August 25, 2016 – National Park Service Centennial
This year, the National Park Service celebrates its 100th year, which has me thinking back to all my experiences in our national parks. I caught my first rainbow trout, fly fishing in the shadow of Grand Teton National Park. I led my first 24-day outdoor education trip in Yellowstone National Park. I brought my parents to Glacier National Park for their first backpacking trip when they were in their 50s. I attempted my first technical alpine ascent of a peak on the 13,776-foot Grand Teton.
I’ve realized that national parks don’t advertise one really important thing. They change you in the way only wild places can, especially those in the American West. In Yellowstone, I discovered how bringing teens into nature can transform followers into leaders. In Glacier, I saw my parents in a new light as they charged down a trail and into a freezing alpine lake, hollering the whole way. On the Grand Teton, I learned that the most valuable lessons in life take place en route to our destinations, after a fast-moving storm forced us to descend before we reached the summit.
When you drive through the park entrance station, the National Park Service rangers don’t tell you about all the possible life-changing experiences you will have. Perhaps they want you to uncover it yourself. Like the quiet alpine lake you and your family stumble upon 20 minutes down the trail and miles away from the crowds. Or the grizzly you spot at dusk through your binoculars in the Lamar Valley. Or the cold beer you sip while sitting in the rocking chairs at the Roosevelt Lodge.
Here’s to answering the National Park Service’s birthday call this year to “Find your park.” With countless trails to discover, wildlife to watch and rivers to play in, you don’t need to travel far. There are 410 national park sites, covering more than 84 million acres in every state, including farther-flung places like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
But making the trip to Yellowstone Country is extraordinarily well-worth it. Home to wolves, bison and grizzlies and half of the world’s geysers, it’s like no other place on Earth.
Along the way, there’s something else you’ll find – yourself.
– Tori Peglar, Editor, National Park Journal