As a wee lad, one of my favorite books in the house was a fancy-looking National Geographic book called "National Parks of North America". I spent many afternoons flipping through all the pretty pictures and poring over the maps detailing the geography of each park, and at some point, I decided that I was going to visit all of the national parks in the USA.
I must have mentioned this idea to my parents a lot, and they must have figured that going outdoors more would be pretty fun, because I remember one day we suddenly had a tent, and I was so excited that I set it up in the backyard and slept there over the weekend. My first camping trip was to the local Anza-Borrego State Park over in the desert: we burned up in the daytime, and the ground swarmed with gigantic ants, but at night, the sky lit up with more stars than I'd ever seen, and I watched meteors zip by for hours. The sense of wonder from that alone was enough to wash away any negative experiences from earlier in the day.
As I got older, we went on a lot more trips to a lot more places (and we still do), each one only increasing my desire to see more. The exploration wasn't limited to major trips out of the city; on the weekends and during the summer, you could often find me biking around the trails in the hills and valleys around my house with my trusty yellow 21-gear Magna bike, or when it got too steep for that, bushwhacking my way up the mountains and down the canyons. San Diego was a really fantastic place to grow up; I didn't realize this until I left and suddenly I couldn't just escape the urban mess by walking down the street.
Anyways, it should come as no surprise that my thirst for nature is strong as ever. I discovered the wonders of backpacking with a pre-orientation trip into the Sierra Nevada, and I've done some major trips in a few locations since then. A thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail is in my serious plans for the near future, and vague fantasies like the Triple Crown of hiking and various circuits in Europe make their way into my head from time to time.
And what about the book that triggered it all? I haven't forgotten my original goal. There are a whole lot of national parks in the USA, and I'm slowly chipping away at them. Some of them, like Kobuk Valley and American Samoa, are going to take some effort, but the dream is alive and well...
In progress. If you see this, tell me to hurry up and get on it!