National Parks have been called America’s Best Idea and I have to agree. I certainly did when I was younger. I swore I would collect the iconic “Unigrid” design brochures for every park and get stamps on my park Passport. Then I gradually realized the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior did not just manage the 60 major parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone, but another 354 National Monuments, Battlefields, Seashores and other designations.
Then came family and the definition of parks changed. Disney, Anheuser-Busch and other corporations provided park destinations for a couple of decades.
Now that the kids have moved out, Margaret and I are back to visiting National Parks again. I am not sure we will get to 414 brochures and stamps but it is good to see a growing number of digital resources on each park.
Matt Holly works as a Park ranger but on his own time he’s created a massive site with over 1,700 free high-res maps on the parks. National Geographic has a series of episodes on parks. One way to appreciate many parks even if you cannot physically make it there. And when you get to one, there are plenty of digital resources to mine on your phone.
As for us, we enjoy a few minutes with rangers like Matt when we visit these parks. Some memorable conversations have been at bottom of a cave at Carlsbad, on a cruise boat on Glacier Bay in Alaska (only two cruise boats are allowed a day and rangers come aboard and provide commentary for several hours), with a Park Policeman at the foot of the Statue of Liberty.
Teddy Roosevelt has moved up in my list of favorite US Presidents for his pioneering support of Parks. And I am very grateful to visionaries like John Muir and Henry David Thoreau for inspiring the country to preserve millions of wild acres for generations to come.