For me National Parks are the purest form of American Idealism. Not that they aren’t problematic too, like most ideals, but the idea that everyone should have access to something regardless of personal attributes or characteristics is something most of us can agree on. An exception to capitalism, where wealth does not give you any better access or enjoyment of such awesome splendor. This is not intended to downplay the mess of colonialism that all of the U.S. is afflicted with and that is integral to the foundation of the our parks, because this land certainly was inhabited before Europeans staked it out. But the idea that even today we should have these beautiful or important places that transcend our social structures. The enormous geographical diversity of our country and the regional differences are something to be cherished and shared with each other. It is so important to me that my children experience and see as much of our land as we can. So here are the top 5 parks on my Holiday Dream list!
- Dry Tortugas
My children are utterly dreading this trip and when I get started talking about Parks it is inevitable that one of them will roll their eyes and say “DRY TORTUGAS.” It’s such a fascinating historical site, Fort Jefferson that was also used to imprison the Lincoln Assassination Conspirators, there’s a lighthouse and SEA TURTLES. It has oddly come up in a lot of reading and I just find the whole thing fascinating. Only accessible by boat, my family spends a ton of time trying to convince me that this should be tacked on to a “Disney” trip. Which gives me hives.
2. Denali National Park
One can hardly dream about National parks without thinking about Alaska. The sheer geographical isolation and unspoiled splendor makes any Alaska park a must see, but Denali is the one I’m reaching for. It is very accessible compared to some of the other Alaska parks. The beauty, splendor and majesty of the pictures are unbelievable. I sometimes try and persuade my husband to telework so we can spend six months in Alaska because there is just so much to see. He, of course, has a more realistic view of what it would be like for us to live somewhere for six months that may be utterly dark depending when we went. I would love to be in Alaska for their growing season to see the explosive growth cycles of vegetation and then watch it all blanketed in ice and snow. I lived in Northern Maine for a few years and the intensity of the seasonal changes were breathtaking.
3. Isle Royale National Park
Having the distinction as the least visited National Park it peaked my interest for unspoiled splendor as well. Additionally Michigan is probably a much easier reach than Alaska for us. Accessible by ferry from June-September this park is outdoor paradise for boating, fishing and hiking. It is a wild habitat still intact and it does require substantial planning to make the trip. The water is supposed to be shockingly clear and the island has a long historical use of copper mining. Another park to save until the kids are bit older!
One word, Buffalo. Except, you know Bison, because we don’t actually have buffalo in North America. Bison, geysers, panoramic views and amazing hikes. Not to mention a battleground park of the entire National Park system. America’s first National Park definitely makes the list for me. From the reintroduction of wolves revolutionizing the entire ecosystem, to the mystery of why the elk population was declining being solved by eco-detectives and attributed to invasive FISH (There is a great Smithsonian Documentary on this) Yellowstone has been crucial in our American cultural relationship with Nature.
5. Dinosaur National Monument
I love Dinosaurs. LOVE THEM. When I was a little girl we saw a Slim Goodbody show (that might date me) and he gave me a fossil, love ignited. I spent so much time in the American Museum of Natural History that my parents still don’t want to go. We visit the Carnegie Museum and my kids drag behind as I race through to see the Diplodocus and the Quetzalcoatlus, they want to see gems and mammals. Do you ever look at the fancy Schleich toys and wonder who pays $15 for a single dinosaur? It’s me. They are fantastic. Sadly, none of my children have been as enamored with Dinosaurs as I am, not that it has doused my enthusiasm in the the slightest. So the idea that we can visit an ENTIRE park of fossils is just amazing. They have a wall there with over 1500 exposed fossils. How could anyone miss out on that? Our life has arranged itself that we should able to be able to visit in Spring 2018, so I am beyond thrilled. This year I was Mrs. Frizzle for Halloween, and I wore the dinosaur dress. Dinosaurs are amazing.
*Here is a handy local tourism link to check out the area that Dinosaur National Monument is in http://www.dinoland.com/.
Happy Holidays to everyone! Let me know what your top 5 bucket list parks are!