Tag Archives: Gaining Life Experience

Recapturing that Innocence

Enjoying a Monarch

Remember being about five years old or watching a five year old explore the world? Remember that innocent love of learning about your surroundings? So many new things to explore. No filters or experiences or judgments to get in the way of those feelings of wonder and enjoyment. No other things to worry about. Just living in the moment and taking it all in. So innocent! Where does that go as we get older? Who does not want to experience that feeling again? Can we re-gain that innocence?

Absolutely! If you allow yourself to. This was a topic recently brought up where I work after one of my co-workers spent the day with a five year old exploring a natural park. After this brief conversation I began to reflect on it more and found ways that I come back to this innocence from time to time. Without really knowing it, I’ve had to allow myself to find opportunities to just be in the moment. To take in the situation without thought or judgment. It can take some learning and practice to accomplish but this child like enjoyment of life is at our control.

A Beautiful Landscape

As I thought about this a little longer the easiest situation for me to enter this mindset of an innocent child is while exploring our national parks whether it be the stunning landscapes of Alaska, the Grand Canyon, or standing in the midst of a historic landmark like Bunker Hill where the Revolutionary War started or were Benjamin Franklin is buried. It doesn’t just happen though. Often our brains are working causing thoughts of things to be done or parts of conversations to enter the moment distracting from just being and taking in that moment in our lives.

Over the years I have learned how to quiet all that is running through my mind to just take in a certain moment from time to time. Allowing me to just take it in and enjoy the opportunity I’ve been given. I continue to improve this skill which brings more enjoyment in this short time we have available. Now, just seeing a firefly blinking in the backyard or sharing a memorable moment with someone or watching a dragonfly eat can bring this young innocence back. It has taken a lot of hours of self learning and reflection to work on this and bring back these skills.


I remember when I was younger being around some people who always seem to be smiling and where amazed at every little thing. I thought they were a little bizarre because not everything is amazing and needs to be treated like it’s the first time it has ever happened. This constant state of happiness approached stupidity in my mind. As years passed I began to admire this ability in people because it was not something I could do. They seemed to enjoy life more than I do. Jealousy started to creep in. Questions as to why I couldn’t have this much enjoyment arouse.

Soon I began to realize that while I thought I enjoyed traveling, I really wasn’t taking in those places I was visiting mentally. My thoughts were usually of what I had to do when I get back home or of recent conversations that occurred before I left for the trip. Sure, I did spend some time mentally in this place I had traveled to see but I wasn’t allowing myself to be fully in that place. Over time I have learned that I need to remind myself to be in the moment.

Pretend to be a little kid again – it’s OK!

Kids Enjoying a Summer Day

Making the Most of 1 Day

An Early Start to the Day

Do you ever have a day that starts early and is jam packed with fun things to do all day and ends late? They don’t come around very often it seems but when they do you can look back on it and know you made the most of each hour given to you on that day. That’s how our day going out to Washington was. We knew it was going to be a full day but not quite sure how long.

Arriving in Seattle

Our morning began at 3 AM which was just a few minutes before the alarm would be blaring at us to wake up. Instead of waiting to be assaulted by a noisy little box we got up, turned it off and began the days journey excited for the adventure ahead. Less than an hour later the car was packed and headed to join a few family members on our way to the airport. By 6 AM more family members met us at the airport and we were grabbing a quick breakfast while waiting to board the airplane taking us to Seattle, where this vacation would begin. Shortly after 10 AM beautiful mountain vistas began appearing outside of the airplane windows and before we knew it the popular Mt. Rainier was below us with Seattle just ahead.

Puget Sound

Quickly disembarking, well as quickly as several hundred people can get off an airplane, it was off to get luggage and take the light rail downtown where the cars were. Once everybody was safely secured in their respective automobiles it was already time for lunch. Wow this day seems to be moving quickly! With lunch in the rear view mirror it was off to Sequim to spend the night just outside of Olympic National Park. The route took us into Tacoma and around Puget Sound before heading towards Sequim. It took about three hours to drive from Seattle to Sequim getting us there just after 6 PM.

A Beautiful Spot to Eat and Relax

At this point much of the group just wanted to get dinner and relax from a long day of travels. Admittedly I was tired but adrenaline pushed a small contingent to begin exploring Olympic National Park. A few minutes to grab the camera and a bottle of water before settling back into the car for a 45 minute drive to the nearest visitor center while grabbing a bite to eat on the run. We arrived at the visitor center just as they were closing but decided to finish our meal on one of the nearby picnic tables and enjoy the evening and the surroundings before heading up the mountain the Hurricane Ridge.

A Doe and Her Fawn

As soon as the car doors opened at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center a fawn and mother black tailed deer were there to great us. Most likely looking for scraps from the numerous visitors there early that day. Seeing wildlife really enhances a visit to any national park making the experience feel more fulfilling. The evening was upon us and the sun was heading for the horizon so any exploring needed to be completed soon. Hiking a nearby trail, a spot was found to gaze into the horizon as the sun marched towards it, spreading it’s amazing colors throughout the sky. I couldn’t think of a better place to be during the remaining few hours of this day.

A Mountain Top Sunset

Darkness continued to creep closer and closer to us but not to worry. First of all, we were fairly close to the car and secondly we had flashlights this time, not like in Acadia National Park. Having been practicing night photography I thought this would be a great opportunity to capture a gorgeous night sky so off to a nearby picnic area to setup the camera before it was too dark. Just as the stars were beginning to peek out a bright light appeared on the horizon. It must have been a full moon. The mountainous landscape lit up all around us. Well, photos full of stars and possibly the Milky Way were out of the question. Obviously I did not do my homework on the timing and phases of the moon this night. What do you do when handed lemons? Take pictures of the moonscapes I guess.

Colors of the Setting Sun Spreading Across the Landscape

Spending the next hour taking photos it was time to call it a day. While the camera was shooting away at the night sky I realized a day like this when you take advantage of every minute of breath makes many other days mundane by comparison. The question of how to take advantage of every breath most days arises instead of falling victim to the daily routine we get so use to that we almost lose the appreciation of the day. Arriving back at the hotel it was after 1 AM – 22 hours after the day began. With a smile I quickly drifted off to sleep excited to continue our adventure the next day.

Late Night Moonscape


Life Experience Gained: Mountain landscapes from an airplane, The Seattle landscape, lightrail, downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, Olympic National Park, and most importantly the first time I conscientiously realized how much I enjoyed  this day and all we did.

Life Experience Through a Plant

Colorado Wild Columbine

The above photo is of a Columbine as photographed in Rocky Mountain National Park. We were taking a family trip there as part of our Monopoly travels to see the Flattop Mountain trail. In addition to seeing this trail there was much else to explore. To get this particular photo I had to climb down a very steep bank. The purpose was to see one of the higher waterfalls in the park. Unfortunately most of these falls were covered from view by trees. Once I got to the river I noticed some of the flowers in the area and took a few pictures. When looking back at this picture I remember the adventures in the Rockies but also enjoying a moment of solitude as the water rushed passed. The rest of the family was not far and were in sight almost the whole time but this was my own little personal experience in the Rockies that not many others get to share.

Below is a picture of another Columbine which I photographed in the bluffs lining the Mississippi River. This was another family adventure where we decided to embark on a 7 mile hike exploring the bluffs. This photo is a reminder to me of the time shared with members of my family and completing the longest hike for our family to date. It also reminds me of some great views of the Mississippi River and surrounding landscapes.

Midwestern Wild Columbine

This last Columbine was a Mother’s Day gift to my wife. It is a hybrid that was grown in a greenhouse. Fortunately I have actually been to the greenhouse where it was grown, however it was not purchased there as it is a wholesale greenhouse only. It is a wonderful yearly reminder of why it was added to our landscape.

Each of these Columbines has a unique experience attached to them while all being closely related to one another. One found while exploring in the Rocky Mountains with another discovered on an adventure to the Mississippi River Bluffs and the last one represents the family that goes on these adventures along with the place that family returns to at the end of an adventure. At least for now!

Hybrid Columbine

A Memorial Weekend Hike

Among the Mississippi River Bluffs

During the holiday weekend at the end of May we were camping in the Bluffs near the Mississippi River. Since it was a later spring the water temperatures were colder than usual, it was cloudy and cool so the fishing would likely be slower than we wanted. After a little research we found a couple of trails near by and decided to go for a hike in the bluffs and see if we could find an great view or two.

A Forest Valley

The forest was so lush and green with a number of beautiful wildflowers beginning to bloom.

Wildflowers in Bloom

This was a 7 mile trail so a little longer hike than we’ve been on before but without any gear should be achievable. Expecting we should be able to hike at a 1.5 mph pace it was expected to take about 4-5 hours total to complete this trail including time to eat and enjoy the views while taking pictures. Past experience taught us to bring along food for a meal as well as a few snacks and water.

The ATV Trail

As we arrived at the park we found out that this is mostly an ATV trail and very few people actually hike it. As a result the trail was quite muddy in places and we needed to keep a watch for ATV’s as there were many using the trail that weekend. The first half of the trail was lacking much for vistas that we were hoping to see and included a couple of steep hills both up and down to climb. Fortunately the blooming wildflowers and seeing a scarlet tanager made this part of the trail worth the effort. This was the first time I’ve ever seen a scarlet tanager.

A Scarlet Tanager

Growing a little tired of hiking after walking up the bluff for a second time we were just hoping there were no more major hills to climb down and back up again. Shortly we came upon the first of a couple of locations that over look the Mississippi River and surrounding  bluffs. It was at this point we achieved our main goals of this hike which was to see this amazing part of the country from within the top of the bluffs. Here was a view from an area we had not witnessed before.

River Panorama

After taking in the views it was time to head down off the bluffs to the trailhead. If time permits a trip to the locally famous Nelson Cheese Factory for some great ice cream was in order. With that motivation the pace was increased to get back to our cars and head towards our camping location.

Nearby Bluffs

For those who are curious, we did make it in time to get our ice cream.

Experiences Gained: Longest hike yet in one day gaining confidence to tackle more difficult hikes on Isle Royale and the Rocky Mountains someday hopefully soon, Saw several scarlet tanagers which are a beautiful, vibrant red  bird that migrates to this area for the summer, and enjoyed views of the river and bluffs new to us.

What is Monopoly Traveler About?

Nat'l Parks Monopoly Board

Isn’t it obvious? Traveling to the different parks on the National Parks Monopoly Board! Right? Sort of. Travel is one of the ways the objective is accomplished but it is not the main concept of this sight. Our main goal is “gaining life experiences”. This is not highlighted much at all in many of the stories. I hope to correct that with a little identifier on what new experiences occurred in each post.

What is meant by gaining life experiences and why is that important? Life experiences are responsible for who each of us is. Many people may share an experience even though each person has a unique perspective on that experience but no one else in the world has all of the same experiences during a life. It is that whole combination of experiences that help make each one of us an individual like no other. One of the best parts, we get to choose many of our life experiences!

Another Cruise?

People are very different in how they gain life experience. I like to learn about a lot of different things so I take on a hobby for awhile, learn a lot about it, and then go on to a different hobby. That’s why traveling to different locations fits me. I’ve been to Mazatlan Mexico five times. Mazatlan is a nice place and I really enjoyed it but the last time I was there it was not as stimulating for me because I have experienced it before. I don’t plan to return for awhile if ever. I want to experience some place different. The same thing with cruises. I’ve been on five of them and the last one just wasn’t as much fun. I likely will not go on another one for while (After this summer when we are taking a cruise to Alaska to see Glacier Bay National Park which is on our Monopoly Board).

These are all different ways of gaining life experience making each of us unique. Tough to gain life experience in bed or watching TV. Sure I like to take a break from gaining much experience once and awhile and watch a moving or two and take a nap on a rainy day. Who doesn’t?  Accomplishing a something new can be extremely simple such as a walk to a park. You may  noticing a bird you haven’t seen before or briefly observing kids playing a game or having a disagreement. BRIEFLY is key here as watching for too long could bring questions from the police.  Maybe you see an old friend or meet a new one. All can provide a new experience. In the photo below I had never witnessed hundreds of Robins clustered together like this before. A little research indicated that it is not a rare event further south.

Robins Congregating as Spring is Slow to Approach

We are in control of how we react to an experience and what we take away from it. Not all life experiences are positive ones. A loved one in the hospital or the passing of a pet. These are still new encounters and add to the total computation of life. Asking a few questions in your own mind or even writing them down helps you understand yourself further. Did you like this experience? Why or why not? What did you take away from it? Did you learn something new about yourself? It’s ok to laugh about having an ah hah moment. I find it very intriguing when I learn something new that I would never have imagined before about myself.

Let me provide a brief example. I don’t recall the exact place and time but I do remember the events and the enlightenment that followed. It had just finished raining and I went outside to work on some of the plants around the house. I’m a horticulturalist, it’s what I do. While walking under some trees I brushed against a branch and water rain over my head. It was just at that moment I realized I don’t like things dripping on my head unless I’m in the shower or swimming. There are more exceptions but in general I don’t like slow dripping liquids. Now it is my choice to not like slow dripping liquids on my head so it is also up to me to change that if I so desired. Not sure how but I’m confident I could. I also don’t know if this has been a life long thing or started recently. That doesn’t really matter to me.

This simple life experience provided insight into me. I learned something and didn’t intend to. We all have this ability. It just takes a conscious effort and willingness to do so. Each little experience leads to a lifetime of knowledge which is why life experience is so valuable and makes you unique.

Gaining Life Experience Through the Photography Experiment