The U.S. National Park Service turned 100 on August 25, 2016. As a committed city girl, I had somehow managed to live 20 years in the United States without setting foot in one of these amazing Parks.
All that changed when, almost exactly 10 years ago, my husband suggested we head off for one month to explore the American Southwest.
Now, as I am considering taking my granddaughter on a trip to Yellowstone National Park with Road Scholar, I can’t help thinking about my own experiences in the U.S. National Parks.
We turned our family minivan into a small motor home and excitedly packed our newly purchased sleeping bags, waterproof matches, cooking equipment and camping gear. I insisted that we take the coffee maker – I truly believed that we could not live without it! We never used it.
With an untested spirit of adventure and wild curiosity, we set off with good friends Bruce and Joyce. They just happened to be National Geographic photographers who knew the Southwest well. We were in good hands. They promised to take us to all the secret places and they didn’t let us down.
Our plan was to take thousands of pictures, while exploring nature. We wanted to feel the magic of the parks. I didn’t realize how much the experience would impact my life.
Over 4 weeks, we explored Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Mesa, Arches, Mesa Verde, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Grand Canyon National Park. It was an education and experience that touched my soul and changed me as a woman.
I look back at that time with intensely powerful memories. I remember the golden sunsets, hot springs and steaming geysers, waterfalls and wildlife. I washed clothes in pools of water, cooked over an open fire and felt muscles I never knew existed. I celebrated creativity and learned about self-reliance.
The boundaries of my comfort zone were shattered many times. Situations demanded innovation and newly discovered survival skills gave me a deep sense of confidence.
As expected, the picture opportunities were incredible! As we ambled along from place to place, one of us always saw a perfect once in a lifetime photo opportunity. This always required stopping the cars, listening to the sounds of nature, dodging rain and waiting patiently for the perfect light. These moments of solitude gave me time to think about how being close to nature fills our spirit with pure awe.
My favorite stop was at Toroweap Overlook. A 3,000 vertical feet above the Colorado River, the sheer drop was such dramatic view it literally took my breath away.
In four action packed weeks, we experienced 10 of the 58 National Parks. I honestly wish that we had had the time to visit the other 48! They offer so many secrets!
For example, did you know that there are 19 types of fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park or that Yosemite National Park is home to 21 spectacular waterfalls?
There are more geysers in Yellowstone National Park than anywhere else on earth, including Old Faithful with its famous clockwork-like eruptions. There are many other secrets, but, you probably want to discover them for yourself!
I was fortunate to travel the National Parks in 4 different states with people I knew. However, if I ever wanted to go back and explore the other 48, I know exactly where I would turn. From Denali to Glacier Bay, Great Sand Dunes to the Great Smoky Mountains, Road Scholar offers over 300 programs featuring North America’s National Parks.
Learning adventures in these parks have always been a very popular experience and as James Moses, president and CEO of Road Scholar says, “Road Scholar’s expert instructors, rangers, naturalists and historians bring these national treasures to life and provide deep context from which to experience their natural beauty.”
Boomers tend to be lifelong learners. We value education and look for new experiences when we travel. Road Scholars’ unique approach creates experiences, uncovers secrets and creates stories to be passed down for generations.
Mother Nature is a powerful and evocative storyteller. She delivers her message to all of the senses simultaneously. Her stories embrace sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.
Words describe the physical world as we see it on the outside. Being in nature changes us on the inside.
As a grandmother, I look forward to sharing these learning adventures with my grandchildren, especially the Greater Yellowstone Adventure for Grandkids and Grandparents. I can only imagine how incredible that intergenerational experience would be!
If you are interested in exploring some of the American National State Parks, check out Road Scholar’s website.
How many of the U.S. National Parks have you visited? Have you ever been on a Road Scholar trip? Which one? Please join the conversation.
Editor’s note: This sponsored post was written be Margaret Manning, who is a genuine fan of Road Scholar and their amazing trips.