The NPS and My Bucket List
Thursday, August 25, 2016, was the centennial celebration of our National Park Service. On that date in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the agency that has managed and protected the parks, lakeshores, seashores, and monuments that make up the system. They now number over 400, a new one having just been designated this week by President Barack Obama.
What has this to do with a bucket list? A while ago, my husband and I were talking about where we would go if we could travel anywhere we wanted and not worry about the cost. Without even having to think about it, I replied, I would visit every national park I possibly could. Maybe a bit of a surprising answer, but it is without a doubt on my bucket list, to see as many national parks as I can in my lifetime.
Then I got to thinking; we have already been to quite a few, some for a return engagement. From the misty and mysterious peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains to the amazing wonders of Yellowstone, the very first national park, we’ve had the privilege of visiting many of the “crown jewels” of our country. The Smokies were a favorite and led me to write a story set there. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, in our own state, is filled with steep dunes and Indian legends. The Badlands of South Dakota leave you in awe, as do Canyonlands and Arches parks in Utah. Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado was the first park I ever visited, followed by Grand Tetons in Wyoming, which everyone knows is my home in another lifetime. Montana’s Glacier National Park and its Going to the Sun road has you thinking, as you view the road from below, “Is that really where we’re going?” Then when you’ve descended, “Is that really where we were?” Scotts Bluff in Nebraska is a remarkable place in a state that you otherwise drive through to get somewhere else. Walking in Craters of the Moon in Idaho is indeed like being on another planet. Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is full of history and legends plus stalagmites and stalactites! Devil’s Tower in Wyoming will have you wondering about close encounters of many kinds.
This year we hope to revisit a few of our favorites, including one we haven't seen in a while, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, to maybe catch a glimpse of the wild horses that live within the park’s boundary.
Lest you think you must head to the wilds of the country to visit a national park, there are a number of urban parks close to large segments of the population. In fact, no matter where you live, there is probably a national park, monument, lakeshore or seashore within a few hours’drive.
Visiting national parks. I think it’s a pretty good bucket list to have, because they truly are “the best ideas” America has ever had.