We got our first National Parks Passport and completed our first Junior Ranger packet in 1998 while visiting Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, when my children were ages three, four and seven. From that moment on, we were hooked. Our travels have taken us from Acadia in Maine, to the Everglades in Florida, to Haleakala in Hawaii, to Denali in Alaska, and so many places in between. We have enjoyed a snowball fight in July at Glacier National Park in Montana and another at Lassen Volcanic National Park, California and later that day hiked on the icy floors of the lava tubes in Lava Beds National Monument. We learned about Spanish Colonists in the San Antonio Missions National Park and walked the steps of Pocahontas and John Smith in Jamestown Virginia, Colonial Historic Park. We learned new words like Hoodoo which is a rock formation made famous in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, where we also learned that the bark of a ponderosa pine smells a lot like vanilla when you are up close. My children are grown now so the vacations are a little different but we did chose to celebrate this 100th anniversary of America’s National Parks by visiting several Parks this year alone. Most recently I visited Everglades National Park with my two daughters and Fort Sumter National Monument with one daughter and two Aunts. HAPPY CENTENNIAL TO OUR NATIONAL PARKS SERVICES!
I never visited the U.S. national parks growing up. When I think of them, I always think of reading The Moon by Night when I was middle school age and trying to get my hands on all the Madeleine L’Engle I could. (In this book, Vicky meets nihilistic Zachary for the first time as both their families go camping. He’s a key character in A Ring of Endless Light, one of my all-time favorites, and for thematic reasons I would recommend both books to anyone who loves The Fault in Our Stars.)
Oddly enough, the one national park I did spend a lot of time in was Canadian: Point Pelee. Living in the Detroit suburbs, it was only a short drive away. You didn’t need a passport to enter Canada from the U.S. back then, and this was where my family went when we drove to the beach. Point Pelee is on the monarch butterfly migration route, and the T-shirts and other souvenirs we would buy always had pictures of the black and orange butterflies. That childhood connection is why efforts to save the monarch butterfly mean a lot to me.
It was the Spring of 2005 and I wanted to start planning my family’s summer vacation. I had been to the Grand Canyon as a child but had not been back since. I thought my kids should see the Grand Canyon as it truly is an amazing sight and the only one of the Seven Wonders of the World located in North America. We flew to Arizona and then stayed in Williams, Arizona to ride the Grand Railway train in to the Park to see the Grand Canyon. There was music on the train and we were robbed by [pretend] train robbers on the way to the Canyon. Once to the Grand Canyon we stayed in the park at the Maswik Lodge so, we could really enjoy the Canyon during the day and the evening. I believe this was truly one of our best family vacations!