There are few things that we take for granted more than our sight. Even looking at the images in this blog is a gift that some people are not lucky enough to enjoy. One intrepid roadtripper, Laura Griffith, definitely doesn’t take her eyesight for granted… because she’s slowly losing it. But, before she goes totally blind, she’s out to see as much as she can by visiting every National Park in the continental US. Lancaster Online profiled Laura on her journey and the hardships of traveling with impaired vision.
Laura was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative ocular disease, when she was just 18. Her vision has slowly been fading ever since– it gradually causes night blindness, light sensitivity, and a shrinking field of vision. She’s 64 now, and though her vision is severely impaired, she’s still eager to make the most of what she has left. She and her husband Gordon started their mission to visit all of the National Parks (in the continental US) a few years ago. He was talking about his eagerness to retire and spend more time traveling to National Parks… and her response was “ ‘You’re going to wait and take me to the national parks, and what, you’re going to describe them to me?’ ”
Instead of waiting to retire, the couple started taking seven-week trips, hitting as many parks along the way as possible. They’ve visited about 35 so far, leaving about 20 left to see. They started with Isle Royale National Park, and have hit Big Bend, Channel Islands, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, Theodore Roosevelt, and scores more along the way.
According to the article, her favorite park so far has been Crater Lake. You need only see a small glimpse of the vast, deep blue lake to get the effect of how serene and calm the place is. She’s also learning that most of the parks can stand to be a little more accessible to the visually impaired. While she has an app on her phone that can read the text on signs out loud, but she wishes more of the films shown in park visitor centers had audio description. She also wishes that more visually impaired travelers would get out and explore.
The fact that her vision is slowly but steadily disappearing is both a blessing and a curse; it gives her time to visit all of the parks, but her views of the parks aren’t fully clear. That’s where her husband comes in; he’s the trip planner, the driver, and the guide, and he always makes sure to describe everything they’re seeing in detail to help her focus in on the scenery. Colors appear faded, her depth perception is off, and the edges of her field of vision are disappearing, but she’s able to see some. And, of course, there’s more to parks than just the scenery.
“Even if you can’t see, you can hear the mud pots and smell the sulfur and hear the water as you ride down the Grand Canyon,” she says. “There’s so much you can do. And if you have any vision at all, you can see those sweeping views. Or you can see small spots.” –Lancaster Online
Of course, she sometimes regrets not starting her journey sooner… but every time she does, she reminds herself, “This is the best vision I will have for the rest of my life, so I had better appreciate it and use it.”
More incredible National Parks…