America’s best kept secret- Our National Parks!
Updated: Oct 20
America’s National Parks are in the news this year because 2016 marks their 100 years of existence. For me, however, they have always held a special place- in my heart, in my annual travel plans, and as one of my lifetime goals. My goal is to visit all 59 (as of 2016) of this country’s national parks during my lifetime.
Some relevant statistics and facts are:
The National Park Service is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The National Park System covers more than 84 million acres.
It is comprised of 413 different sites with at least 19 different designations.
These designations include 128 historical parks, 84 national monuments, 59 national parks, 25 battlefields or military parks, 19 preserves, 18 recreational areas, 10 seashores, 4 parkways, 4 lakeshores, and two reserves.
Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 as the nation’s (and the world’s) first national park.
According to the US National Park Services (nps.org) website; since 1916, the National Park Service with the help of volunteers and partners cater to more than 275 million visitors every year.
What attracts me to national parks?
I am not really sure if one can codify the feeling one gets being in nature. I think the best quote that sums it up for me is this one from John Muir, the founder of Sierra Club and the man instrumental in the creation of the national park system. It is:
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
I like that visiting a national park takes me away from everything artificial, that you can see, and hear, and admire birds and animals, that you can smell and breathe fresh air, that you can work up a sweat in the most pleasant manner possible by hiking through and in nature, that you don’t have wifi but are more connected than ever with yourself and your surroundings. That last quote, by the way, was something I read recently when I visited a state park in upstate NY.
List of National Parks I have visited and one line memory of it:
I decided to write this blog because I myself wanted to have a list to refer to of all the parks visited and the ones that remain to be stamped. I thought it would be a good trip down memory lane and also be a good inspiration for the future. I promise to update it every year but here’s the list for now:
Since I wrote this blog, I have visited a few more national parks. Here's my 2-3 lines memory notes on those:
Hot Springs National Park-Located sort of in the middle of the country, is one of the oldest national parks. As per online sources, "It is an urban park featuring a historic row of early 20th-century bathhouses built atop natural hot springs." It's very accessible and yet you do feel you are at a national park.
Smoky Mountains National Park- Considered by NP authorities as one of the top 10 most visited national parks in the country, it derives it nom de plume from the smoke/vapor released from all the surrounding vegetation. It's a stunningly beautiful park and just outside the periphery there always seems to be a carnival atmosphere including the famous Dollywood theme park.
Death Valley National Park- As the name suggests, at first, there is very scant visual evidence of life. Mostly what you see is flatlands with maybe some minor minute plants trying to force a living. But, it comes alive in the fall and at night, which is when I visited it. The sunset I saw on my drive to this park remains one of my most cherished.
Bryce Canyon National Park-Same year and within a week of visiting Death Valley, I got to visit this park known for its crimson-colored hoodoos. They are spire-shaped rock formations that cover the entire park. Visit when they are snow capped or when different shades of brown; both are spectacular. Staying just one night in the park we got to experience both seasons.
Olympic National Park- I particularly enjoyed staying in the park. We got to wake up next to crescent lake and go on hikes with beautiful names like 'Moments in time.' My favorite memory of the park was definitely visiting the rocky and wild pacific coast followed by the moss heaven in Hoh Forest. A true treasure.
Redwood National Park- every time I visited CA over the years, I wanted to go visit this national park but it was a 5-6 hours drive from SFO. I finally did it in 2023 and that too with a 10 montg old baby in tow. Very brave and stupid decision in hind sight..but enjoyed it nevertheless. I remember looking up in awe at these tall and majestic trees and even giving them many hugs.
Dry Tortugas National Park- Now that I live in Florida, I feel it's my duty to visit all the national parks within the state. We recently went to this beautiful and hard to get to park; 70 miles boat ride off of Key West. Green, blue, turquoise, emerald; one place but so many different water colors. It was only for a few hours but did its magic. We left feeling happy, satisfied, and so much more in love with national parks.
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