A lot of things changed that summer. Let’s take it back to 2008, when things may have seemed more simple, easier, but for me, it wasn’t. Sure, I was the typical teenager who did not really understand what it meant to have all the responsibilities I have now. But everyone has a past and everyone has been through difficult times. That was that time. I could go through the painful memories and make myself sound so brave, make my family sound so brave, but it is not about that. Truth is, we were all terrified.

During the summer of two thousand eight, my family and I went to Bryce National Park. It was the summer after my freshman year. We made a trip of it, a trip to see different national parks, as this is something all four of us enjoy to do as a family. We revisited one of my favorite places in this universe, the Grand Canyon. We also saw Zion National Park, Lake Powell, Salt Lake City, and Bryce National Park. Bryce immediately spoke to me. It spoke to my heartbreak, my darkest fears, my dreams. It spoke to my spirit. When I looked out upon the vast landscape, covered in the most vibrant red and orange hues I have ever seen, I knew I would never experience anything like it again. It was almost as if anything that was troubling me, anything that was hurting me, did not matter. At least not for a little bit. That trip meant so much to me because it gave me hope for something better. My mind dreamt of all the things I could accomplish, knew I would accomplish in the future. And I have, and still am.

Bryce National Park has several lookout points, perfectly named Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point. And that is exactly what Bryce is for me. It is the sunrise and sunset of national parks. It fills me with inspiration, passion, and gratitude.

I have a perfect memory. I spotted this beautiful grey tree, spiraling every which way. Trees always looking different, no matter where you travel. They have their own identity. This tree had no leaves, it was bare, but still looked vibrant and healthy. As if it was happy to be there just like I was. My brother and I have a picture with the tree, entwined in the branches, as if we belonged there. It is still one of my favorite photos. I do not know why that moment meant so much to me, but it still does.

When I stood at the edge of Bryce, with the wind whipping around me, birds soaring high above me, and the sun covering me in a warm blanket, the air smelled fresher. Being able to look out upon a landscape and be able to see for miles and miles is something very special to me. Nothing binds me. Nothing gets in the way.

I believe that the places we travel to, places we call home, and places we wish to see one day, shape who we are. We carry those destinations with us. Bryce changed me in a definite way. It gave me hope and happiness when I was struggling to find it. The beauty and uniqueness of this place left me in awe. It is hard to explain in words what Bryce looks like, or what it does to me, to anyone. But that is the beauty of it. I do not have to explain the impact it had on me, because I know it was real. I have an everlasting connection with that beautiful place. And one day, I will be able to go back and reminisce on those memories, and feel that connection once more.