Last week I spent five days backpacking up the Hoh River in Olympic National Park. The scenery was magnificent: enormous towering trees, the broad sweeping river, vast glaciated valleys, jewel-like alpine lakes, abundant wildlife, trails created by geniuses, and the looming presence of Mt. Olympus and its mantle of glaciers whenever you’re high enough to see it.
When I go up into Olympic National Park, I find it a source of refreshment and renewal. My soul is revived because I’m surrounded by the wonders of God’s creation. It’s just natural to slip into prayer as you’re walking along, because God’s presence is everywhere. “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears, all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.”
Everyone needs spiritual renewal, and the beauty of the parks is one of the best ways I know to find renewal. When Henry David Thoreau said, “In wildness is the salvation of the world,” I think what he meant was that our souls need the quietness of the natural world and the mystery and wonder that we find in solitude. It returns us to our original source of peace, the peace of God.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park system, a true national treasure. Our ancestors had the foresight to set aside pristine areas for the enjoyment of future generations, and I’m thankful they did. Our national parks are available for everyone to visit and learn from, and millions take advantage of this privilege every year.
The parks remind us of the bounty we enjoy, the vast wealth of natural resources and beauty that we’ve been given stewardship over. Our national park system is severely underfunded with a huge backlog of deferred maintenance. I hope that Congress will see fit to restore the funding needed to preserve our parks and make them accessible for future generations. And I hope that you will have a chance to enjoy our national treasures this fall and find God’s glory in them.