I’ve loved National Parks since I was young and would camp there with my (now) husband and my Westie, Mac. We have some memories… and so does Gayle, telling us about her adventure in Natural Parks. Read on and enjoy the pics!
Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming author and freelance writer; she is also a contributor to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She creates stories that reflect her passion for nature and animals, including pets. Her books also teach valuable life lessons, such as courage, perseverance, friendship, and pet rescue and adoption. She is the author of the Pet Rescue Romance series, clean, contemporary romance books featuring pet rescue as part of the stories’ premise. The first book in the series, Rescue Road, released last November. Finding Love at Compassion Ranch, released in May, is a tale of second chances, not only for the people but also for the rescued animals. She anticipates a holiday story, titled In the Shadow of Mount Moran, which is set near Grand Teton National Park, to release in November 2020.
National Parks: Special Spaces in Summer
by Gayle M. Irwin
I remember my first visit to Yellowstone National Park; I was about five years old, and my family lived in Iowa. We traveled and slept in an over-the-cab camper. One morning while sitting at a picnic table eating breakfast, as my parents faced the camper and my view encompassed the forest behind the campsite, my eyes grew wide.
“Bear!” I whispered.
My parents laughed. That is until I shouted, “Bear!” and scrambled from the picnic table. I ran as fast as my stubby legs would go and jumped up on the pickup’s step and leaped for the door handle of the camper. I couldn’t reach it, but I kept trying. By then my parents had turned and seen the bear ambled toward the picnic table and were running for the camper as well. Mom grabbed me into her arms and somehow managed to turn the camper handle. She bolted inside, with Dad right behind her. We watched the bear gobble all the breakfast.
In the 50-plus years since that summer, I’ve experienced numerous wildlife encounters, including walking upon a resting bull bison while walking a trail near Lake Hotel. I’ve never been attacked because I obey the rules, but I’ve certainly held my breath as bison passed close to my car (or that time I came upon the large male bison near Lake!).
Wildlife is one of the reasons I continue to visit Yellowstone in my older years. I may not see black and grizzly bears along the road (or in campgrounds) as my family and I did during the 1960s and 1970s, but I’ve seen where they belong: near rivers and in the wild expanses of the park. I’ve also observed bighorn sheep, elk, moose, fox, coyotes, wolves, bears, and bison in addition to swans, geese, ducks, owls, ospreys, and eagles. Of course, there’s also the amazing scenery and geology, especially the geysers that captivate visitors, including me.
Yellowstone became America’s (and the world’s!) first national park in 1872. During the next 100 years, more incredible spaces were set aside by our nation’s leaders. From Yosemite in California to Acadia in Maine, Glacier in Montana to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, America possesses a treasure in our national parks.
I relish those special spaces. I’ve been blessed to visit many national parks, particularly those found in the western states. My parents instilled within me an appreciation for public lands, and that wonder still resides at nearly 60 years of age. I never tire of gazing at the gorgeous Teton Mountains or the glaciated range in Glacier National Park. I thrill as majestic elk bugle in September in Rocky Mountain National Park or Yellowstone, and I stare in awe at the tremendous standings of saguaro cacti in the park that bears the cactus’ name in Arizona. Bryce Canyon and Arches national parks in Utah boast magnificent rock formations and the jaw-dropping Denali Mountain in Alaska never ceases to cause me to stare and ponder.
Although visiting national parks this summer comes with great challenge, from changes due to COVID-19 to vast numbers of people looking to escape for time in nature, I still find incredible outdoor spaces to visit. Earlier this year, my husband and I traveled to Custer State Park in South Dakota, where we saw large herds of bison, especially moms with babies, and the famous burros found in the park, along with five moms and their babies. We also spent time in the Bighorn National Forest of northern Wyoming and spent a few days in spring near Grand Teton National Park. There are many ways to enjoy nature, whether in a national park, a public forest, a nearby lake or river, or a city’s green space.
These special outdoor spaces help us relax. We are centered by observing, listening, and touching nature. We rediscover tranquility, something we all need these days.
Yellowstone and nature play roles in my romance novels. Both books I’ve released in the past year are set near Yellowstone National Park, and both books incorporate nature in the setting. Set on ranches, Rescue Road (released last November) and Finding Love at Compassion Ranch (released in May) showcase the landscape within the pages of the stories. Readers will find strong descriptions of the areas and will also be taken into America’s first national park either through setting or dialogue. My forthcoming Christmas novella, In the Shadow of Mount Moran and part of the same Pet Rescue Romance series, will take readers to the area of Grand Teton National Park as my main character cross-country skies and snowshoes through the region.
I’m grateful to have spent childhood vacations in the great outdoors, including America’s national parks. Those experiences ran roots so deep that they’ve never severed in the 55 years since that bear experience in Yellowstone. Instead of scaring me to stay away, I gained respect and admiration for wild creatures and wild spaces. I look forward to my next visit to one of these grand places!
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Gayle brought us her latest release, Finding Love at Compassion Ranch: A Pet Rescue Romance Novella, released in May 2020.
A ranch like no other … Erin Christiansen is still adjusting to life as a widow. She seeks additional healing by volunteering at Compassion Ranch, a sanctuary for former research animals. Upon arrival at the majestic and unique northwestern Wyoming ranch, she meets Mike, a man she knew in high school, whose compassion for animals and people might be the balm Erin needs.
Retired veterinarian Mike Jacobs is no stranger to loss. Five years after the accidental death of his wife, he now serves as ranch manager of Compassion Ranch. He not only fixes fence and provides tours, but he applies his veterinary skills and his heart for animals to his work. Upon recognizing Erin from high school, he can barely believe his first love will spend a few weeks at the sanctuary.
Can Erin and Mike span the years since they have seen each other or do they, like many of the rescued animals, have wounds that run too deep to trust and love again?
Eighteen months. It’s been eighteen months since Daniel died. Those thoughts ricocheted through Erin Christiansen’s brain as she stared upon the majestic Yellowstone Lake. Cabin #15 had been her refuge at the lodging facility within the national park for two nights. One more to go before she again embarked on her journey – returning to the large house in Florida, devoid of her husband’s presence for the second summer.
Morning light kissed the still snow-capped mountains to the south. Fuchsia, bluebonnet, and apricot hues danced in the sky. Mornings were Daniel’s favorite time of day. They had shared many dawns during their twenty-six-year marriage, including numerous ones along Florida’s beaches. Daniel would have enjoyed watching this sunrise.
Erin heard hoofbeats on the road. She turned and waited for the animal and its rider. The man, dressed in a brown cowboy hat, leather chaps covering jeans, and a short-sleeved blue shirt loped the buckskin horse toward the building. When he reined the animal closer to Erin, she noticed the dark leather work gloves upon the man’s hands. She also took quick note of brown hair tinged with gray protruding from under his coffee-colored Stetson. His tanned, chiseled face sported a goatee, and a large smile graced his face. The man tipped his hat like a cowboy in a western movie.
“Good afternoon. May I help you, ma’am?” he asked.
“I’m here to meet the director. I’m spending a few weeks volunteering,” she replied.
“Maggie told me to expect you. She’s at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in town. I can take you to your cabin so you can get settled in. She said she’d meet up with you when she returns.”
“That would be wonderful. I’d appreciate your help.”
Erin noticed the man studying her.
“Your voice sounds vaguely familiar. Have we met before?” he asked.