How A National Park Expedition Changed My Life

September 17, 2015Melanie Mendez-GonzalesNPF Blog

Last year I participated in the National Park Foundation’s American Latino Expedition and it changed my life. Cliché much? Es posible pero it really did. Prior to ALEx14, I knew I wanted to create more outdoor experiences with my family, I just didn’t know how or where to start beyond our regular visits to a nearby park, going to a festival, or hosting a family bar-b-que. Bottom line was that I was only getting to the familiar and nearby outdoor places without doing much of any exploring.


Melanie Mendez-Gonzales overlooking the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone at Yellowstone National Park.

When I returned from ALEx14, experiencing the outdoors became a calling, a necessity, and a passion that I wanted to share with my family. Above is a photo of me overlooking the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone at Yellowstone National Park. Right after that photo was taken, I began to make a video to share with you about how breathtaking the scenery was and then, I just started to weep. I was and I still am so incredibly grateful to get to experience this natural beauty that is ours – our country, our home, our land. I had come to realize the powerful, natural connection that I had with mi tierra. Through my tears I knew that I must share the beauty of the outdoors with the people whom I love the most – mi familia.

 Family posing at entrance sign to Big Bend National Park. Sign reads, \"Big Bend National Park, Rio Grande Wild Scenic River"

It took some time but we finally made it to Big Bend National Park this summer. I was super excited to get to take my family on our own great outdoor adventure to a national park! And we did have fun. We stayed at Chisos Mountain Lodge and we hiked various trails, took a guided jeep tour and finished our weekend with a gorgeous scenic drive. This adventure planted a tiny seed for love of the outdoors in my kids’ hearts. It’s up to them to let it grow. Meanwhile, I’ll do all the watering that I can. This is the beginning of our outdoor adventures beyond our local parks. It’s where I hope to teach my family that the national and state parks are ours, too, and that we have a responsibility to protect them as much as we have the honor to enjoy them.

Click here to read more about Melanie’s park adventures.  

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