Looking Back and Giving Thanks

“Life is measured in moments, not days.” I love this quote. It speaks to me on so many levels, not only in my personal life, but also as a great objective for what we do in state parks.  As we approach the holiday season, there is much to be thankful for: family, friends, good health and special moments from a very busy 2015.  The holiday season is a great time to reflect on the year coming to a close while anticipating the possibilities for a new year that is only a few weeks away.  I thought in this month’s column I would take a look at the year in review and rather than highlight the activities and events of the year, focus on the moments that made this a most memorable year. 

My year started off on the right foot with not one but two First Day Hikes with lots of state park friends!  We did a great promotion called “Phind Phil” where visitors received a prize if they spotted me on their First Day Hike and took a “selfie” with me. Now that was a moment and a great conversation starter for sure!  It’s a moment that I plan on repeating on January 1st 2016. After that, the year took off, as the opportunities for moments in state parks are abundant.  I’ll try to keep it short and limit myself to the moments that made 2015 a trip.  

Many of you know I love to hike, but hiking in the snow with your best friend, college roommate and best man from your wedding (just one person!) to a frozen waterfall at Oconee Station was quite an experience. It was a great hike for sure, but it was also a “moment” that will be etched in my memory for a long time. Then there was the archaeology dig at Hampton Plantation. There, we felt the presence of history and talked to descendants of the enslaved individuals who lived in the very dwellings that we were uncovering. It was moving, amazing and it was definitely a moment. 

There were the trips to parks with Mrs. Gaines and our dear friends that want to become Ultimate Outsiders and have “Ranger Phil” as their tour guide! We went off to discover the Palmetto State through state parks, laughing and solving the world’s problems along the way.  Most important was making memories and creating opportunities to get our books stamped.

One of those opportunities was paddling the Catawba River at Landsford Canal in the peak of lily season and watching the faces of friends who had never experienced the lilies. We found the perfect spot to rest our kayaks on the rocky shoals- the same ones the lilies get their name from- and climbed out of the kayaks, stepping into the middle of one of nature’s best performances. Exclamations over the beauty of the lilies flew as frequently as the red winged blackbirds we saw among them. Taking in that beauty with a special group of people was more than a memory, it was a moment. 

There was the first annual Father’s Day hike with my children. The hike I have called the best hike ever and the place where time stood still. I know it did, I was there and captured it in a photo. It was a moment I will always cherish. Then there was this summer directing traffic at Myrtle Beach State Park on the 4th of July and watching the team at Myrtle Beach handle crowds and make a difference on our nation’s birthday was a moment that I will remember forever.  

This September, South Carolina hosted the nation for the annual National Association of State Park Directors conference in my hometown of Greenville. What an amazing week showcasing South Carolina and our state parks! This, followed by a fall color season that seemed to last longer than in years past and a trip to the top of Table Rock with special friends and family for their first time… Now I’ve run out of time and space. A sure sign that 2015 was a great year!

My personal goal and wish for you is that 2016 is full of joy and special moments. Sometimes all we need are the right people and the right place to create that special moment.  I’m looking forward to the moments of 2016 and so thankful for all the moments of 2015. 


Happy Thanksgiving and, as always…
I’ll see you in the parks!

Phil