A Wish for 2020

Message From The Director

Another year has come and gone! Thankfully, I had the good fortune of closing 2019 with some great park experiences. I spent the first day of the New Year at Table Rock State Park for the unveiling of the Table Rock Virtual Reality Experience. I planned to go early and check off my 47th park of the year and to end the year hiking to the top of Table Rock. My hope was that the hike would give me time to reflect on the new virtual reality experience, consider the previous year and consider what’s to come. I knew the solo hike to the top of Table Rock would not only be enjoyable, but give me time to focus on what my message for the virtual reality presentation would be. My plan was to multitask and mix in my work of planning for the presentation and inspecting the trail with this personally enjoyable hike. Like most of us know, our plans don’t always work out how we expect and fortunately, the trail had a plan of its own.    

Feeling excited and invigorated, I loaded my daypack in the parking and lot and began contemplating how to best share the experience of this trail. Nevertheless, I went to the trail register, signed in and headed upward. The start of the Table Rock hike is one of the most picturesque points at the park. The small waterfalls and flowing creek provide stimulation for your eyes, ears and nose. With your senses stimulated by nature’s sights, scents and sounds, it is hard not to get distracted and excited about the hike. (Even if you never hike to the top, everyone who visits Table Rock should walk the first quarter mile. The trail is easy here and the forest is magnificent). From here, hikers begin the climb to the summit; and over the next 3 miles, if you stick to it, you will climb 2000 feet. The upward journey will include beautiful views of the forest and creek, a few intimidatingly difficult sections, unique rock outcroppings and moments that challenge your will to finish. For most, this trail requires your full attention and challenges you to push your physical abilities. 

On that Tuesday morning, the trail took hold of me.  The journey did not allow any time for contemplation, but instead demanded all of my attention.  Shortly after beginning, I found myself focused on my breathing and looking carefully at my foot placement to ensure I didn’t fall. When I paused, I found myself looking up at the space around me, feeling insignificant in size compared to my surroundings. I was simply struck by the wonder of my environment.  As the sounds of the world faded from my ears, they were replaced with sounds of the forest. It’s quite interesting how a squirrel running through leaf litter can be so loud, your ears trick you into believing it may be something else.  When I stopped along the way, all I thought to do was enjoy the sun, the breeze and the view.  I did, what I hope everyone who gets on a trail does, I forgot about everything else and just enjoyed the trail.  I was focused on the moment.

So as we start this New Year and consider what we want to come of it, I am drawn to one wish.  I wish we, you and I, find more opportunities to forget everything else and find joy in the moment. That we have moments in our parks that create these experiences.  Our parks were created long ago, not only to protect some of the most significant natural and cultural resources in our state, but to give us access to these amazing spaces.  One walk, whether to the top of Table Rock or to the artesian spring at Lee State Park, won’t dramatically improve your physical health.  However, if you spend time in the moment enjoying it, I promise that hike will impact you.  It will clear your mind, connect you with your senses and inspire a childlike wonder in the world around you.  Quite simply, my hope is that we get to experience the parks more in the coming year.  So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and find your moment in the parks!  I hope to see you on the trail.