Over 280 million people visit the National Parks each year, most of those visits are between Memorial Day and Labor Day. To put that into perspective, as of 2011 there were almost 312 million people in the United States, which means that just about as many people who live in the United States visit the National Parks and we are the 3rd largest country in the world. Wow! So why do so many people visit the National Parks?
One reason would simply be the fact that the National Parks are always fun and often fantastically beautiful! It shows a countries unique character and the beauty that God has created for us to enjoy. The parks are extremely well run and have opportunities galore for exploration and relaxation and getting lost in nature. Too many times our lives are all hustle and bustle, running to and fro that we lose sight of ourselves and our world. National Parks help bring some of that perspective back and help us to realize how small we are, and that my friends, is a good thing!
You can't drive around a National Park without just going wow, with jaws dropped open in awe. It helps that a lot of our most scenic drives are in National Parks. It brings us back to family and little kid wonderment, which we adults loose so often and our children just get. We begin to wonder what is around the next corner. We will randomly stop so we can get out and run up a giant sand dune, just to turn around and run back down, wind at our faces and feet tripping up beneath us. We may look silly, but that's okay, because it's what you do. Or stop at a beautiful lakeside beach to skip rocks across the lake and see what kind of unique ones we can bring home for our "collection". Maybe we get lucky and the beach is ours alone for awhile. I mean really how often are you "alone" in your daily life, for more than just a car ride to get somewhere?
Some of our National Parks are set aside because of the historical importance of them. Mesa Verde is one such park, it connects us with our past. History comes alive for you as you read about and walk through the buildings where people 700 years ago treaded. How did they live? Why did they leave? All thoughts that flash through your head as you walk through the sites. This park was established in 1906 to as Theodore Roosevelt put it, "preserve the works of man," the first such park of its kind. The buildings are extremely well preserved and there's a sense of mystery about them, because of their abrupt departure. Is there something we need to learn from them?
National Parks are simply fun! Let your inner kid loose as you wander through huge trees that you can drive a car under like in Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Park, or lava tubes where red, hot lava flowed in the past like in Volcano National Park. Enjoy that sense of wonderment as you wander through one of the largest caves in the world at Mammoth Cave National Park. Did you know that Ohio also has a national park? Yep right here in the midwest(ish). You can completely escape from everybody in parks like Isle Royale National Park in Michigan and Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska which is only accesible by bush plane and have most of the park to yourself.
And lets not forget about the wildlife! Where else can you see elk roaming around your lodging without fear of anything, or wolf/buffalo interactions or for that matter grizzlies! Children love national parks and really enjoy visiting them. There are all sorts of activities for them to do which I will touch on in my next post. I hope this inspires you to check out a National Park, monument, seashore, lakeshore, or battlefield in this upcoming week. Enjoy!