Sunday, May 10, 2015

Love Nature, Hate Camping: A Manhattanite's Quest To Visit All 59 National Parks

Love Nature, Hate Camping: A Manhattanite's Quest To Visit All 59 National Parks

I'm a 31 year old woman living in Manhattan. Sadly, because of where I live, nature isn't a big part of my daily life (drinks at the Boat Basin, bike riding in Central Park, and tanning at the Jersey Shore don't really count as bouts with nature, as fun as they are...). Despite the lack of nature in my normal life, in fall of 2011, I found myself in Rocky Mountain National Park, celebrating my 28th birthday with one of my closest friends from college and one of my closest friends from high school. During a long hike, I mentioned that I love visiting national parks and that I wish I had visited more while I lived in Los Angeles since so many are more accessible to West Coasters. This lead to a conversation about how many I had visited at that point. The answer was 12 (Acadia, Glacier Bay, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Great Sand Dunes, Haleakala, Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon, Mesa Verde, Sequoia, Yellowstone, and Yosemite). One of my friends said that must be nearly all of the national parks and suggested I try to visit all of the ones I hadn't been over the next two years - before I turned 30.

Great idea, I agreed, until we did the research and realized that there were 58 national parks (not the 15-20 we had thought). (Note there are currently 59 national parks, the latest, Pinnacles, was added in 2013 after I started my quest.) Due to the voluminous nature of the national parks, my quest became a quest to visit 30 national parks before I turn 30 (which I've accomplished), 40 before I turn 40, and all 59 before I turn 50.

One thing I must add - though I love national parks, I hate camping. I tried camping twice as a child and hated it both times. I have no desire to sleep on the ground with no running water. Accordingly, all of my national park trips involve hotel stays, preferably nice hotels, where available. (I haven't tried glamping yet though; I don't think I'd like it.)

On my quest, a common question I get is "what are the national parks?" Below is a list of our nation's 59 national parks. The parks in red are the ones I have visited (and will be blogging about). The parks in green are the ones I still need to visit.

American Samoa
Big Bend 
Black Canyon of the Gunnison 
Bryce Canyon  
Capitol Reef 
Carlsbad Caverns
Channel Islands 
Crater Lake
Cuyahoga Valley
Death Valley
Dry Tortugas
Gates of the Arctic
Glacier Bay
Grand Canyon
Grand Teton 
Great Basin
Great Sand Dunes 
Great Smoky Mountain
Guadalupe Mountains
Hawai'i' Volcanoes
Hot Springs
Isle Royale
Joshua Tree 
Kenai Fjords 
Kings Canyon
Kobuk Valley
Lake Clark
Lassen Volcanic
Mammoth Cave
Mesa Verde
Mount Rainier
North Cascades 
Petrified Forest 
Rocky Mountain
Theodore Roosevelt
Virgin Islands
Wind Cave 
Wrangell-St. Elias  

I would like to clarify that my quest is only to visit national parks. I am not trying to visit national historic sites, national sea shores, national forests, or national monuments (though many national monuments eventually become national parks). I have nothing against these other national treasures. I simply had to put some boundaries on my quest. 

What's the best part of visiting the national parks? Not only getting into nature, learning about our country and our environment, but also taking fun trips with friends of mine from around the country. My national park trips have been with a wide assortment of friends from all parts of my life (college friends, high school friends, law school friends, NY friends, LA friends, boyfriend, family). Great revelations about boyfriends, fiances, finances, and jobs - as have minor revelations (e.g., that there's a tv show called "Pregnant and Dating") - have been had on these trips. So, follow in my footsteps, jump into nature, and rekindle your connections with your family and friends!

Read on to learn more about my quest to visit all of the national parks. Read on to learn about the national parks, the best (non-camping) places to stay when visiting the parks, and the best activities to do while visiting them. Borrow my itineraries and learn from my mistakes. 

P.S. - my other blog is not going on hiatus. I am simply going to focus that blog on my non-national park adventures and this blog on my national park adventures. (Where to put the international national parks I have visited is another question...)

Finally, if you want to take your own national park trip (which I highly recommend), feel free to retain me to be your personal national park planner! (Send me an email if you would like help planning a trip.)

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