A Summer in the Parks: The Art of Exploration

I spent my summer in a burgundy minivan rolling around the hills of New Hampshire, stopping at every state park I could find. It was incredible. Traveling alone to new destinations and trying to capture their beauty through the lens of my camera taught me a lot about what it means to “enjoy the outdoors.”

In June, my goal for the summer was to get off the beaten path, to explore the roads less traveled. I would like to think I accomplished just that, but to an extent, my goal shifted. As the weeks went by, I met more and more travelers, and I began to understand a little bit more about what nature meant to them. So I began to ask more questions. I wanted to learn more about how these public lands were being used and loved by the people who visited them. 

I had some anxieties at first, going up to strangers and asking for pictures. But I got over it when I realized it could segway into a conversation about why they were on that particular trail or beach in the first place. I began to hear stories about generations of families camping in the same sites at Pawtuckaway or newlyweds visiting Monadnock for the first time. I met folks who were 1,500 miles in on the Appalachian Trail and others who were hiking for the first time. All of their journeys were unique, some just beginning and others winding down. These parks have crafted memories for so many adventurers, and the granite state will always be a part of their relationship with the outdoors.

Meeting all of these people and seeing snippets of their lives led to more realizations than I can fit in this blog post, but I am most grateful for how it made me examine my own relationship with the outdoors. What does enjoying the land and exploring the wild mean to me? It’s a question worth asking.

I went on every hike, every overnight, every kayak trip, alone. I like to consider myself an outdoorswoman, but solitude is something I have never encountered in the wild before this summer. Most of my time outdoors has been spent with sisters, friends, and family. Being alone in the forests of New Hampshire had me reconsidering everything I thought I understood about how I occupied space in nature. I started to slow down. It will always be an unfinished journey, learning how to appreciate my place in the order of all things, but New Hampshire showed me a little bit about enjoying the art of exploration – even if I’m exploring all by myself.


Sophia Hartley

I am a senior at the University of Chicago, and I am thrilled to be interning with the State Parks this summer. As I explore New Hampshire’s parks, I will be sharing my experiences through the blog! My goal is to get off the beaten path and encourage others to explore parks they might not have realized hold their next adventure.

2 thoughts to “A Summer in the Parks: The Art of Exploration”

  1. A lot of self discovery, too! Nature can do that! Lots of wonderful blogs regarding your season there! You whet our appetites to explore state parks and enjoy God’s creation! Thank you!

  2. Sophie, you are a very talented writer and photographer… and also a very adventurous young woman. Keep thriving no matter what you are doing. This summer should make an interesting chapter in the autobiography you’ll probably write some day! I’ve so enjoyed hearing about your New Hampshire summer.
    Lots of love, Great Aunt Didi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *