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
Two weeks ago while walking away from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Boston, I saw a young woman standing in a median who reminded me of me. While hundreds of other people around her walked by in a rush to get back home and out of the cold, she stood there quietly, looking in her Lonely Planet guidebook and pondering her next move.
Her clothes and shoes looked European in fashion, and she wore a large backpack like you often see on travelers in hostels. She was alone, and had I been from the area or at least known it a little better, I probably would have asked if she needed any help. I often travel solo and have many times depended on the kindness of strangers to find my way around or get local advice on somewhere to go, so I know the value of a friendly person in unfamiliar territory. As it was, I wouldn’t have been any help to this person in this place, but I realized she represented an opportunity to incorporate travel into my daily life. Continue reading
Nice advertising :). The sky is HUGE here!
During my summer 2009 road trip across the country, I remember being absolutely in awe at the sheer amount of sky that existed in Bozeman, Montana. It’s the same amount as what exists back east, obviously, but everywhere I’ve ever lived has had trees at least on the sidelines, so they limit the amount of sky you can see. That’s not the case where I am now in southeastern South Dakota. Sure, there are definitely some trees around, particularly within the city of Sioux Falls, but when you drive outside the city and find yourself in the middle of cornfields that stretch farther than the eye can see, the wide expanse of sky really starts to fill your field of vision. On gorgeous days like yesterday, it can be really mind-boggling. Continue reading
On my last trip to South Dakota, I met up with my friend Van (far left), who came to the U.S. from Vietnam for a summer and got a job as a hotel housekeeper near Mount Rushmore. She and her roommates were pretty over the attraction of the monument by the time I arrived in late July, but I was absolutely thrilled to be there. “These are MY presidents!” I kept exclaiming. “This is MY mountain!”
A few months ago, I received a totally out-of-the-blue email from a PR person representing the secretary of tourism for South Dakota, and she said that he would be traveling to D.C. and wanted to meet with me. Since the other editors of Parks & Recreation Magazine departed last year, one change I’ve tried to make in the magazine is to give more even coverage of park and recreation departments across the nation. For example, we cover northern Virginia and New York City and California parks all the time, but I can’t remember a single article we’ve done on a park in Arkansas since I started. South Dakota has also been poorly covered, so I jumped at the chance to meet with this guy and talk about some possibilities. Continue reading
Originally posted on TimberHomeNation.com on January 7, 2011.
A few months ago, while on a short trip to the Roanoke Valley in southwestern Virginia, I took the opportunity to visit Chateau Morrisette Winery, located in Floyd, Virginia, between mile markers 171 and 172 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I knew this well-respected establishment at least included a timber-frame structure in its operations; what I didn’t realize was that the winery’s entire production facility and hospitality center were housed in one of the largest salvaged timber-frame structures in the United States. Continue reading