Wow has it been a stressful, crazy, wild, knowledge filled, finishing a thesis, starting a language, kind of year. For a while there I wasn’t sure I would even make it through to this point. Writing a thesis was not an easy matter. Somehow in some way I got that completion letter on the last available day at around 2pm with a 5pm deadline. PHEW! It was the two people I chose to work with as my advisors that really pushed me to the end of that one, and all I can do is shout to the skies my sincere appreciation that they would take the time to help me out the way they did. The end of one chapter led to a whirlwind adventure through Ireland, Scotland, the Faroe Islands, Denmark, and Iceland. As quickly as my time on the road ended it was straight back to school and on to a new and more challenging school, learning a foreign language.

I mean seriously, what have I gotten myself into?! I’m not entirely sure but it’s going to be a long nine months learning Indonesian! All that aside, my top 10 instagram photos bring me great joy, but also some sadness because of all the ups and downs that have occured this year. One of the biggest downs for me over this past year was when the Trump administration decided to take away National Park Service and National Monument Lands, and put them up for bidding. This needs to be addressed immediately. So first, the photos, and second, what we can do to fight for our lands, to protect our lands, and to ensure that these lands are safe and secured for wildlife and also generations to come.

10. Honorable Mention Skellig Michael, Ireland

With the new Star Wars movie that just came out, I could hardly contain my excitement to see the Skellig Islands on a clear day this past October. Especially with how rare good seas and clear skies are in Portmagee, Ireland, a tiny town off of the Kerry Ring Road. When I watch this video, I can’t believe that I took it with my iPhone. Although I did not get to climb the 670 steps to the top, I had an amazing day getting up close and personal with this place. It might not actually be my number 10, but my blog, my rules :).

9. Kickin it at Horseshoe Bend

It warms my heart that 7 of my top ten instagram photos come from National Parks and Nature. This one of Horseshoe Bend is just amazing because Horseshoe Bend is absolutely amazing. Can you believe that a place like this is brought about by nature. This is all the more reason why we need to protect pieces of nature like this, especially for future generations.

8. Ski Ski Ski! Zermatt Switzerland

Well, I’ll say it a thousand times if I have to, Zermatt Switzerland holds a very special place in my heart, if you love skiing, you should visit. This was my second trip there. 🙂

7. Antelope Canyon, Paige Arizona

Antelope Canyon is owned by Native Americans, and the combination of smooth canyon carved by water and sunlight at high noon combines to make everything that unicorns are.

6. Artsy Fartsy in San Francisco

If you are ever in San Francisco and in need of something to do, a visit to the Palace of Fine Arts is a lovely way to spend the afternoon. Even if just stopping by the grounds.

5. Snow in Bryce Canyon National Park

This National Park is a definitely under rated in my option, probably because it is oh so very close to Mt. Zion, which we know is a spectacular place, but Bryce Canyon is definitely worth a stop on the list. I am so glad we were able to fit it into our schedule.

4. Bourbon and Mountains, Monument Valley

Ahhh, who doesn’t love a sip of after dinner borboun in the outdoors with food that was cooked on the fire. Now that is the end to a perfect evening. Night caps for days!

3. Sitting on the Edge of Cliffs, Havasupai Grand Canyon

A weekend with which the memories I rely on heavily. It was a blur of a weekend, full of meeting 34 other girls for the first time, hiking into the Grand Canyon, being stunned and amazed by nature around every turn, and undertaking the arduous process of healing wounds that I thought might never be fixed. This place, the people I met on this trip, combined to provide to provide just the medicine needed. That is the power of nature, and I will fight for it always.

2. More Bryce Canyon Fo Sho

As I said, Bryce Canyon is underrated, but it made my top 10 twice, so stop by and have a look for yourself, you will not be disappointed.

1. WVU Reppin at the top of Angel’s Landing, Mount Zion

My number 1 photo of 2017 was taken at the top of Angel’s Landing in Mt. Zion national Park. It also supports my Alma Mater, so two awesome things rolled all into one!

For the matter at hand, you may already know this, but the National Park Service was created in 1916 to secure land for future generations. Because it means something. You may also know that the first National Park was established as Yellowstone National Park in 1872, before the National Park Service, which was founded by our 26th president Theodore Roosevelt. Unfortunately, the powers given to the president concerning National Parks are vague, but with implications that the president would never begin to take and cede land under established National Park and National Monument Lands.

So that means things like reducing the size of Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase Escalate by nearly 2 million acres combined, WTF. How could that possibly be beneficial to future generations? Don’t these lands deserve more decency than just being sold off to the highest bidder? I certainly think so. That’s why it’s time to stand up and fight and protect our lands! The first step is to see what is already being done.

Upon the issue of the Executive Order, the CEO of Patagonia issued a letter to explain the reasons why the company would be fighting the presidential order and why it was unconstitutional. There is also a full explanation of what we can do to help on the website: Wilderness Society. I’m not asking you to donate any money unless you want to, but I am asking you to write to your congressman and tell him all the reasons why you think that we should protect and save our National Parks and National Monuments, and secure our wildernesses for the preservation of wildlife and for future generations.

Opening up National Park lands to oil drilling is unconstitutional and a mere piece of paper does not change a thing in my opinion. If this issue is constantly attacked by those of us who believe in the National Park Service, then maybe together we can keep this issue in court long enough that an auction or bidding of these lands never occurs.

I intend to be one voice that sees this through. I stand along everyone who believes that this land is our land, and it’s protection is of utmost importance.

So enjoy ringing in the New Year, drink to your favorite moments and cherish all the things the lord has provided, but also know that the battle has just begun and 2018 is the time to speak up, to make your voice heard, and to fight for what you believe. I’m right here, pen (or computer) in hand, ready.

This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.