National Parks

As the National Parks Service nears its centennial, it is reaching out to people to find their park. They’ve started a hashtag campaign and are encouraging people to explore. Les and I have always loved state and national parks, we had state passes in Oregon and New York, but here in Arizona that just doesn’t cut it (plus they don’t offer one) so we went with a national pass. We purchased it in December of 2014 and it had paid for itself by March.

Les and I have been to dozens of national parks, monuments, historical sites, preserves, forests, seashores, and recreation areas. And in them we’ve experienced some amazing things. I don’t think I could do what the park service is asking and pick a single park, so I’ve decided to share some of our best moments on federal public lands. This is by no means all, just some of the best.

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed — chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. … It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods — trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries … God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools — only Uncle Sam can do that.

– John Muir, Our National Parks, (1901) chapter 10.


We have seen some breathtaking natural sights.

Sunset at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. There are colors that you can only see in the desert sky after it rains.
Another amazing color I’d never seen before, the blue of the deepest lake in the country. I know this looks like a photoshop, but Crater Lake really is THAT blue.
Nothing in the entire world can compare to the silence one hears while standing inside a redwood that is more than 1,000 years old. And standing at the base of them is a unique and incredible experience.
There are few things that compare to seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, but I’ve recently discovered that seeing it at night, under a full moon, is pretty close.

While that is just a small sampling of the natural beauty we’ve seen at National Parks, we’ve also had some amazing experience that connected us with the past, recent and ancient.

On our way home from our honeymoon, Les and I found ourselves at Chaco Culture National Historical Park. We didn’t plan it, but we loved it. And we’ve been learning about ancient Americans and visiting ruins and cultural sites ever since.
Petroglyphs at V Bar V Heritage Site, not a national park, but on forest service land, and I think any federally protected site is worth celebrating.
Wukoki Pueblo Ruins at Wupatki National Monument, it’s amazing to walk around ruins like this and imagine how people lived in this place, but how different it must have been.

And it’s not just ancient history, I’ve also been awed by national parks that tie me into recent history.

I truly left my heart in San Francisco, and the historic forts and (of course) the Golden Gate Bridge of the Presidio were truly remarkable.
It’s not just the west coast that makes me stare in awe. If I didn’t love San Francisco so much, Boston would definitely have my heart. Walking the Freedom Trail in Boston really put us in touch with American history.
One of the most interesting, and educational, parks Les and I have ever visited, is also one of the newest. César E. Chávez National Monument was an incredible experience.

I could make this post 10 times as long, with as many photos, but my point is the National Parks Service and other government agencies that protect our natural and cultural and historical resources are vital, and should be supported. The government doesn’t do everything right, but they do this, and it matters a great deal.

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