For earlier posts see here.

On the way to California for our older son's wedding we visited several National Parks.

Petrified Forest National Park. Ages ago geological conditions were just right for minerals gradually to infiltrate the tissues of a forest of trees buried in the mud by a flood. Various minerals have made these fossil trees colorful, as is the Painted Desert in which they are found. The park also contains the ruins of an ancient pueblo and petraglyphs (symbols carved into stone). Worth a stop.

On the darker side, each year visitors walk away with pounds and pounds of petrified wood, even though it is illegal. Way to watch out for our grandchildren you knuckleheads.

The Grand Canyon National Park. The Canyon will not disappoint. It is as big as you expect, and even more awesome. About a mile deep and in places eighteen miles wide. A site so big that it takes stopping several times, and just looking for fifteen or twenty minutes each stop. The brain needs some time to process vastness and beauty on this scale. Believe it or not, according to the rangers, the average park visit is only two-and-a-half hours. Why? We spent only five-and-a-half hours because we needed to hit the road again. My wife and I hiked a wee bit of the trail down into the canyon and back. I think that our other senses must become involved if we are to get to know a place; we need the feel of it under our feet and to touch it and smell it.

The Canyon demands our respect. There are some railings in some places, but not everywhere. The week after we left a tourist fell to his death. I think many people are so estranged from nature that they cannot quite think of it as independently real. I wish everyone could spend considerable time out of doors, learning that our decisions and actions have consequences we must live with: go to sleep without building a fire for supper and you'll wake up cold and hungry because breakfast will take longer and there is no room service or McD's around the corner.

Death Valley National Park. We entered California from Nevada by way of Death Valley. What an aptly named place. The official high the afternoon we visited was 119 F. We got out of the car twice and walked around a bit. The hottest air temperature I hope I ever feel. Who must a Ranger p.o. in order to be assigned here?

Although large areas of the valley bottom are barren, there are plants in places. And the valley was part of the range of the Timbisha Shoshone. Living things are tough and adaptable. People as well as plants.

The Sequoia National Park. It does a person good to feel small every so often. The Grand Canyon did it with immensity, the Canyon and the Petrified Forest did it with geological time, Death Valley did it with life-threatening temperatures, and Sequoia trees do it with size and age. The largest trees in the world by volume, some of them already old when Jesus was born. We looked, hiked, and marveled in this wonderful place.

In all of the parks I heard many languages spoken by other visitors. A ranger at the Grand Canyon said that 40% of the visitors are from other countries. We have treasures in and on our land worth traveling to see from the other side of the globe. Thank God for men like Muir and Teddy Roosevelt and others who determined that parts of the American treasury would be preserved so that we and our children and our children's children could experience them.