my 30th birthday / by Maranie Staab

late friday night, august 19th, i brought in my 30th birthday at joshua tree national park. as the clock ticked midnight i was on top of an enormous boulder, staring up at the night sky, so dark that the milky way seemed to be within reach.

i slept out under the stars that night and woke thankful to be 30. over the course of the past two weeks, ive covered 7451 miles of road stretching from pittsburgh to the west coast.

i saw the badlands, jumped from a cliff in the grand tetons, hiked nearly 20 miles to sit on top of a mountain in glacier national park, drove the back roads of countless small towns, saw the beauty of mount rainier and crater national and stood in awe at the vastness of yosemite.

i got a tattoo in venice beach, watched the sun set into the pacific ocean, drove the 101 down the oregon coast and spent 12 hours alone with the giant redwoods. along the way, i have been touched by fortuitous encounters with strangers that led me down paths that i could not have previously planned or imagined. i saw a few old friends and made just as many new ones; for all of this, i am grateful. 
it is hard to articulate what this type of trip does for the mind, body and soul, but there is something about unfettered, solo travel that is both cleansing and renewing. 
i drove 20 hours yesterday arriving back to pittsburgh at 5 in the morning exhausted, sunburned but feeling lighter than when i had left. over the next week or so ill be taking a break from sharing the type of work that i usually do to share some images from the past few weeks, many taken in our countries, treasured national parks. this photos is an image of my campsite at joshua tree taken that night, shortly after midnight.