Often this involved a trip to Colorado, but we also were blessed to have a few excursions to Yellowstone National Park. Yes, it meant an extra day of driving - both ways - for three frustrated children crammed in the back seat of the car. With no air conditioning. Listening to Peter, Paul and Mary for hours on end.
But the trip was always worth it. Words can't do justice for the amazing sights a person can see at Yellowstone. We saw the park, charred the year after the fires. We saw its beauty as wildlife started to return.
But we the stop prized most was the one to see Old Faithful and Morning Glory. If you've never had the opportunity to see either, Old Faithful is an incredible geyser that used to shoot off like clockwork on the hour. Or at least it used to.
Now, it shoots off anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half, due to earthquakes and vandalism.
Morning Glory Pool is a thermal pool that used to be a deep blue. It's still beautiful, but it's changed.
Years of trash, rocks, coins and more that were just thoughtlessly tossed into the pool have had significant effects. The natural vents were blocked, impacting water circulation, accelerating the loss of thermal energy and dropping its temperature. Orange and yellow bacteria that used to be on the outside of the spring is spreading toward its center.
It's been more than a decade since I've last been back to Yellowstone, and I wonder how things have changed. And I wonder what it will be like when my children are old enough to truly experience and appreciate its wonders.
Here's what amazes me about this world. We can watch nature's beauty in its finest and toss our trash right into it.
If we can't look nature straight in the eye and appreciate and respect God's creation, what is wrong with us as a people?
In a few short weeks or months, the signs of spring will start to return. Flowers will bloom. Trees will bud. Greenness will return.
And as that happens, take a moment to appreciate the beauty around you. And think of ways to preserve it for those around us.
Maybe it's as simple as planting a tree. Or participating in a trail clean-up day at a state park. Or visiting a lesser-known national park to experience the quiet and the wonder, away from the traffic of the more popular parks. Go for a hike in the spring. Go for a hike now - and enjoy the beauty of winter. Enjoy the beauty of this world, away from the traffic, the subdivisions, the headaches.
Get back to where we came from, and see for yourself the reasons why we're trying to be more environmentally friendly.
And please, if you have to carry something with you, be responsible with your trash. A little slice of the world depends on you.
Photos from the National Park Service.