When my boys were 3 and 6 we moved from Austin to Portland, OR. We took 2 months to get here. Part of the time was spent in Arizona visiting family and the rest was spent exploring our National Parks from Arizona, Nevada, California and Oregon.
This year we took 1 month and drove over 8000 miles seeing National Parks, Preserves, Historic Sites through more than 10 states on this trip.
The experience at each individual park or historic site stands alone. Some brought awe and reverence, some brought disgust and sadness. The living experience is what it is all about.
It’s not enough to read about it or see photos on the internet. To actually feel the sand of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve or to hear the eagles call as it soars overhead while you watch your children watch the buffalo roam freely through Yellowstone National Park; to touch the snow and feel the coolness of the breeze just before Old Faithful explodes with it’s nearly boiling geyser. These experiences are embedded deep in the soul and they are more valuable than any Nintendo DS.
The active participation in the Junior Ranger Program with the children is not only wonderful for them, it allows the children to recommit to a higher value each time they complete a program through the National Park. As a parent, to participate with the children, allowed me to see the parks through their eyes as well as the lens of my camera, as a result I am more knowledgeable and aware. I am also more committed to my beliefs of sustainable living so that we have a planet along with these parks for generations to come.
While President Obama was in office he instated the Every Kid In a Park Program. That means 4th Graders get a pass to all the parks as well as access to several other branches like the Army Corps of Engineers. You can find out more here: https://www.nps.gov/kids/features/2015/everyKid.cfm
Our memories, these experiences will last forever.
Exploration of the deep Mammoth Cave gives us the reality that there is more than what we see on the surface. Visiting the Badlands and seeing Jupiter with the other star gazers reminded us we are more than what we think we are. When we stand at Mount Rushmore and see the process of the artist John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum, we appreciate more. When we observe the buffalo freely roam throughout land free of threat, we can hope for more. When we stand on the battle field of Little Big Horn, we are compassionate of more.
There is nothing like traveling to the National Parks, camping, exploring and leaving no trace. Instead taking the memories, the moments, unique, life changing, life affirming. These are what will last forever. This beauty is what will live in our children as they climb into adulthood.
Make it a priority, whether for your children or just for yourself, get out to a National Park and become a supporter.
May you never be the same again.