Planning a National Park Trip isn’t easy

George Washington Carver in Anatomy Class

This morning, WLOS-TV, the Asheville ABC affiliate, asked the following question to its viewers.

How many national parks are there in the U.S.?

The answer is 59. That’s easy.

How many national park units are there in the U.S.? 401.

I’m working on seeing the 66 units in the Southeast, which should be easy-peasy by now. After all, I’ve visited the most expensive ones in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. But it’s not easy, since I am trying to put a few parks together in one driving trip.

National parks like Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Everglades are open all the time. The visitor centers stay open and staffed, almost through any kind of weather. They may be hurting for money and cut down on trail maintenance and ranger programs but they don’t just bar the gates. They don’t have gates.

Not so with other units.

Historic sites and battlefields have gates and hours, usually 9 am to 5 pm. They can close certain days and hours, if they don’t have the money to keep their visitor centers open and staffed.

Such is the case with Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site. I’ve been trying to call the visitor center for weeks. I get a voice mail and no one returns my calls. The site features the home of Booker T. Washington who created the Tuskegee Institute, which became a center for African-American education. The site also holds the George Washington Carver museum.

Right now, the Carver museum is closed for renovations. According to their website, the museum is supposed to have reopened fall, 2013. Well, winter 2014 is almost over and it’s still closed. This from a maintenance worker which I managed to track down by calling the administrative line. The Visitor Center doesn’t answer its phones.

Is anyone out there? I’ll let you know when I get there. Folks, this is a national park.

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