National Parks Connect Us to Each Other

Grace CortezFYPx

I’ve always been a fond believer of “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” during my trips because I find that the “in between” moments are where the best memories take place.

When the National Park Foundation announced the winners of its Find Your Park Expedition, I immediately went to everyone’s Instagram and Twitter accounts and followed them. Conversations and interactions began taking place almost instantly. I felt as if I already knew these individuals my whole life.

Southwest Airplane Wing

You might be thinking that I was nervous when I got on a plane to meet seven other people I had never met before in person, but I was the complete opposite! When the time came for all of us to meet in Denver, we hit it off naturally. Along with the wonderful National Park Foundation staff and our sponsors, we became a family of one. Some of my favorite memories took place during our drives to the parks, lunch time, dinner, and down-time.

Victor was my Subaru partner and together we jammed out in the car to a playlist we both collaborated on and we obviously titled it “FYPx.” We made a few stops along the scenic routes to take some pictures and one of us dropped our tripod. Don’t worry, it was saved.

Coffee shop near Great Sand Dunes

I enjoyed a quaint, vintage coffee shop near Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. We all took advantage of the resting time to get a coffee drink and I got to look around at a couple of art pieces. The barista was very kind and interested in who we were so it was a wonderful opportunity to tell her about #FindYourPark.

Mellie and Andrew on Dunes with Sand Boards

Once we arrived at Great Sand Dunes, some of us got to try sand boarding for the first time! I had never done anything like that in my life so the experience was quite a funny and thrilling one!

The morning following our arrival, a group went for an early hike at the dunes and the rest of us took the Subarus around the park to catch sunrise and squeeze in a few photos.

Woman laying on ground in sunset

One of the most serene moments was resting on top of a beautiful canyon at Mesa Verde National Park as the sun was setting and laying in silence with Jinn from Columbia.

Woman smiling in car

All in all, I guarantee you that behind the scenes, we were all giggling, making way too many inside jokes, taking too many photos, eating very delicious food, and loving as well as enjoying the outdoors together.

Goes to show that national parks connect us not just to landscapes and history, but also to each other.

Grace Cortez participated in the National Park Foundation’s 2015 Find Your Park Expedition. Based out of Los Angeles, California, she is a lifestyle, landscape, and travel photographer. You can follow Grace's adventures and connect with her on Instagram, PinterestTumblr, and Portfolio.

Photo credits: Grace Cortez, Javier Gonzalez, and Victor Wei

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