God’s Cathedral

There are still plenty of outdoor places in America you can visit that are protected enough to offer a glimpse at how the landscape on this continent may have appeared to early native inhabitants and explorers.  A prime example are some of the national parks.  I think the National Park Service is one of the best government programs of all, and I wish our federal leaders would find some other areas to cut funding and leave this division alone.  We have some incredible treasures around the country, several of which I have visited.  I have never been disappointed.

One of the best parks to visit to experience what I am describing is Yosemite National Park in the High Sierra region of California.  First protected in 1864, Yosemite is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area, and much more.  There are so many places in this park where you can stand, and for as far as the eye can see, there is no sign of civilization.  The vistas are absolutely breathtaking, including perhaps the most photographed view of all from just beyond the tunnel on Wawona Road, where the valley opens up and welcomes you to what many people refer to as God’s Cathedral.  Indeed, the scene is like a place of worship on a monumental scale, and for those who have any appreciation at all for the beauty of the natural world, it invokes a sense of reverence and awe.

Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View on Wawona Road

My wife and I joined up with a good friend of ours there in July, 2013, staying several nights in a cabin and spending our days hiking along the valley floor and up to one of the high spots overlooking the valley.  Yosemite is another one of those places that reminds me just how small I am and how magnificent this planet is.  John Muir, the famous naturalist who helped draw up the proposed boundaries of the park in 1889, described Yosemite as being “full of God’s thoughts, a place of peace and safety amid the most exalted grandeur and enthusiastic action, a new song, a place of beginnings abounding in first lessons of life, mountain building, eternal, invincible, unbreakable order; with sermons in stone, storms, trees, flowers, and animals brimful with humanity.”

A Wooded Path

If you like hiking, or simply taking a walk on a nature trail, the state parks and national forests in north Georgia are some of the best places to enjoy this activity.  The state of Georgia does a fine job, with dwindling resources I am quick to add, with the access to natural resources it provides through the state park system.  The trails vary in length and difficulty levels to accommodate almost any age and degree of fitness.  Most parks have trails that are wheelchair accessible.  The diversity of flora and fauna in the southern Appalachia is unmatched anywhere in the U.S.  There are very few weeks out of the year where the weather makes outdoor exploration uncomfortable here.  I have spent many hours wandering mountain paths through densely wooded countryside and have always come away restored.

Visit Georgia State Parks website

View from Black Rock Mountain State Park visitor center
View from Black Rock Mountain State Park visitor center