It’s the 100th birthday of America’s spectacular National Parks. Well, no, that’s not true. The parks themselves are older than time and don’t give a hoot about the last measly 100 years. But it’s been 100 years to the day since President Woodrow Wilson founded the National Park Service in order to keep these vast swaths of stunning nature and wildlife protected, gate them off from what would soon become the unstoppable sprawl of suburban America, and make sure that there are enough brave, beige-shirted, awesome-hat wearing Rangers to patrol them. And we tip our own slightly less jaunty hats to these men and women for keeping our parks safe and making sure that people like us could grow up waking each morning to breathtaking vistas as we crawled out of our tents on family summer vacations.
Above: Zion, UT
Ever since we were just itty bitty fledgling campers, earning our Junior Ranger Badges by identifying animals by their paw prints left in mud, collecting leaf samples, and dissecting owl coughings, we’ve been in love with America’s Parks. Sequoia! Zion! Yellowstone! Grand Tetons! These are just a very few, but chanting their names here is enough to clear the cobwebs of city pollution and stress right out of the corners of our brains and leave us smelling pine, hearing the crackle of a camp fire, and dreaming of our next vacation into the wild.
Above: Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands, CA
We’ve been spelunking, camping, rafting, rappelling, horseback riding, hiking, canyoning, inner tubing, and donkeyback skee riding in the parks. We’ve feared for our mortal safety when stumbling upon bison, snakes, bears and more. We’ve had spiritual awakenings. We’ve awoken from spiritual awakenings and went back to our jobs. We have had mindblowing meals cooked on camp stoves that would probably actually taste like horse dung if we hadn’t been hiking and breathing fresh air and getting ravenous all day.
Above: Joshua Tree, CA
We’ve spent long minutes in park gift shops, competing with siblings on who could find the most amazingly ugly mass-made tchotchkes and then eaten frozen snicker bars and ice cream sandwiches from lodge cafeterias. We’ve scoped out various levels of back to nature toilets. We’ve sat in silence and awe, looking at unbelievable sunsets. We’ve roared in triumph when reaching the top of an unending trail.
We love you, U.S. National Parks! We wouldn’t be the people we are without you … and we have so much more hope for our own children knowing that, with any luck, you’ll be around for much longer than the next measly 100 years, doling out the best of nature’s best.
Above: Sequoia, CA