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Mountain Home

Although I’ve always lived in relatively flat places in the Mid-Atlantic region, something about the western mountains just feels like home. On long road trips, the first glimpse of the mountains after days of travel across flat plains sparked gasps of delight. My family spent many happy hours hiking in the Rockies, tossing pebbles into rushing streams, and spotting wildflowers, birds, and mountain animals such as elk, marmots, and bighorn sheep.  

This summer, our first glimpse of the mountains after a long westward drive came near Taos, New Mexico. I pulled the car over and paused a few minutes to absorb it, stepping out to smell the sweet scent of Ponderosa pine. “Nothing like it, is there?” noted a fellow driver who had stopped for the same purpose. Nothing indeed.

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Nothing like the mountains

Taos seems just a bit enchanted. The area attracts artists, independent thinkers, and lovers of the outdoors. Earthships, an off-the-grid settlement, occupies acres of land on the Taos Mesa. Its name hints at the otherworldly feeling of peering at pods tucked into the desert like a settlement on some faraway planet. A few miles away from Earthships, we stayed overnight on the mesa in a funky domed house, gazing at the stars and dreaming of those other worlds.

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Domed house in New Mexico

The next morning, more up-and-down miles brought us to Moab, Utah, where dramatic land formations characterize Arches National Park. Years ago, I’d read Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, which details his time as a park ranger at Arches. I’d worried about the human destruction of Arches after reading the book, but for now, the park seems to be managing its visitors wisely. In our experience, park guests seemed to respect the trails, content to marvel at the gravity-defying sandstone arches without feeling the need to desecrate them.

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Double Arch at Arches National Park

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Turret Arch

At last, after nine days of driving from Maryland, we reached our destination, Salt Lake City, our home base for the summer. Cool summer nights perfect for runs and bike rides in Liberty Park, friendly local people, inviting coffeeshops and restaurants, and the ever-present Wasatch Mountains just a short distance away: all of these are enough to make a place feel just like home.

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At home in Utah

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Summer adventures

These last few nights, there’s enough crisp in the air that we can sit out on the porch, watching the sun set behind the crape myrtle. Teachers returned to school last week to prepare for the school year. Our school population has grown enough to merit a huge addition, and over half of the staff moved to new digs, including me. My new office is small and bright, and desperately in need of some wall décor and plant life. Summer is nearly over, and oh, what a summer it was!

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My new office, looking spartan.

 The day after students finished, when most teachers were still finishing up with packing and submitting grades, I was on a plane to Orlando to attend the Korean War Veterans Digital History Teachers’ Conference. So soon after the tragic events in Orlando, I couldn’t help but connect current events to the historical ones we learned about at the conference. Thoughts of lives cut short, of divisions and community, of tremendous bravery and selflessness…the highlight of the conference was the opportunity to speak to several Korean War veterans, now in their 80s, and hear their stories.

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Memorial to the Pulse Victims, Orlando

 

Later in the summer, I spent ten days on a grand sweep of the Southwestern United States with my husband and stepsons.

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Zion National Park

 

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The Narrows at Zion

 

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Bryce Canyon National Park

 

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Bryce Canyon

 

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Mesa Verde National Park

 

 

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Pueblo Cultural Center, Albuquerque

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ABQ Biopark, Albuquerque

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The Grand Canyon

 

 

 

 The best part of the journey was seeing through the eyes of my stepsons many of the same places that had captivated me as a young child. My parents had the wisdom and endurance to crisscross the country multiple times with three young children in a station wagon, toting a pop up camper. As the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary, I remember the diverse and beautiful places I had the opportunity to see as a child and an adult.

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First time visiting the Grand Canyon

 

 And now I start a new school year with a continued commitment to bring the world to our students, with same can-do spirit that my parents embraced over 30 years ago. Here’s to a year full of adventure, discovery, and joy!