Kicking off a new year of adventure

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

In addition to icons like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, the National Park Service also oversees lots of amazing places that many people don’t know exist. For example, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve features a 19,000-acre dune field high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of southern Colorado.

A few years ago, Subaru ran a commercial in which a group of friends travels to the easternmost point of the U.S. each December 31 to be the first in the country to ring in the new year. That idea has stuck with me since then, so with 2015 rapidly drawing to a close, I did some research and learned that the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is the very first spot in the U.S. where you can see the sunrise in winter. As it turns out, that works perfectly with the adventure travel plans I’ve been developing for next year.

August 25, 2016 marks the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the National Park Service Organic Act and the founding of the National Park Service, an action that unified the nation’s existing parks under one umbrella and laid the groundwork for the preservation of America’s future federal lands. To celebrate this Centennial, and frankly to bring to life a dream I’ve had for years, I’m going to spend 2016 roadtripping to all 59 national parks and as many of the national seashores, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, parkways, preserves, recreation areas, scenic rivers, and other National Park Service sites as possible. All told, the NPS currently manages 409 units across American soil, including far-flung sites like the War in the Pacific National Historical Park in Guam and American Memorial Park in the Northern Mariana Islands. Our public lands are one of America’s most concrete examples of our democratic ideals of equality, and the National Park Service does an amazing job overseeing the American people’s collective property and making these lands accessible to all.

My goal for this journey is to share information and insight on America’s collective heritage in its public lands to help engage the next generation of park stewards who will protect these assets going into the National Park Service’s second century. We’ve been blessed with a huge array of spectacular landscapes, monuments, historic sites and more that our forebears protected for us to enjoy, and we’re responsible for their current preservation so future generations can do the same.

I’m calling this a year-long road trip, but it will likely take longer and will definitely be more complicated than that. Of the 59 NPS sites specifically designated as national parks, there’s one in the U.S. Virgin Islands, one in American Samoa and two in Hawaii, plus several in Alaska can only be accessed by bushplane, so it’s not as easy as just pulling off the highway to each one! Also, I’ll be funding this journey as I go by writing freelance articles, taking editing assignments and (I hope) forming partnerships with interested companies and organizations, so my pace will depend largely on my income. Plus, I don’t want to rush through each park just to check it off my list — many of them are huge, and I’d miss a lot by limiting my stay at each in order to keep to an arbitrary schedule.

Along the way, I’ll share articles I write about the national parks and other topics related to outdoor recreation, conservation, public lands and travel, and I’ll also publish regular posts on here and on my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Flickr accounts that cover the adventures, interesting things learned along the way, introductions to people who visit or work in the parks, and reviews of places to stay, tours to go on and gear to use when you plan your trips. If you want to follow along, please feel free to enter your email address in the box at the top of the right sidebar to get an email update each time a new blog entry posts, and click on the above social media links and then Like or Follow those pages to follow along on those platforms. I spent mid-September to mid-November on the road this year, traveling all across the country and going to blogging conferences to learn more about how to do this right, so I hope what you read here helps you learn more about your incredible national backyard and inspires you to explore it!

Right now, this looks like it will mostly be a solo journey, but if you’d like to explore a park together when I get close to your area, please let me know. Also, if you’re a marketing or media relations person who represents a park, a destination or accommodation near an NPS site, gear that may be useful for park visitors, or another relevant product or service, please reach out — I would love to talk with you!

To kick things off, I’m sort of copying the Subaru commercial idea — I’m traveling to Maine in a week to spend New Year’s Eve in Bar Harbor, and around 4 a.m. on January 1, I’ll hit the North Ridge Trail on Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain for a sunrise summit hike and an opportunity to witness America’s first break of dawn over the new year. If you don’t have New Year’s plans, let me know if you’d like to join! Right now, the forecast calls for sub-freezing temperatures and a few inches of snow and sleet on the trail. I can’t wait to get started :).

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Categories: Adventure, National Parks road trip, Outdoor Recreation, Parks, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Kicking off a new year of adventure

  1. Barbara

    God bless you always! Sounds exciting!

  2. Cherie T.

    Very exciting! Can’t wait to follow your travels!

  3. Wow, that’s quite an undertaking. We’re planning on hitting several National Parks in 2016, but no way will we make all 59. Best wishes. I’m looking forward to keeping up with your travels, and hopefully, we’ll bump into each other again.

  4. Sue Taylor

    I wish I could tag along! Stay safe!

  5. Carol

    ~~I am in~~. Preps me for my “bucket List” journeys

  6. Sounds really really exciting. I will be waiting for following your adventures like a hungry dog his master 😛 Enjoy this year!

  7. This sounds like such an awesome adventure! Have fun and I’m looking forwards to seeing pictures from all the national parks 😀

  8. Nice way to bring in the New Year. I think it would be brilliant be able to visit all 59 NP’s. I have been to a few and I agree that it will take longer than a year as some of the parks you could spend weeks in!

  9. Wow this sounds so exciting! I look forward to reading the posts along the way (especially Alaska!) Safe travels.

  10. I am very much looking for your posts then! I think American national parks are AMAZING and would love to see them in 2016. Especially Yellowstone.

  11. LeighAnn Koch

    How exciting! Looking forward to seeing your blog and photos as you progress. Save plenty of time to savor Olympic National Park with its rugged coastline treks and Hurricane Ridge. Great camping or cabins there at Kalaloch.

  12. I can’t wait to see where your adventures take you this year and beyond! I love this idea and I’m hoping to explore more US national parks this year as well, although not on as big of a scale. I’m looking forward to following along. I’ll be in Yellowstone + Zion National Park + the Grand Canyon hopefully sometime in July/August, so if you’ll be over on this side of the States by then I would love to meet up and explore them with you. Happy traveling, Danielle!

    • Thanks for the enthusiasm, Mimi! I haven’t figured out just when I’ll be in those parks, but I’ll keep you posted. It would be great to travel together!

  13. Pingback: Revised plans in the wake of sniffling | Danielle Taylor

  14. Just learned about your adventure…my wife and I have taken 2 trips out west over the last 3 years… would love to get to all or most of the parks before we are too old to travel can’t wait to read your posts, John

    • Thanks, John! I hope you get to experience as many of them as possible. Do you know about the Interagency Senior Pass, offered by the National Park Service and other federal public land agencies? Once you’re 62, you can pay a one-time $10 fee and have lifetime access to more than 2,000 federal public lands. Here’s the link: https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm. Happy exploring!

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