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.