Our National Parks...Just Go
We love, love, love, love, love our National Parks. We love their beauty, obviously. But I also love how well maintained they are. I love how well planned they are. I love the dedication of the people who work at National Parks. Am I getting across how much we love National Parks?
When I was younger, my mom shared that after her inevitable demise she’d like her ashes spread throughout the National Parks. She envisioned my dad and her kids traveling to all of the National Parks and distributing a bit of her at every one. My first thought as a kid was, “Ew mom, kinda gross.” My second thought was, “You want to be cremated? I never knew.” My third thought was, “You’re expecting me to travel around the country with my siblings, for like months, to distribute your ashes? WE won’t survive the trip either.” In short, I didn’t quite get it. Now I do. My mom loves, loves, loves, loves, loves the National Parks. Mom and Dad took us to many throughout our years growing up. Glacier, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountains…and we grew up in Michigan, so they were dedicated to seeing these places given the fact that they had to be confined in a vehicle with small children for long stretches of time…wait for it…without technologic devices to keep us busy. Shocking, I know.
Impressively, my husband can share similar stories about his mom and dad too. They still talk about their month-long trip “out West” with a sparkle in their eye, telling stories about their dad making them take a bath, head-to-toe, in a glacier-fed river. The cold shock could've killed them, but it didn’t, and they lived to have the memory and continue to tell the story.
Lassen National Park, Pinnacles National Park, and Yosemite National Park
Anyway, I share this because I now realize that our parents impressed upon us this love for traveling across the US, and in particular, our love for visiting our National Parks in the process. They are beautiful, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring. I'm sure you can read plenty of travel blogs that go on and on about the beauty of each park, including mine of course, but I want to point out the aspects that maybe others don’t or maybe don’t fully appreciate.
First, our National Parks are immaculately maintained. Their grounds, facilities, gardens, trails, buildings, signs, roads, overlooks, maps, campsites, restrooms…everything is so well cared for. And not just clean, but they look good and are in working order. There is no peeling paint, or damaged sign, or crumbling wall. You can tell from the moment you enter the park that you’ve crossed the boundary into a National Park. No question. It is almost mystical in fact.
Second, our National Parks are so well thought out. They have considered everything…the website, the locations and number of entry booths, the traffic patterns, the need for free bus service and the hours to run the bus service, the locations of restrooms, the location of the signs, the best trail routes, the types of restaurants…everything. It is a well-oiled machine with the goal being that you thoroughly enjoy your stay and experience the grandeur of the park.
Finally, I cannot speak enough about those who work in the National Parks. From the park rangers to the person working the cash register at the gift shop…they are lovely. The park rangers are an immeasurable wealth of knowledge and their dedication to their park is evident. Seek them out. Chat them up. Take a ranger hike or walk. They are so happy to share and I promise you will learn some tidbit of fun fact about the park that isn’t written in any of the travel brochures. Everyone you encounter who works at the park is a pleasure. We met a woman working the cash register at the gift shop in the North Grand Canyon whose husband also now worked at the park. They both left their jobs to travel to the National Parks and work in any capacity the park needed. I never question the dedication of those who are employed in any aspect of the National Park. Thank you for your service.
These days, there's a lot of talk about closing National Parks, I can only say...keep them open, and even create more! We have such beautiful places in this country to see, places that need to be preserved for generations to enjoy, create memories in, and pass those memories on to their children. Go visit them, and visit often!
If you’ve gleaned nothing else from this rambling, take away this…if you’re considering visiting a National Park, if it’s ever crossed your mind, if you happened to notice that during your drive to some other destination you could stop at a National Park along the way…GO. You won’t regret it. You will be so impressed. You will be so thankful that you did, I promise.
Check out: https://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm