*Excerpt taken from Daytripper: 60 Days on the Road Exploring America’s National Parks
Flora + Fauna in the United States
Going into the trip, I didn’t truly consider the animals we would encounter, but some of my most cherished moments came from learning about our furry companions. There is something uniquely beautiful about seeing wild animals in their natural habitats - it is unlike seeing animals at a zoo or watching them in a documentary. We were there with them on their turf, observing them in their daily life. Their only care was survival, and it made all of our worries pale in comparison. I learned about varieties of birds, bears, coyotes, slugs, elks, moose, prairie dogs, chipmunks, and marmots. I now catch myself gazing upwards anytime I see a bird soaring above, trying to guess its species based on its wingspan, color, and flight path.
One of my favorite animal moments happened while we were driving through the abandoned backcountry roads of Yellowstone National Park, WY. It was before sunrise around 5am and the road was filled with morning fog. We could barely see in front of us but George spotted, sitting in the middle of the road ahead of us, a little animal. He exclaimed with excitement “That’s a fox! That’s a BABY fox!” The fox lay there, curled up into a little ball, like a cat. We rolled to a stop next to him. His blinking eyes showed we had just awoken him from slumber. We locked eyes with him and he stayed serenely still for what felt like minutes, but was mere seconds. He eventually got spooked and ran into the woods; but, for that brief moment, where we both stood there just staring at each other, with no one else around in the morning fog, the world sat still. Talk about feeling connected to nature and to your planet.
I discovered a variety of new flora & fauna in Glacier National Park, MT, Grand Teton National Park, WY, and in the deserts of Utah. I learned about the many tree species, from
the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, WA, to the Aspen trees in Colorado, and to the Redwoods, Douglas-Firs, and Sequoias along the Pacific coast. I witnessed how when a tree falls in a forest, it can become a nurse tree providing shelter for smaller, slower-growing trees. I read that natural forest fires can be healthy to ensure the fallen tree trimmings are burned to allow seeds to fall and reach the soil below to regrow. There is much to learn from the natural world around us if we take the time to watch.
Learn more about my #vanlife trip through the United States, at www.daytripperthebook.com.