Lake Oconee Dentistry - March 2019

The MONTHLY Smile

706-453-1333 www.LakeOconeeDental.com

MY LOVE FOR THE GREAT OUTDOORS MARCH 2019 How a Backpacking Trip Changed My Life!

On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone National Park opened its gates for the first time. In addition to providing vegetation and wildlife with a safe place to flourish, this national park provides over 4 million visitors hundreds of trails to explore each year. In honor of this park’s 147th anniversary, I wanted to talk about my love for hiking and the role that the great outdoors has played in my life since I was a little girl.

One of my most memorable early experiences was a family trip to Yellowstone. When I was in elementary

school, my parents planned a six-week vacation out west so that we could enjoy scenery that was different than what we were accustomed to back east. I remember spending four days adventuring through the national park and being taken with the sheer number of animals that had made homes for themselves there. In fact, on my last day, I saw my first and only grizzly bear, an encounter that I found immensely exciting. While my experiences as a young girl fueled my fascination with nature, a backpacking trip I took to Patagonia in 2014 stands out as the best outdoor experience I’ve ever had. To celebrate my completion of dental school, my mom and I planned a five-day trek through the Chilean mountains. We signed up as part of a group of 10 people. We all spent the day hiking through the breathtaking landscape during the day and slept in tents under the stars at night. Then we did it all over again the next day! People who have had the good fortune to travel to Patagonia, and those who have merely seen photos, regard the scenery as some of the most beautiful in the world. Even though I had spent months preparing for the trip and had a fair idea of what to expect from the hikes, I could never have imagined how enchanting the location would actually be. The views were seriously incredible. In addition to enjoying the landscape, the relationships I was able to forge with the other members of our group added to an already great experience. Of the 10 hikers, my mom and I were the only two

from the United States. Spending every second together for five days allowed us to get to know one another in a very personal way. I got to learn so much about various cultures, and in doing so, I realized all the small enjoyments I was taking for granted in my own country. While this trip gave me unforgettable memories, the best part of the adventure was getting to share it with my mom. This marked the first trip she and I were able to take with just the two of us, and I will always hold the special time we spent together dear to my heart.

I still make time to hike today because, honestly, it’s my favorite form of relaxation. Whether it’s been a chaotic day at work or at home, hiking gives me an opportunity to take a breath of fresh air — both literally and figuratively — and clear my mind. I’ve even started bringing my daughter along on my trips. She’s too young to do any hiking on her own quite yet, but I carry her in a backpack, and she gets to enjoy the view. Sharing these experiences with her the same way I shared them with my own mother has only made me enjoy the great outdoors even more. I can’t wait for more adventures!

–Dr. Andrea

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