In the past year or so since I’ve been back from NYC, I’ve gotten more and more into being outdoors, when you think about it, nature has a lot of benefits, not only is it nice to look at, but you are exercising at the same time, and let’s face it, it’s recession proof. If you are a budding devotee like myself, you might have watched some of the outstanding Ken Burns (he’s the guy that did The Civil War and Baseball) documentary series on the National Parks, if you haven’t, check out the site and you can see a lot of videos, but it’s pretty inspiring.
The cool thing about the parks is that there are so many, almost 400, so you can tailor a vacation around your own preferences, sense of adventure, time line and budget. Everyone knows about Yosemite and Yellowstone or even Denali and Bryce Canyon, all of them are must see. For every park with one million visitors, there are parks with astonishing beauty that get only a fraction of that, and offer smaller crowds and less expensive rates.
Always wanted to raft the Grand Canyon, but concerned about the long waiting lists for trips and the costs? Try rafting the Green River through Dinosaur National Monument, stunning vistas, class three rapids, and less than half the cost of anything I’ve seen for the Grand Canyon. Or try Great Sand Dunes park in Colorado, it has the highest dunes in America, at 750 feet, but also alpine lakes and summer daytime highs in the low 80s. There are parks all over the country, from Alaska to Florida and including Puerto Rico and some of the US territories like the Virgin Islands and Guam. If you are willing to rough it a bit and go light on the bank account, almost all of the parks will offer camping, many have cabins or hotels nearby. What you will find, is a great appreciation of the natural beauty of the US, and if you visit a few parks in different areas of the country, you will be able to see the diversity the parks offer, not only in terms of landscape but wildlife.
Personally, being from the East Coast, we don’t have the amazing mountain vistas that you can find in the Mountain West, so a lot of these parks are on my own personal bucket list. But I have done some camping and rafting down the Delaware Water Gap recreational area on the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border, and a bunch of camping in some of my local Massachusetts State Parks, which are always a great option to start out and practice some of you camping skills, or test out new equipment (or recipes).
So stop reading, get out there and go see some cool stuff, and keep an eye out for parks in your area, if you’re not ready for a week of camping in Grand Teton, try out a weekend trip, I guarantee it’s a great time.
All pictures are courtesy of the National Park Service.