National Parks = natural treasures

Family size, ages of children, job security, personal finances, travel expenses, and the general status of today’s economy have forced families to re-evaluate their lifestyles, in particular their finances pertaining to the family vacation. In reality no matter where you live or what the size of your family may be, vacation plans are not easy to make.  Seems everyone has a different idea about where to go and what to do.  Often the destination selected turns out to be a highly publicized and overrated theme park, beach or other similar place.  And most of which don’t meet the needs of every family member and winds up being expensive. 

 What’s a family to do? What options do they have?  Where is there to go? How can a family take a fun filled vacation, stay within a budget and keep everyone happy?

 Why not visit a National Park this year? Why you ask—because the National Park Service <>  turns 100 years old this year and celebrating by offering free admission to all parks on 16 different days. Details about the participating Parks and the days can be found on the following site: <>  for your planning.

 National Parks are special land areas set aside by the government for all people to enjoy, appreciate and preserve. Mountains to seaside, desert to rainforest, each Park is special, has its own identity, focuses on the natural world in its own special way, and offers information about the history, geography, culture and heritage of the area surrounding its location. Land formations, water supplies, animals, plants, mineral resources, land development and the climate all creates the appropriate environment and highlights the uniqueness of each Park.

Over the years National Parks have grown in number, 59 can be found throughout twenty-seven different states and 2 in U.S Territories of American Samoa and the Virgin Islands. But before deciding which Park you want to visit and when you want to go, try doing the following:

  1. Visualize a brisk a hike or vigorous bike ride along miles of trails that span rolling hills, flat lands, rugged terrain and steep inclines.
  2. Imagine the experience of a nature walk in the ‘wild’ to observe wildlife like mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, spiders and birds all living in harmony, learn about the ecosystem, and just enjoy the clean fresh air.
  3. Consider the excitement of climbing rocks, repelling mountainsides or searching caverns deep within the earth's surface or swimming with exotic fish, explore coral reefs or diving for sunken treasure.
  4. Picture yourself shushing down snow covered mountain slopes or cross country skiing through deep powdery snow.
  5. Feel the spray of the water as you ski across crystal clear lakes or over the ocean’s foam capped waves, go sailing, paddle a canoe or kayak, row a boat or raft the white waters of a rapid running river.
  6. Think about the lure of the beauty created by the natural scenery of mountain or volcanic formations, green meadows, colorful flowers, desert blossoms, waterfalls, crystal clear lakes, sprouting geysers, shifting sand dunes, coral reefs, seawalls and underground caverns.  

 All these activities and more are awaiting you and your family to experience. Just be sure to match your choice of activity to the right season and your vacation is guaranteed to please everyone. It can be a National Park in your own state, one in a nearby state requiring a manageable drive or one that calls for detailed travel plans. Whichever works, remember, it can be done and will yield a fun, educational time for the whole family.

 America’s National Parks have been set aside to give us pleasure and protect our natural, historical and cultural heritage and with your assistance, to last forever. All you have to do is follow the rules, respect the land, animals and things within the park’s boundaries you automatically become proactive in protecting and preserving these natural treasures for future generations.

 The National Park Service suggests the following techniques for visitors to use during their visits:

  • Be on the alert, look with eyes wide open, listen for unusual sounds, wear appropriate clothing, and keep still, quiet and out of sight when necessary.
  • Remember wildlife comes in all shapes and sizes, beyond the meadows, valleys, mountain-sides, lakes and ponds. Be sure to look up in trees, down on the ground, in holes in the ground, under bushes, between rocks. Peek in or under fallen logs, in root systems, in cracks and crevices or under a rock. Check out river banks, shorelines, marshes, shallow waters, tide pools and even puddles. Keep your eyes open for animals tracks, not only footprints but also tree marking, trail patterns, diggings, scat, scents, sounds and birthing/killing sites.
  • Discover important information and interesting facts about the park by asking questions of the Park Ranger and by reading the plaques found along the paths that encompass the park. 
  • Look for special sites within each park: Monuments, Preserves, Reserves, Lakeshores and Seashores, Rivers and other Waterways, Forests, Trails, Historic Sites, Military Parks, Battlefields, Memorials, Recreation Areas, and Parkways, the offer special insight to the culture and history of the Park too.

In addition, check out an activity book titled: National Park Signs & Symbols on Amazon:  to help you and your family get the most from your visit to National Parks.

Plan that day trip, long weekend, full week or more. You will have a full schedule if you take advantage of the Park’s activities and a most memorable trip, all without depleting the family’s finances. All you need is to be open for adventure, be daring enough to explore and discover and want to have fun. Then no matter what park you choose to visit, you will find a variety of experiences in which to participate. Keep in mind the words of naturalist, John Muir: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.” Happy Parking!