What The Great Outdoors Can Do For Us
Randy Wolken, President & CEO

I recently returned from a family trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. It was a magnificent trip to two amazing national park treasures. The sights were spectacular, as was the quality time away with family. Planned over a year ago, we were blessed that the pandemic was receding in this country, and we were vaccinated. It was the trip I needed right now.

I was 10 years old the last time I was in Yellowstone. It was a family trip through so many beautiful parks and places. I remember the bison and Old Faithful. Yellowstone is so much more, and it did not disappoint. Yellowstone spans 2 million acres, and its vastness is captivating. The landscapes will take your breath away. The bison and other animals in their natural habitat are also so inviting. It isn’t easy to fully describe what we experienced. The many pictures we took do not even do the place justice. The same can be said of Glacier National Park. Although more remote and less crowded, it did not disappoint. Another “must-see” national park to put on your bucket list.

As I reflect on just how wonderful the trip was, I recall the feeling of wonder. The Great Outdoors often does that to me. I am just in awe when I see such profound beauty and vastness. It makes me feel small, yet enlarges my mind at the same time. I truly needed this time away. The past year and a half have been grueling. The challenge of the pandemic, along with the stresses that naturally occur, have worn us down. Rejuvenation is needed so desperately by so many. I saw so much joy on the faces of those who were in both parks. Park attendance is way up – and I know why. Most of us are longing to be out again. On this trip, I was reminded just how much I missed pre-COVID life.

What struck me was the joy I saw within so many people. Their faces reflected the natural beauty of those parks. It seemed to restore my well-being. The days were long and full of walking, hiking, and just being present. The lack of WiFi and mobile phone coverage was liberating. To be with others, including family, and to be released for a few days from all the worries was such a gift.

I encourage you to find ways to reconnect with the Great Outdoors. There is so much beauty all around us, especially here in New York State. Take some time away to rejuvenate. This break will help you prepare for the journey ahead. Our recovery is already rapid and will likely continue. We will need the strength that recovery requires. I know I need it. I bet you do too.

Finally, I know we are blessed in this country to have access to vaccines. I see how the rest of the world is struggling and desiring to have more freedom and security. We are starting to see the impact of the vaccines and how it has given us a renewed independence. I urge our community to continue to get everyone vaccinated who can. It gives us the best chance of regaining the freedoms that we once had before the pandemic.