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Why I changed my mind about National Parks

Before embarking on my journey around America I talked to everybody I know and even people I didn't know. I asked them all where I should go! And this question stumped a lot of people but after a moments pause they almost always said "The National Parks".

 

 

I took this advice with a bit of skepticism. I really wasn't very interested in National Parks. My standard reply was "I did enough camping in the Army". That would usually get a chuckle.

At my age, and with my health being okay but not exactly vibrant (I am almost 60).I wasn't looking forward to doing any camping and I sure wasn't going to be spending any nights in tents.

But.....

I had no idea that I was all wrong about this. Sure, the national parks are pretty famous for hiking, tenting, RV'ing and camping of all kinds. But they are "National Parks" and very carefully designed with all kinds of people in mind.

Let me explain.

The National Park system proclaims that they are just caretakers for the parks. The parks belong to us as citizens of the United States and they are just stewards.

And the stewards of our Parks have spent a lot of time and energy trying to make the experience of visiting a national park something that is enriching and memorable.

The parks are carefully thought out. The road and path system, the system of signs, the information centers, parking lots and all of it is just done well. And with a cross-section of people in mind.

They know that there will be campers, day travelers, two-hour visitors and people of all shapes and sizes. So, there are driving paths, walking paths, and even buses that run every fifteen minutes (at some parks).

Everything is thought out and laid out for you to easily experience the national park you visit. Guides and brochures lay out the best things to see and how to see them.

I did all my traveling throughout the summer. This means that I hit the National Parks at peak times. Sure there were a lot of people. But it really wasn't that much of a thing. It made a difference I am sure but they know a lot of people will be showing up and they prepare for it. Don't let this dissuade you. Go when you can. You won't regret it.

This next picture shows a crowd of people waiting for Old Faithful to blow at Yellowstone National Park.

Bryce Canyon has a wonderful shuttle bus system that very frequently makes trips around the park stopping at all the major sights. You just get on and off anywhere you want to. Stay as long as you want and then hop on another bus to continue on to another spot.

Just an example of some of the beautiful landscape at Zion National Park.

All in all I was stunningly surprised by how magnificent our National Parks are. And once I visited my first one I was hooked and planning out the next park I would visit on my adventure around the United States. I didn't visit them all but I did get to a bunch of them - and of all different types.

There is a wide variety of parks

The parks are not all just landscapes and trees. They are not just big swatches of land with beautiful landscapes, mountains, wildlife and trees! This is often how we perceive them. They actually cover a wide spectrum of the natural world. There are a whole lot of different types of parks.

One of my favorites that was atypical was Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. It is an underground network of large caverns.

 

And it was fitting that after five months of journeying around America I ended the whole trip by visiting the Grand Canyon National Park. It was very beautiful and very symbolic.

 

In closing

National Parks were not on my list of "must see" but my thought was that while I was seeing America I really should see some of the National Parks. They are very symbolic of our country, and they are an integral part of our history as a nation. And it was much to my surprise, and pleasure, to discover that this system of National Parks is magnificent, well thought-out and very welcoming to everybody in the world. I am so glad that I visited many of them on my trek around this great country.

 

According to the official National Parks website there are 418 National Parks in the US. And 60 of them include the term "National Park" as part of their proper name.

 


The National Geographic Guide to National Parks -

National Geographic's flagship, best-selling guide covers all 59 national parks in the U.S. for nature and outdoor lovers everywhere. Intensive on-the-ground research, 300 photos and 80 colorful maps complete the extraordinary package. Practical and comprehensive coverage includes engaging, individual park descriptions and brief history, travel planning tips, itineraries and directions, activities, park lodges and hotels, visitor center contact information, and camping information. Well-known national parks writers provide new insights into the parks and share favorite spots for viewing scenery, wildlife, sunsets, and more in this Centennial edition.