Exploring America’s national parks

Katie Kerth, a sophomore business major, grew up in North Sacramento, California, near Tahoe National Forest where she would spend all her summers and winters.

“The thing I love about Tahoe is the fact that is a 360 place!” she said. “One day I am swimming and boating, the next I am hiking in the forest, and then the next day after that I could be snowboarding the mountain-side. It’s a place of beauty and peace.”

California is home to more national parks and forests than any other state in the country — 9 parks and 19 forest lands. And many— plus some in Utah and Arizona — are within a day’s drive of Chapman University.

Lots of Chapman students make them a target for long weekend road trips, but especially spring break getaways.

Photo by: Megan Boyd. Junior journalism major Xavier Leong looks out over the Grand Canyon.
Photo by: Megan Boyd.
Junior journalism major Xavier Leong looks out over the Grand Canyon.

Among the most popular: Zion National Park and Bryce National Park in Utah — just an afternoon’s drive past Las Vegas.

Over spring break this year, Kelley Kozlowski, a sophomore psychology and sociology major, visited Zion National Park in Utah. “We did the Angel’s Landing Hike and the Narrows, which were easily the two most intense hikes of my life,” said Kozlowski.

Angel’s Landing is a 2.4-mile long trail on a steep incline, with metal ropes inserted into the side of the mountain to help hikers keep their footing and ascend up the trail. In recent history, 6 people have fallen to their deaths off of the Angel’s Landing trail.

“Angel’s Landing, the last half-mile requires chains to assist you to the top,” said Kozlowski. “I was genuinely afraid, but my adrenaline was so high that I just pushed it out of my head. Overall, it was the most intense moment of my life. It definitely made me want to explore the country and the rest of the world.”

Thomas Parks, a junior business and economics double major. Also climbed Angels. But just as intense, he said, as the Narrows.

The Narrows is Zion’s main attraction. Submerged in water, the hike follows the Virgin River. “We had to outfit ourselves in special water protective shoes, socks, and fashionable pants that went up to our bellies. We had walking sticks to poke ahead of ourselves as we trekked up the river,” said Parks.

Parks also visited Yosemite National Park in California eight years prior, in 2008. But he’s planning to return, with Zion helping him gain a great appreciation for what Yosemite has to offer. He noted:

“It is incredible the refined mindset and genuine appreciation I felt attending Zion. Now that I am older I hope to bring the same, improved mindset to Yosemite.”

Jordan Cahill, a sophomore communication Studies major, went to Grand Canyon National Park with Chapman’s alternative spring break program. Although visiting some other parks, But she calls the Grand Canyon the “biggest, most memorable” national park.

What Cahill found most amazing during her trip to the Grand Canyon was the fact that she could experience such a sight while also doing service for the entire time. “It was a lot of giving back to the earth,” said Cahill. “I found it to be rejuvenating and the hiking was wonderful. It was so unique because we hiked into the canyon and dropped nearly 6,000 feet in elevation in less than two miles. So intense!”

Alternative spring break is a program put on by Civic Engagement. According to the Chapman website, “Chapman volunteers will stay in cabins owned by the Park and work with the Park staff to clean impacted areas in the park to restore the Canyon’s ecosystems.  Participants will learn about the environment and history of the Grand Canyon and understand the importance of any conservation and restoration effort.”

Alongside the service aspect, hiking is often a peaceful experience.

“I think exploring and hiking, for me, is such a release. It makes the world seem so big and gives me a lot of perspective on how little the trivial things in life matter,” said Cahill, whose lifestyle blog, September Solitude, features a lot of her travels. “I have always been a person with a sense of adventure and I think hiking and traveling and exploring is my outlet for that.”

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