My family did something a bit different this year for the 4th of July and went down to St. George and visited some of the national parks. Throughout the course of the trip, we saw Zion's, Bryce Canyon, Dixie, and I think a little bit of Capitol Reef. Despite my Utah bearings, this was my first time visiting any of those parks. My family's idea of a fun vacation has always involved amusement parks, not hiking, which is why I have been to Lagoon about 30 times. I had a couple of bad experiences with hikes during girl's camp, and I just haven't been a fan of hiking since then. (Young Women leaders are professional manipulators—they tell you a hike will only be a couple of laid-back miles, but they always end up being 8-mile strenuous hikes.)
But this year we just wanted to get away for a little while, so we decided it was time to see some of the national parks. (Actually, all of our other options sort of fell through, so seeing the national parks was about our only option.) And we didn't even do a whole lot of hiking. In fact, I wore flip flops the entire trip. It was sweet.
But I soon realized that national parks are not just for hiking—they are for seeing. As I looked at the majestic red, rocky mountains, I was filled with a sense of wonder that I usually only feel when I'm looking at one of God's unfathomable creations, like the stars. Give God some water and some dirt, and he can create something that people all over the world will come to see.
Spending the last 4 years of my life at BYU, I am ashamed to say, has made me a bit . . . reluctant, I guess, to claim my Utah heritage. People come to BYU from all of these exciting places, places that don't have really long winters and places that don't have a whole lot of Mormons. We Utahan natives often get put into a bubble—a bubble of naive, boring, Molly-Mormons. I have always resented that. I wished that I had an exciting place to call home. I wished that I could claim a heritage that wasn't shared by virtually every Mormon in Utah. I wished that I had seen something more exciting than the Rocky Mountains. Maybe then people wouldn't think they had me all figured out the minute they found out I was born and raised in Utah County.
My trip down south has changed the way I feel about some things, however. First of all, Utah is gorgeous. I used to think that southern Utah was ugly, dusty, and dry—once you got past Santaquin, all you would see were dead trees, broken-down houses, and people mowing the dirt. I would hear my grandparents talk about their growing-up years in Genola and Wayne County, and I would be thinking to myself, "Well, Grandpa, I'm pretty sure your memory isn't what it once was." But now I know that I was the one that was a bit deluded.
After seeing the impressive sights of Bryce Canyon, we took the scenic route home. Every time we go on a road trip, I always have at least three things in the car with me: a book or two, my cross stitch, and my iPod (although in the olden days I had my tape player named Corder). I usually try to last as long as possible in the car without using any of my sources of entertainment. During our long drive home, I didn't have to pull out even my iPod until we were a few hours from home. For three hours, I stared out the window, amazed at the beauty around me. I watched the mountains turn from red to green, watched the scenery turn from rocks to trees, and I never got bored. There was just so much to see, even when we hit the areas that I had previously thought were just dead trees, broken-down houses, and dirt. My lack of boredom may have been in part due to my fear of heights, but that didn't stop me from appreciating the grand sights below me. I even managed to keep my eyes open while we drove on the road that had huge drop-offs (as Tyrel liked to call them) on each side of the road, although I did have to hold on to something the entire time. Thank goodness I wasn't driving.
Having seen some of God's incredible creations—the mountains of Utah—I feel a bit more cultured and a lot more proud to claim this state as my home. Utah has a lot more to offer than just a bunch of "naive" Mormons. People come from all over the world to see our rocks and dirt, and I am proud of that. Utah may not be as exciting as the coastal cities of New York and California, but it does allow us to glimpse a little bit of paradise. I don't think anyplace else can top that, no matter how interesting the culture may be.