One major part of the national parks that surround us are the people that frequent them. While visiting Lassen Volcanic, I had the pleasure of speaking with one such person, John McHugh. A traveller from Vermont, McHugh recently finished grad school and decided to pack his bag, drive west, and explore the beauty that the National Park Service has to offer.
Using his National Park Annual Pass, McHugh had already visited several national parks. Of these, the Badlands National Park in South Dakota stood out to him. He described the Badlands as “the start of the West” because everything he had seen to the east had been “too flat”. Because of the contrast to this monotonous landscape, the Badlands Wall alleviated McHugh of his despondence. Standing tall above its surroundings, the Badlands Wall could be easily seen throughout the park.
After stopping in South Dakota, McHugh made his way through Wyoming. He had passed by Devil’s Tower, the butte in eastern Wyoming widely known for its status as a national monument. Although he marveled at this monolith, McHugh noted that the panoply of climbers took away from its appeal. Continuing westward, he stopped at Yellowstone National Park, the inceptive national park. He had passed through the Shoshone Forest and his favorite stop, the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. He was especially fond of this region because of his infatuation with mountains. “The mountains here were something Tolkien would dream of” McHugh said. “It was the first time I had seen mountains with snow up close like that.”
When I spoke to him, McHugh had just started his adventure in California. I met him as he was strapping his boots for the first time in Lassen National Park. He told me he planned to stop by all nine national parks in the state, such as Death Valley and Yosemite.