A few months ago, when Mongolian national park director Tumursukh Jal was on an official visit to the Grand Canyon, one of his hosts asked a simple question: “How many national parks do you guys have there in your home country?” When Tumursukh mentioned there were 99 of them, his U.S. colleagues seemed a bit nonplussed. “That many, really?”
Exploring the Parks
Crossing the powder-blue bridge spanning the Potomac River at Point of Rocks, Maryland, I feel like I’ve time-warped to another century. With my husband and two children in tow, we have left behind the bustling Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., to stay in a historic lockhouse along the C&O Canal. For one weekend at least we hope to experience what life was like for a 19th-century lock tender and his family, whose livelihood was tied to the daily rhythms of moving boats and goods. If history had gone in a different direction, however, our stay would have been impossible.
We recently returned to Keweenaw National Historical Park in Michigan after an absence of nearly a decade following our first visit in 2007. The national historical park covers a substantial amount of real estate as it spans much of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. This large expanse makes it likely a visitor will miss at least some of the park's important features, one of the reasons we chose to visit a second time.
I placed a mix of boneless breast meat, boneless thighs, and bone-in thighs into the bottom of the Dutch oven, and the meat began to sizzle in the hot olive oil. Diced onions, potatoes, sliced celery, and dried morels from the nearby mountains soon followed.
There are, not far from the pavement, glorious creeks to splash in and ponds and lakes to fish, forests to explore, and grassy meadows to chase butterflies across. These are kid friendly aspects of the natural world that come without batteries, don’t need a Wi-Fi signal, and are guaranteed to bring the kid out in all of us.
Spring in Yosemite National Park following a wet winter is spectacular. Waterfalls roaring, thundering, pouring over granite cliffs, cascading down boulder-strewn canyons. Rainbows in waterfalls. Merced River at flood stage. Lush green meadows. Trees bursting with new spring growth. Lovely white blossoms on graceful branches of dogwood trees reaching out over the Merced River. Snow-capped peaks in the backcountry.
The rich cobalt blue waters of Crater Lake are the centerpiece for this national park in southern Oregon. Its geologic birth has left an enormous volcanic caldera, in which the lake rests today. The story of the lake’s birth is as fascinating and striking as the park itself.
Despite a few lingering snow squalls, spring has settled over the National Park System, and summer isn't too far off. Road trips, hikes, and exploring the parks are on your to-do list. To help you out with that, turn to our Essential Park Guide Summer 2016.
Matt Holly is a lifelong parks and maps enthusiast. He put his interests together and created the website National Park Maps, which now has more than 1,000 free maps.
Our only previous visit to Homestead National Monument of America in Nebraska occurred nearly four decades ago while headed east to Indiana from Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. Driving on U.S. 36 that spans northern Kansas, we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to take a short detour north into southern Nebraska and visit Homestead National Monument, a NPS area that would be a new park unit for us.