I recently took a mini-road trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. My conclusion: the USA is truly amazing.

Let me clarify. The USA is not only physically amazing, but the concept of it is amazing.

People of all ages, ethnicities, states and countries visit our national parks. I’ve been visiting since I was a child. One of my favorite things still is checking out the myriad of state license plates on the cars. I think I’ve seen just about every state represented in the national parks. This trip was no different; the variety of visitors was astounding.

We all stop at the viewpoints, and raise our cameras in awe of the creation around us. We all park haphazardly on the road side or brake in the middle and block traffic at the sight of bison or elk or moose.  In describing an Idaho valley, Anne Lamott once wrote “it was so majestic it made you feel patriotic.”

On our recent trip, we flew to Salt Lake City and rented a car for the five hour drive to Grand Teton National Park. We drove north through Idaho and returned south via Wyoming. The scenery is stunning and vast and mostly empty of people. We slowed through several small ranch towns – population 400 or less. We wondered: what would it be like to grow up there? I would be completely useless on a ranch. I know nothing about cattle, but I’m glad others do. And as I looked out the window at the houses and ranches passing by, I thought how amazing: people who are so different from me live in and love the same country that I do.

It’s the 100th anniversary of our national park system. Coincidentally, I worked in Yellowstone National Park the summer of the USA’s bicentennial celebration. I’m grateful for the visionaries who established both the USA and our national parks. Both are truly amazing!