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A National Park Visiting Wish List for 2010


Hikers enjoying Canyonlands. Will it be my turn in May? NPS photo.

As some Traveler readers may recall, I vowed to visit five national parks last year -- Death Valley, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, and Theodore Roosevelt National Parks, plus Cowpens National Battlefield. While I did manage to move the first three over to the plus side of the ledger, the latter two eluded me….. again. That’s embarrassing.

OK; maybe I can forgive myself for not traveling way out to western North Dakota to visit the Theodore Roosevelt, but how on earth do I explain Cowpens? I’ve let another year slip by without visiting an interesting park that’s less than a two-hour drive from my house. There’s no excuse for that, and so I will offer none.

By way of mitigation, I did manage to sneak in one extra West Coast trip that added two outstanding parks to my resume – Redwood National and State Parks and Crater Lake National Park. – in addition to an impromptu detour in Colorado that took me to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (and to new heights of acrophobic anxiety). That’s six new national parks for me in 2009, which is much better than my average. I’ll take it.

As for 2010, well, it looks like this is going to be a “something old, something new” sort of park-visiting year for me. In early April, the Good Lord willing, Colorado Jim and I are going to do a Coastal Carolina Dumb & Dumber trip that will take us from Savannah to Charleston to Kitty Hawk and include visits to Fort Pulaski National Monument, Fort Sumter National Monument, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Wright Brothers National Memorial, and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.

I’ve visited all of those parks before, but Jim hasn’t, and that makes all the difference. Anyone who’s ever had a first-timer with him when he’s visited a familiar park can tell you that it adds fresh interest to the experience. I know that I’m really looking forward to revisiting some of the thoughts and feelings that made my own first visit to these places so very special.

The shoe will be on the other foot in May when Traveler editor Kurt Repanshek takes me in tow to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Natural Bridges National Monument. Although I’ve studied and written about each of those fine parks, I’ve yet to set foot in any of them. I’m way overdue.

Summer and fall are spoken for with three 50th high school reunions to attend in Michigan (don’t ask), a South Dakota hunting trip, and other commitments, so that will pretty much wrap it up. Except for this: I will visit Cowpens National Battlefield this year – no ifs, ands, buts, maybes, or other weaselspeak.

Adding it up, I see five new parks and five old friends on the near horizon. A guy could do a lot worse.

Postscript: Let’s say I had visited Black Canyon of the Gunnison when it was still designated as a national monument, maybe during a trip taken while I was in Colorado for a national conference back in the 1980s. Would I still, in good conscience, be able to count a visit to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park as a brand new addition to my resume? This is purely hypothetical, of course.


You ask theoretically if you could count Black Canyon of the Gunnison among the NP notches on your gun. Sure, you've been there. That's the point, not what they call the place.

We've been to over 200 of the NPS sites, including all but 8 of the National Parks (Cuyahoga, Biscayne, Am. Samoa, Virgin Islands, Channel Islands, Lake Clark, Kobuk Valley, & Gates of the Arctic.) We visited Black Canyon and Congaree before they attained their current status and have no qualms about counting them. Further, we've spent good time in each of them, usually at least a couple of days, except one: Wrangell-St.Elias. We had planned a good day there at least, but weather and road conditions combined to confine our stay to a few minutes in the visitors' center before it closed.

Great places, and our salute to the dedicated rangers who also wear our country's uniform.

I agree with you in principle, Roger, but gosh darn it, counting Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park as a national park that's new to my personal list gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction. My wife is fond of saying "It's my diet, and I say that's a small potato." To paraphrase, "It's my life list, and I say that's an NPS unit I haven't visited before." Silly? Of course! But it is what it is. BTW, contemplating your own national park visiting experiences leaves me green with envy and just a tad puzzled. Given the tremendous breadth of your resume, how on earth did Biscayne and Cuyahoga manage to end up as unfinished business?

We thought about Biscayne while in the Everglades, but we're not snorkelers or into water sports, so we figured we'd just have to fight out way through Miami traffic for no reason than to get into the park boundaries and say we've been there. We couldn't really enjoy its wealth. Cuyahoga: well, too new and we just want to avoid urban environments. Our traveling days are pretty well over now -- certainly our hiking days, and that's what we spent our time doing in those wonderful places. We live in eastern NC.

Bob, perhaps you can forgive yourself, but I won't let you off the hook for missing Theodore Roosevelt. It's the Plains' version of Congaree - underappreciated and full of surprises. (...except with far fewer cypress trees.) You must keep that one on your life to-do list!

Gosh, Kirby, I feel so much better now that you've rubbed it in. Thanks a lot, pal. Anybody out there want to pile on?

I really liked Wright Brothers. I knew it was going to be informative, but still I underestimated it.

I agree that the Wright Brothers Memorial offers more than meets the eye, Erik. It's been renovated since I last saw it, so I'm looking forward to seeing the improvements.

I have both plans and hopes for the coming year to add stamps to my passport.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Crater Lake National Park

National Park of American Samoa

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