I visited Mount Rushmore National Monument on a 2009 road trip across the country, where I met up with two friends from Vietnam and one from Lithuania who had come to the U.S. for the summer. Our decisions as American voters have impacts on the rest of the world, and I hope we make choices that benefit those within our borders as well as on foreign shores.
Over the past year, I’ve journeyed back and forth across the U.S., exploring big cities, small towns and some really obscure destinations, but primarily using America’s national parks as the anchor points for my travels. As this year’s election has approached, it’s become more and more apparent to me how relevant our parks are to many of the issues currently at stake, and after absorbing several dozens of parks’ worth of information on our country’s people and history, I felt much more equipped to vote with confidence and conviction today.
America’s national parks don’t just provide brilliant backdrops for our vacation photos; they tell the story of our nation and its place in the world, and they provide insight on how we became the country we are now. I’m not just talking about the big parks like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, although those do have a lot to teach us. I’m talking about lesser-known but still monumentally significant parks like Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in Arkansas, which reveals personal stories of the fight for integrated schools, and Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Tennessee, New Mexico and Washington, which dives into the difficult decisions and actions behind the development of the nuclear weapons that ended World War II, and Boston National Historical Park in Massachusetts, which gives insight on the reasons why America decided to separate from Britain and how much they were willing to sacrifice for freedom.
Our 413 national parks each share a different piece of our story, and they offer the benefit of hindsight on historical events and give us information so we can each determine how we might have acted under similar circumstances. They don’t tell us what to think; they tell us what to think about. And they give us context that can help us make better decisions for our world and its future. Continue reading
Categories: Adventure, National Parks road trip, Outdoor Recreation, Parks, Personal
Tags: history, National Park Service, National Park Service Centennial, national parks, national parks road trip, NPS, NPS Centennial, parks, road trip, solo travel, travel
Not gonna lie, I found it pretty weird to be on the subject side of an interview! Many thanks to Taylor Wyllie for her kind words in this profile :).
One year ago this week, I stood on the porch of my beloved old farmhouse in Leesburg, Virginia, sweeping off the steps in the sunshine, when a moving truck pulled up and a guy stepped out. His U-Haul at the bottom of the steps matched mine in the field, as he was the new tenant moving in that day and I was moving out. We chatted for a few minutes, and since I was there, he asked if I could show him any quirks with the house that he might need to know. I agreed, and we spent a few minutes walking around and talking about how to keep the pipes from freezing, where he could find the breaker box and water shut-off valve, the cheapest place I’d found to buy firewood for the two wood-burning stoves and a few tricks I’d learned to help coax the stubborn old lawnmower into submission. He thanked me and began carrying in boxes while I swept off the last few steps, then I hit the road.
As I drove away, it didn’t escape me that I knew how to manage that house I was leaving, but by and large, I had no idea how to do the thing I was leaving it for — a life of freelancing and freedom and travel. Sure, I knew how to pitch an editor, write an article, book a night at a hostel and find a cheap shower on the road, but I didn’t know how to monetize a website, publish an ebook, pay taxes as a full-time self-employed person or do lots of the million other things I needed to know to become successful as a freelance writer. Essentially, I had decided to jump and hope the net would appear. And I had no idea whether, or how, it would. Continue reading
When my editor at Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine heard I was going on a national parks road trip, he suggested that I write a blog series for www.blueridgeoutdoors.com based on this journey. I wrote the following post as the initial entry for that series, and I wanted it to introduce readers to the idea behind this trip that they might read about through the year. I also wanted to convey this experience in a way that they could connect to, so I hope this accomplishes that. Stay tuned for updates on the series! This first post is a little weird, but I hope you like it :).
Trailhead sign just off US-322 south of Clarion, Pennsylvania.
It only took half an hour to drive from my home to the trailhead, but it felt like a lot longer. My short hike on the North Country National Scenic Trail today will be the start of several goals for this year, and it’s been a rough road so far just to get here. And I haven’t even gotten out of the car.
It’s January 11, a little less than two weeks into the new year. I set a resolution to hike at least 100 miles on this trail this year, and I’m pretty sure I can do it if I can work out the logistics in my ever-shifting schedule. The trail stretches across the “red plaid nation,” as the website called it, from New York to North Dakota, and it runs right through the county next to mine here in rural western Pennsylvania. Plus, I should be visiting some other areas of the country where the trail runs this year, so I hope I’ll get to see a few different sections, at least.
Well, we’ll see, I think pessimistically, squinting as I spot the trailhead from behind my salt-frosted windshield. It’s cold out there, and I’m a little grumpy right now. Continue reading
Not a mountain, but I’m not complaining.
Somehow, it’s been nearly two weeks since I got sick with this lingering bug, which has morphed from the flu to a sinus/upper respiratory thing to laryngitis, so this big national parks road trip I had planned to kick off over New Year’s is temporarily on hold until I’m back to 100 percent. I was really looking forward to my planned New Year’s Day hike in Acadia National Park and witnessing the country’s first glimpse of the sunrise in 2016 from the summit of Cadillac Mountain, but maybe I can do that next year. Still, definitely a drag.
On the positive side, the quarantine has given me some good time with my folks and my dog that I would have otherwise missed out on, and I’ve been able to work on a few assignments from the comfort of a recliner versus the back of a station wagon or a crowded coffee shop filled with distractions, so that’s been helpful!
Since the reason I wanted to start in Acadia was tied to a specific day and I missed that, I’ve shifted some plans around and am now planning to start local and then head south. Continue reading
Here’s hoping this will get me back in hiking shape soon.
I guess it’s true what they say — life is what happens when you’re making other plans. I was looking forward to a spectacular kickoff for this national parks road trip with a sunrise hike in Acadia National Park, but the flu bug apparently had a different idea. The way I’m feeling now, I’m not up for a 13-hour drive in bad conditions to Maine, let alone a several-hour pre-dawn hike in sub-freezing temperatures through a foot of snow, so I’m going to plan to travel to Acadia later in the year when the park is more accessible and I’m in a condition to enjoy it.
If I’m up for it on Friday, though, I might schlep over to the North Country National Scenic Trail for a shorter New Year’s Day hike — it meanders through a few counties near me in western Pennsylvania on its seven-state path from New York to North Dakota. How will you spend the first day of 2016? On TV, this year’s Rose Parade celebrates the National Park Service’s Centennial celebration with the theme “Find Your Adventure,” so there’s something to do even if the weather doesn’t cooperate. However, there are tons of outdoor events happening at national, state and local parks all over the country, including a number of ranger-led First Day Hikes, so take advantage of the day away from the office and get a jump start on your New Year’s resolutions!
I may have to cheer you on from the couch this time, though :(. Send me your pics from your adventures!