MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Happy 100th National Park Service

The National Park Service has turned 100 years old.  America's best idea has had a centennial.  They have inspired countless millions, as well as the entire world, showing why its important to preserve open space, and history and heritage for generations to come.  Today, the park service is over 413 pieces large; there are 59 parks (the biggest units), and hundreds of monuments, historic sites, memorials, lake/seashores, battlefields, wild/scenic rivers, trailways, etc.

As I explore the country, one of my priorities on my stops have always been seeking out and exploring our national heritage.  Some of my trips are planned specifically around some of the biggest parks, and other times, it is just a stop along the journey.  But no matter what, I know that I will walk away more aware for having visited.  It is always worth it. 

My love of natural parks began before I even knew what they were.  I remember my Nana and Pop-pop taking my sister and I to Sandy Hook to go crabbing.  We would swim out with the nets to help them bring the catch in, and then throw all the fish back before  they died while they gathered a few crabs.  I did not know we were in Gateway National Recreation Area... I just thought of it as the place we went swimming with our grandparents.  Likewise, growing up in Northern New Jersey, I lived just off the Delaware River... we used to swim in a tributary, and close by was a place with lots of amazing waterfalls and where the river cut through the mountains (Delaware Water Gap) ... we loved going there to enjoy the views.  And of course, to our east was the Statue of Liberty where we climbed into the crown before it was eventually closed many times... I was spoiled living so close to the city and pure nature. 

And that spoilage stays with me... I still want it all.  I find beauty in the city and in the country.  And when I travel, I like to find both.  National Parks are one way I do that.  They are everywhere - did you know there is at least one in everystate (as well as most territories).

I didn't start tracking my park visits via passport until recently.  Instead, I have my work cabinets
This is only one!
covered in magnets from parks I have been through since I started my "adult" life.  And my cameras have been very busy documents the beauty and splendor of the everything I have seen.  On this blog, I try keep my recent park visits listed... But I can't say I write about every one. 

Of course my "pie in the sky" goal is to visit all the units.  I just don't have the means to quit my job and do a cross country expedition like a few are documenting on Instagram, Twitter, and in the news.  Instead, I am doing what I can in pieces... and making progress.  According to my Passport app, I have been to 144 units thus far.  Not bad....if I do say so myself.

This year, I promised myself to make a dent in the list of "new".  And I started out strong - in January getting to the Outer Banks in NC to see the Wright Brothers and Fort Raleigh; there my boyfriend stayed in the visitor's center as I took to the trail in a pounding rain storm to see the art deco memorial, and once I returned soaked, we drove to the flight bronze sculpture.  I warmed my bones in February by returning to Southern Arizona to visit Saguaro National Park for sunset (I finally got to visit when I wasn't cooking my head); hiked to the southern border in Coronado National Memorial, and drove to the nearby historical mission Tumacacori.  Then I a cliff dwelling in Montezuma Castle and learned about endemic species at the Well.  Throughout the spring, I did a lot of local roadtrips to visit area parks - including Hopewell Furnace (once a thriving iron casting town) and Valley Forge in central Pennsylvania, Steamtown in Scranton PA marking the immense historical impact Steam engines had on shaping our country, discovered the Monocacy Battlefield and River in Maryland, tried to catch Kenilworth Gardens at peak bloom (missed it) and took some time for myself (and showing others around) the national mall! 

No DC summer is complete without Wolf Trap - the only National Park for the Performing Arts.  This is my favorite place in the summer.  As the Park Service asks us to #FindYourPark , I have taken that seriously.  I love going to our area gem Great Falls and hiking the river trail.  I love going on roadtrips and finding a new place to discover (its ridiculous that I still have not been to Prince William Forest Park yet).  And I love planning other excursions across the country to some huge gems.  But, if I was looking for THE PLACE to call my park, it just might be Wolf Trap!  It combines my love of the outdoors with my passion for the arts.  Where else could I see the National Symphony Orchestra one week, listen to the legend Tony Bennett another, soak in Kristen Chenoweth and her Broadway style belting, dance until my feet were tired with Ricky Martin and reminisce with Bryan Adams?  (and that is just who I saw this year) And the best part, Great Fall is right next door. So, if forced to pick, this might be it... but ask me again in a bit after I visit another park.

I have my wish list lined up. I have a few trips booked - a September long weekend at Mammoth Caves (and other areas sites) in Kentucky, a quick trip to Denver where I hope to make some time for a visit to Rocky Mountain (its been years since I was there), and Arkansas's Hot Springs in November.  My "very soon" list includes Lassen NP in California, Dry Tortugas NP in Florida (I still don't know how I keep missing that one), Patterson Falls - the new one in my home state of New Jersey, and of course, the parks in my last state, Hawaii (I will make it to Volcanoes very soon, I swear).  I have a few others, but my wallet is worried already...

Our National Parks are unique treasures.  And they are ours!  Get out there and explore.  Trust me, there is something for everyone.  You just need to find it!  If you need any recommendations, just ask!

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