The Start of an Obsession

The Perfect Gift

For months after my trip to Everglades National Park I contemplated buying a real camera, other than the one that came equipped on my phone, it was an iPhone 4S after all, an ancient relic even when I was using it. I researched and read reviews, I shopped online and went to the store to hold different cameras to see which ones I liked the most. A Nikon D3300 was where my searching landed. Perhaps not the most advanced or fancy camera, but one with removable lenses and some beginner style preset functions, but a camera that would still make me feel like a real photographer. I put the red model in my cart online and let it sit there for over a year. 

For Christmas one year my parents asked my what was on my list. I knew the camera was too expensive, but it was the only thing I was asking for and I knew it would be a big ask. It was Christmas of 2016, I opened my gift and it was the camera that I had been longing for and all of the crazy accessories that went with it. I received not only the camera, but a tripod, additional flash attachments, screen protectors, and everything I could think of needing for a fancy new camera. 

I spent the rest of the time I was home visiting my family playing with my new toy. I took so many photos trying all of the settings of the camera and even started reading Nikon D3300 for Dummies. I didn’t master the camera in the few days I was with my family, but I was determined to find a way to take photos. 

Planning the Perfect Picture

After taking my photos testing the settings of the camera I thought, ‘how do I take beautiful photos?’ The answer came to me – go to a beautiful place and the pictures will take themselves. I went back to work after the holidays and during any downtime I started researching places that I wanted to visit. I found a random week at the end of March 2017 that would give me plenty of time to plan some sort of epic trip to be able to use the camera. 

My first idea was to go somewhere ancient, somewhere in Europe, a place where I could see ruins and historic landmarks. I quickly realized that I did not have enough time to travel internationally. Since I wasn’t planning to travel with anyone else, it would be a solo trip. Originally I tried to have a friend come with me, I started to become desperate, any friend would do, but no one seemed to be able to take the time off. 

It became clear that I would need to find somewhere to travel in the United States. I spent weeks deciding where I was going to go. Would I go to a big city to take photos at museums or to a battlefield to take photos of monuments and memorials, but then I started to look into the National Park Service’s website to discover what options I had available to see some beautiful natural places. First I wanted to explore Yellowstone National Park and went to the site and saw a beautiful photo of deep snow on a mountain in the park and saw the caption “March 2016,” I balked. There was no way that a Florida transplant would be able to survive a week in the deep snow with no prior experience and no appropriate gear for an entire week alone. I looked into Glacier National Park, foolishly not realizing that the park was even further north than Yellowstone and would surely be as harsh and unforgiving as any experience in Yellowstone would be. 

I took a look at a map and decided that the Southwestern United States would be the perfect place for me to visit, but which parks would I be venturing to? I picked Las Vegas as a starting point and went from there. My itinerary was to land in Vegas and then go on a whirlwind adventure where I would be in a new park each day the week.

Leading up to my trip I experienced so many emotions, anxiety, fear, excitement, and elation. Two of my managers at work had been hearing me talk about the trip and they were very excited for me, but it wasn’t until the day before I would be leaving that they realized that I was going into the wilderness alone. Both of my leaders told me I had to check in with them each day so they knew I was alright. I also had a plan to check in with my parents and my girlfriend. I was nervous and did a lot of research on murder in the National Parks (there really aren’t that many random acts of violence in National Parks, and now I’m usually more afraid of wildlife). After all of my research and preparation there really wasn’t much else to do except pack for my trip and go.

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