I found myself in Rocky Mountain National Park today...
Boy am I glad that someone spoke up and fought for the idea that portions of the country be protected from development. It was quite literally a "breath of fresh air". I mean Colorado is an absolutely beautiful place, but even this great state has caved to subdivision after subdivision of homes all from the same color palette... But back to the beautiful park!
Like most people... I had to use the bathroom before we got very far into the park, which meant a stop in the Visitors Center and the adjoining gift shop and restaurant.
As the daughter of an English and History major I've seen my fair share of battlefields, national parks, museums, etc. Almost all of these places are accompanied by a gift shop. As a kid I would pour over the turquoise rings, the fringed bags, I even got pretty good at identifying prints as opposed to original C.M. Russell paintings.
Obviously today I had to walk straight through the gift shop trying my best to just enjoy the gifts and not wonder which one I could talk my parents into purchasing :)
Usually I find myself looking at the mini license plates for my nieces - which they don't even care about. I've even gotten sucked into those bracelets whose colors mean harmony or peace or whatever. But as the last two months have taught me... I now find myself in front of the food section. Flavored popcorn, candies made to look like rocks (or in Iowa, pig poo) But today, to my surprise, there were dark chocolate carmels with sea salt. They looked just like the ones I raved about in Seattle. For a measely $2 I got two of them, packed them in with my sack lunch and headed out. But there was that tinge of guilt that because I couldn't buy anything for anyone because I can't buy anything for a year... that I was somehow shortchanging them. Or was I?
Unfortunately, or fortunately the world has become uber aware (thank you Oprah) to the national park system and the parking lot near Bear Lake was completely full. We found ourselves parking on the side of the road to tackle an entirely different hike.
The good news about a hike that is entirely up for the first half, means it's entirely downhill for the last half. After carefully watching my step up the mountain side, and not really seeing much more than the trail, we reached the lake we were in search of. Bierstadt Lake. It was quiet, and peaceful and not a house or development or gift shop in sight. I sat there taking it all in, and pulled out my chocolates.
As I ate my only purchase, which only I was going to enjoy, the guilt came back. But as I looked around and thought about the last few weeks...it dawned on me... the time spent daydreaming on the back of the tandem, the moments spent holding my nieces hand as we made our way on to the high dive for her first time, even just falling asleep on the living room floor with my dad while he watched his documentaries on the couch, meant more than anything in those gift shops.
I ate the chocolates. They were good. Not great. Certainly not like the ones from Purple. But I'll tell you what... the view of one of God's unbelievable creations made it that much sweeter... or was it saltier? :)
Instead of being satisfied that I purchased some insignificant souvenir... I vowed instead to give more experiences...