Just in time for travel season, National Geographic has added another title to its collection of national park-related books. This one entices with a promise to reveal the "Secrets of the National Parks."
Does Secrets of the National Parks, The Experts' Guide to the Best Experiences Beyond The Tourist Trail rise up to that promise? For the novice park traveler, most definitely. For those with more than a few national park under their belts, somewhat.
The answer to that question, of course, lies in which parks you've been to, how many times you've been to them, and which you're still hoping to visit.
For example, if you've spent a few days in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, you likely know about the Wind Canyon Trail, the Petrified Forest Loop, and the Caprock Coulee Trail. You might not, however, know about Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch.
The "secrets" revealed at Grand Teton aren't so secret for those who have visited the park at least once: Schwabacher's Landing, Colter Bay, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, Jenny Lake and other well-known destinations in the park.
Obviously, the book best comes into play for parks you've got on your to-do list, or ones you visited years and years ago. I was just a youngster when my parents took me to Everglades National Park, and so my recollections are faint if not absent. So it's good to know that while the Gumbo Limbo Trail is well-known with tourists, it's worth enduring the crowds to get photographs of gators and turtles and birds, and that Nine Mile Pond offers a great opportunity for passing a few hours in a canoe or kayak and getting up close to wildlife.
Adding authoritative heft to the text are insights from park superintendents, rangers, interpreters, and guidebook authors.
The book is not a complete guide to the 59 "national parks," though. There are 32 parks that receive six-page treatments each, and then 26 (the book went to press before Pinnacles was elevated from a national monument to a national park) that receive paragraph treatment providing little more than an overview of the parks.
Still, if you're making your first or second visits to a park, this isn't a bad crib sheet to help you enjoy your stay.