In the past, my national park visiting has been too sporadic and unfocused for comfort, but this year my New Year’s Resolutions are going to provide a sense of purpose and direction. Five parks is a very doable agenda. My list includes three Sure Things, a True Confession, and one Unfinished Business.
Sure Things (I’ve already made the plane reservations):
I’m going to tour Death Valley National Park this year. I’ve been to Denali National Park and skytrekked to Mount McKinley, the highest place in North America. Now it’s time to visit Death Valley so I can stop at Badwater Basin and add the lowest place in North America to my “been there, done that” list.
Mesa Verde National Park is on this year’s visit list. I love to study Native American cultures and I love mysteries. What Native American culture is more interesting than the ancient Anasazi? What age-old mystery is more compelling than the Anasazi disappearance from the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings?
My Olde Pharze card (aka America the Beautiful Senior Pass) is going to gain me a no-fee entry to Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve this year. I’ve long known that this Colorado park is one of the best kept secrets in the entire Park System. Can’t wait to see a 750-foot high sand dune!
A True Confession:
This is the year I’ll finally visit Cowpens National Battlefield, site of the famous January 17, 1781 battle in which American troops under Daniel Morgan defeated the cream of Lord Cornwallis’ army -- a British force led by the infamous Col. Banestre Tarleton (“Bloody Tarleton”) -- and hastened the end of the Revolutionary War. My former students and faculty colleagues would be shocked to learn that I’ve never visited Cowpens. Could it possibly be that “Dr. Parks” let three decades slip by without ever once visiting a key Revolutionary War park that’s just 108.3 miles from his house? Wouldn’t he be awfully embarrassed to admit that? It is, and I am, and this year I’m going to fix that.
At age 66, I’ve seen a good bit of the world. I lived in Europe for a couple of years. I’ve driven nearly 900,000 miles in 11 different countries. I’ve been to Hawaii twice, to Alaska twice, and to all of the other states at least once. All except North Dakota, that is. Now the Peace Garden State beckons to me across the miles. Yup, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the western North Dakota badlands is definitely on this year’s list.