Reflections on our Western National Park Trip

I’ve been back for almost three weeks from our epic road trip out west. Lenny and I took about six weeks to drive from Asheville to San Francisco and then spent a week at Family Nature Summit in the Monterey area. Life has certainly taken over since I got back so I’d like to reflect on what I saw and learned.

The main focus of our trip was to visit smaller national park units. And we were not disappointed. Every national park had an interesting slant on American life and history. We tried to get on as many ranger tours as possible and stayed in the park lodges.

It was a pleasure to visit every single western national parks. For the most park, the resources were just fine. Park rangers were enthusiastic,  knowledgeable and eager to share their knowledge. Yes, the budget shortfall was mentioned, especially when it came time to explain shorter hours or fewer ranger tours.

You’ve probably heard of Arches, Canyonlands and Capital Reef National Park, all in Utah. But what about the Hubbell Trading Post in Arizona? Or Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico? Even Manzanar National Historic Site, which remembers the World War II Japanese-American internment, might be considered obscure.

Yet, these are the parks that deserve our attention. The rangers and volunteers in back of the desk were so happy to see us and spend time answering our questions. They were not overwhelmed by visitors. I read up on the parks before we went but I could have done more preparation.

I can tell you that I’ll remember the history of Hot Springs, AK– see the picture above–for a long time.

The pueblos of Navajo National Monument –see the photo to the left–and Mesa Verde, CO were amazing.

But I can’t say that there was one park that I was sorry to visit or one park that wasn’t worth my time. I could have been on the road another month and seen more park units. I blogged about the parks. Just look for my blog posts in May and June.

Will I drive out west again? Probably not, because there are too many parks and not enough time. But now, I want to do the same trip to the upper midwest–Voyageur, Pictured Rocks, Isle Royale.

But first, I have to finish my Southeast national parks project. I still have to visit 16 parks, including the Jazz museum in New Orleans and Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace in Kentucky.

So go out and see your national parks.


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