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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The National Parks

"The mountains are calling and I must go." - John Muir

The Grand Canyon
The greatest single asset America has is the amazing land we have inherited from our predecessors. It allows us to be free, to go from one spectacular vista to another. In many ways we have been blessed with a diverse ecosystem that runs the gamut from the slow flowing shallow river of the The Everglades, to the slopes of Mount Rainier. From the rugged Maine Coastline to the ever-changing volcanic fields of Hawaii. It's a stunning collection of beauty and raw natural power, on a scale against which humanity is only a temporary visitor.

In America, we are fortunate that many of these lands have been set aside for the enjoyment of all people, not just a landowner or resource-exploitation. Certain lands are, and should always remain, untouched and available for everyone, regardless of economic incentive.

Visiting a National Park -- or any of the other dozens of categories of "National" treasure (forest, monument, battlefield, historic site) -- is a mainstay of American family summer vacations. We still load up the minivan and drive on down the road with the kids asking how long until "we're there?" and playing road trip games along the way. 

Mount Haleakala at sunrise
Historian Wallace Stegner referred to the establishment of the National Park Service as "the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."

They give us our sense of history, of grandeur.

Next year, in 2016, the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary protecting and maintaining our lands for the future. And the present.

It's about the time of year we all begin looking towards the next to decide what it is we're going to do. My suggestion is to pick a park -- or monument, forest, battlefield, etc -- and visit. Make a road trip out of it. (I have firm memories of long road trips with nightly stops at Holiday Inns along the way. Very fond memories.) It's a family thing, and will go far towards getting everyone out of that shell, with eyes firmly on the ground before them as opposed a the screen. Or tablet.

A few of my favorites are shown below.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Gettysburg National Battlefield, Pennsylvania

Glacier National Park, Montana

Joshua Tree National Park, California
Rocky Mountain National Park
Everglades National Park, Florida

El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico