Monday, March 30, 2015

Planning a Trip I

Being nature lovers, we mainly visit state and national parks. Camping and hiking provide us relaxation and solitude we yearn after long stretch of work weeks and gloomy, cold wintry days. Now after so many days of living in routine- a sort of hibernation forced upon by short days and cold nights, we are looking forward to sunny days and some trips. We are planning to visit Arizona, Utah again, checking more national parks off our bucket lists and probably exploring more ones we visited before.

We have been often asked how we plan our camping, hiking long trips. I would say, if you are enthusiastic about planning and designing your itinerary, it requires quite a bit of research and planning in advance. It is not that information is not available, it is, but it takes time to piece them all together and then for us to understand and apply it to make an optimal, cost and time effective, and obviously, an enjoyable plan. By far, our itineraries have been quite intense. We see more than one national park in a trip- not that we just stop by at a designated lookout points but we also try to do 1 or 2 days of hiking and participating in interesting ranger-led programs.

Here I am sharing lessons I learned and experiences I had planning and then following those plans visiting various parks.

In planning, the first thing is to figure out what is the purpose of this trip.


a. Relaxation - you will just enjoy the vista from comfort of your hotel/car and physical activities will be minimal.

b. Checking out - you want to visit the place because it is famous. You would like to see the most famous features only, take selfies (to impress your facebook buddies :) ) and you are not interested in exploring the area further. You can achieve this by driving to the place or taking tours. This is also not physically challenging if you plan to stay in hotels/motels/lodge.

Viewing deck @ Old Faithful, Yellowstone Nat. Park, WY

c. Exploring - you would like to explore deeper areas of the park beyond well defined, iconic and so, obviously crowded look-out points or board walks. It is about getting the essence of the park and intimately experiencing nature. It is about walking into vastness and realizing our minuteness, passing through canyons and realizing our puniness, standing in front of turbulent waters and realizing our frailty.

(It is in these humbling moments, I feel bowing down to nature's grandeur in reverence. Simultaneously, in flow of the sad, worthless feeling arising from decrescendo of my existence, I experience smallest of smallness and shortest of fleetingness. I feel my physical existence melting in the nature, merging into surrounding elements. Next comes the feeling of joy and exhilaration...with a feeling that every molecule of me is in nature and every molecule of nature is in me...realization of oneness (Aham Brahmasmi!?). Then the understanding that as a part of the universe, molecules that made "me" are imparted boundless, timeless existence through eternal cycle. And so, they will be destroyed but then remade and recycled brings my worldly mind to peace.)

“I... a universe of atoms, an atom in the universe.”  - Richard P. Feynman

Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton Nat. Park, WY

Anyway, it is needless to say now that we like exploring and spending as much time as we can in these parks if time and cost permit which does not occur often. So every now and then, around 4-5 months past our earlier trip, I start to crave another national park trip.

Although your schedule, availability of lodging, season and local weather play varying degree of roles in influencing your trip later, it is important to be clear in your mind about purpose of your trip. That will help you focus, prepare and pack accordingly and keep your travelling partners and loved ones informed.