for our national parks. He is based in Joshua Tree, California, and has been with NPCA since 2004.