April 21-29 is National Park Week, during which the public is invited to explore any of America's national parks at no charge. This is the perfect opportunity to volunteer, hike, picnic, or camp. The idea is to get people out to share the experience that is the 84 million acres that make up our country’s park system.
I won’t be able to add any major destinations to my list during the week – DARN IT! -- but pass this along to anyone you know who could. I don’t mind paying to enjoy my national parks, but a week for free is a fantastic deal! I’ve visited many of the parks and so enjoyed each one.
The theme this year is Picture Yourself in a Park so I couldn’t help but look back through some of my own park photos.
I have a photo of myself in Badlands National Park. It was near freezing, as evidenced by the coat pulled tightly around me and the slight hop I seem to be doing. It was April, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it. What strikes me even now is the colorful cast to the rock formations in the early morning light.
Another photo is me by a railing in Grand Canyon National Park. I’m in my Sunflower Outdoor & Bike t-shirt and have a bit of sunburn. I’ve been to GCNP more than once – I believe this photo is from my first trip. It was about 90 degrees most days, but it dipped at night. I have a distinct memory from that trip of the wind kicking up when the trail was quite narrow and wide open on both sides of me. Still makes me sweat.
My Mount Rainier National Park photo has me standing amongst some of the most beautiful wildflowers I’ve ever seen. I visited in August and every day was clear and temperatures just right for a jacket. I never got too warm – often was actually chilly. I remember being warned there was increased volcanic activity, but no one seemed too concerned so I didn’t much concern myself. As a Kansas native, I found it rather exciting.
My most recent photo is from Rocky Mountain National Park. I was there in late summer so I avoided heavy snows, but still got to see plenty of it. The day I hit my highest elevation, I encountered quite a bit of freezing rain and fog early on only to end it with a beautiful hike in the sun and nothing more than a light sweatshirt. There wasn’t much life up at the top, but on the way up and down the plant and animal life were gorgeous.
In recent years, I've been lucky enough to also visit the Petrified Forest National Park, Pipestone National Monument, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. I hope to keep adding to my photo stash and I hope you do too.
And next week, even if you can't make it to a national park, one down the street will do just fine.