People often think the most beautiful places in the world are somewhere far away. Exotic locales teeming with venomous beasts. It’s not always so. In reality, some of the coolest places you’ll ever find are the hidden gems in your backyard. It’s a point which the National Park Foundation hopes to highlight with their #FindYourPark initiative, and they’re doing it in the absolute coolest way.
With the help of celebrity ambassadors, the foundation is hitting the nation’s lesser known parks. Everyone knows Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, but what about the 415 other parks and monuments? When do they get love?
If you think that number sounds a little high, I’m right there with you. I had no idea there were so many national parks — but the idea excited me. So when the opportunity was presented to go on an adventure with Derek Hough, of Dancing with the Stars fame, I said “yes.” Actually my exact words were “Hell yes.”
Check out the sand above? Idyllic, right? Throughout our day together, Derek posted pictures on his Instagram story and people asked him “Where are you? Bahamas? Cancun?” Those seem like fair guesses. In pictures, it sure looks like we’re on some majestic island in a foreign country. Nope. In reality we’re just 47 miles outside of Chicago, in Porter, Indiana. The spot is Indiana’s best kept secret — The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which really shouldn’t be anyone’s “best kept a secret” anymore, because it’s absolutely stunning.
Before our adventure began, Derek and I met with park rangers and he expressed his love for National Parks and the outdoors. Growing up in boy scouts and exploring Utah with his dad, it was only right that he found a way to be a part of the #FindYourPark movement.
“Being in the entertainment industry, being on stage and touring, you’re very much in a dressing room or a tour bus and it feels sorta enclosed,” he said. “So for me, the outdoors is exactly what I need to get grounded, to put things in perspective. It humbles me. I just love nature so much.”
His words encapsulated how I felt too. How I think many of us feel. But we forget it. It’s so easy to slide into living a life indoors, in front of screens.