This year is the centennial of the National Park Service! You know those people who wear those cute green outfits and ranger hats? They’ve been picking up your trash and preserving the natural wonders that each park holds, and teaching about them, for 100 years! The jaw dropping natural beauty of the USA has been protected preserved for your enjoyment! So get out there and Find Your Park!
Each National Park is vastly different from the next. Each has its own unique beauty, and rewarding secrets! (You just need to know how to find them) While most Americans have been focusing their time on human innovation, like Mac vs PC, or which new smartphone technology, the National Parks have been here all along, quietly accepting those who seek them out. The parks are such an amazing resource that, growing up only an hour from New York City, I never really knew about. (From me to you: the skyscrapers of NYC are mere toothpicks next to Yosemite’s El Capitan or Half Dome) The Parks teach us how our planet was formed and how it continues to change! We can stare down into vast canyons or straight up at towering rock formations, and it’s like looking into the past. It’s that moment when you realize that the mountain you are standing on used to be under water, that you GET IT.
The Parks also give us a sense of our people’s history and the history of those who came before us. By exploring the National Parks you learn how the history of the land affected life on earth and how life on earth affected the land.
Sure you can learn about dinosaurs and Native Americans by going to the Museum of Natural History, but you can’t picture a T-Rex running through the streets of Manhattan like you can in the diverse canyon lands with dried up lava flows. You can’t have a conversation with a living Navajo or Hopi and learn about their traditions first hand. [Did you know that there are actually 8 tribes who have called the Grand Canyon their home?] You can even hike through the reservation lands of the Havasupai on your way to Havasu Falls. As for the dinosaurs, their existence can be seen throughout Utah, the state with the most National Parks, and the surrounding canyons. Old mining equipment and artifacts from days gone by, are found in many parks as well. This shows us the impact of human life and development on the earth. These days the National Parks Service uses that negative impact to focus on positive developments.
The National Parks pride themselves on their sustainability efforts, and kudos to them! With the amount of people who visit the parks, if they weren’t driven to preserve these places, the Grand Canyon would probably look like a landfill. By implementing green policies, they’ve been able to reduce the amount of garbage and plastic water bottles, promote healthier living, and inform people about recycling, composting, and the positive effects of sustainability on our environment. So while you’re there, do your part to protect and preserve our natural wonders, recycle and pick up your trash, re-use your water bottles, and stay on the marked trails. Doing these things will help these fragile ecosystems last for generations to come.
As a kid, my impression of the National Parks, like the Grand Canyon, were nothing more than a beautiful vista to drive up to, park in a large parking lot, and spend 30 minutes with a million other people taking in the beauty through your camera screen; all before getting back into the car and continuing on, to the next point of interest (like the Hoover Dam) to repeat the whole process. This is still how many people see the National Parks, trust me I know, I’ve done it. Well, take it from me (an east coast suburbanite gone rogue) YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG!
It wasn’t until Adam and I moved to the Grand Canyon that I truly realized the magnitude of the National Parks. There is so much beauty to see that, just driving through each place doesn’t even scratch the surface! If you can take the time to get away from the hoards of other tourists, you’ll really appreciate the experience a lot more.
To those of you who have seen a National Park or two, you know what I’m talking about. To those of you who still have not seen ANY of the parks, this is YOUR year! Pick a park and get out there. Whether you’re drawn to the hiking or rock climbing, the unique landscapes or the wildlife, or maybe when you were young you just really looked up to Smokey Bear [How could you not? He is awesome!] there is some thing special in the park for you! You may even surprise yourself and get in touch with a side of yourself you never knew existed. GO #FINDYOURPARK!