Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a series detailing Mudfoot’s Great American Road Trip.
On Friday night, after 35 days and 9,500 miles of travel, Carl and I pulled into the driveway of our Ashland home. We had completed our Great American Road Trip.
It took us through 18 states and to more than two-dozen national, state and county parks.
But while we may be home, our journey isn’t over — we’ve only just begun the process of digesting the multiplicity of landscapes and interactions we experienced during a summer spent exploring the American west.
It is now, at home in a familiar place with familiar people, that I expect the true essence of our long journey to emerge. It is not travel itself that changes a person’s perspective, but how one interprets and then applies the experience to life afterward.
After such a diverse voyage, I expect it to take years to sort out and reflect on all the new things we were exposed too. That said there is already one major theme of our trip that I expect will continue to strengthen itself during that time.
Our journey was nothing if not a tutorial on our plant’s ever-evolving geology, climate and the awesome, incomprehensible power of change that the Earth itself posses and demonstrates daily. Every new place we visited we found ourselves fascinated by the geological processes that made that landscape unique.
Those same geological processes continue to shape our little blue plant and they are evident all around us, we just don’t often pay them much attention.
Staring at layers of up-ended two-billion-year-old rock in the Big Horn National Forest of Wyoming, or at the vivid layers of sediments exposed in the Badlands of South Dakota it was impossible not to pondering what Mother Earth is and will craft over the next billion years. Yellowstone’s sprawling Great Geyser Basin with its bubbling mud pots, hissing steam vents and boiling hot springs is even more imposing in my mind. After scrambling around the pumice coated landscapes of Mount St. Helen’s and peering timidly at the new lava dome growing near her southern rim, I can’t help but feel a new sense of somber respect for the powerful forces under the surface of the land I walk on each day.
Already, I’ve spent a lot time reflecting on the vistas of drought scorched farm fields, dried up lake beds and smoking remnants of forests that we witnessed as we crisscrossed California. The size and prevalence of these actively changing landscapes deeply affected us both at the time and now that we are home in our lush green landscape.
We were surprised at how common those sad vistas were and how brilliantly they illustrated just how quickly climates can change and how destructive that can be. Just as we often saw ruins of ancient Native American civilizations on our trip, we saw abandoned modern towns. Thousands of years apart, people left these places as they found them inhospitable to life.
Humans have always had to adjust their lives to changing climates. Despite our modern technology we are no different than our ancient ancestors. We are at the mercy of the planet we live on.
What I saw this summer has only emboldened my feelings that it is essential for us as a nation to accept and respond to the growing crises brought about by climate change. After seeing the devastation with my own eyes and talking to locals about how it has affected their livelihoods, I’m convinced that we cannot continue to deny that our environment is changing.
Whether manmade or not — we must stop arguing and act. I have confidence like we can find a solution in order to survive and thrive again. We’ve already been doing it for eons.