An important part of our family’s vacation plans is deciding which and how many national parks to visit. Will we camp in Yellowstone? Hike in the Great Smoky Mountains? Rock climb in Acadia? Pay our respect to the heroes at the Flight 93 Memorial? Then we pack up the car and go.
When we started these adventures, my daughters participated in the Junior Ranger program. They completed activities and attended programs based on their age level to earn a badge. The entire family worked together on crossword puzzles, poems, and journal entries. We learned about the history, the wildlife, the conservation efforts, and the special features of each park. We perused trail maps searching for great hikes. We watched movies about volcanoes or dinosaurs. We listened to rangers talk about the grizzly bears or building roads over alpine tundra. And we took thousands of photos. After each visit we felt we understood a piece of American history better, respected our natural resources a little more, and grew prouder of the magnificence of the “land of the free.” Now that they are older, we aren’t using the Junior Ranger program as our guide, but we still give a lot of attention to exploring each park and learning everything we can in the process.
Today (Thursday, Aug. 25) is the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Park Service. Every park, monument, and memorial under their care is offering free admission for the entire weekend and most have special events for community participation. I hope you will consider spending time with your family at one of these amazing national treasures – if not this weekend, sometime soon.