Editorial Notebook

Why I love national parks

Happy almost Spring Break! I would like to share with you the reasons why you should plan a visit to a national park during your upcoming Summer Break.

1. National parks are beautiful.

Click here to see photos of national parks. I don't think words can do them justice.

2. National parks are for all ages and not only for outdoors enthusiasts.

Different plansall rewardingcan be made to accommodate different ages, abilities, and levels of adventurousness. My family first visited Yosemite when I was seven years old and my sister five. We also visited the Grand Canyon with my grandma, who is 70 years old. During our first trip, I recall driving to and walking around different viewpoints and areas: Mariposa Grove, Glacier Point, and Yosemite Falls. As my sister and I got older, my family began hiking the different scenic trails during our trips.

3. National parks are accessible and affordable.

Twenty-nine states are home to national parks. For most, the nearest national park to you will be a road trip away. The National Park Service’s annual pass only costs $80 and allows one vehicle into any park. You can choose to stay in a hotel, motel, lodge, cabin, or camp. Options vary, but camping can cost as little as $12 a night.

4. National parks force a genuine tech break.

As students at a tech school, we spend a lot of our time working on our computers. As a computer science student, I naturally gravitate toward my computer even during breaks at home. Although we can promise ourselves to take a break once in a while, nothing can beat the massive unplugged sessions that national parks foster. Even when the internet is available at national parks, I naturally deviate from using it. There is something about being in pristine wilderness that makes using a phone feel out of place and unnecessary.

5. National parks are perfect classrooms.

National parks offer a variety of ranger programs, talks, walks, and guided hikes, all of which are included in the park’s entrance free. In Denali, a ranger led my family through the arctic tundra on a berry tasting trip, in which I learned how to differentiate between poisonous ones and the safe ones. In Yosemite, I learned about wildfires and why they are vital to the health of the environment and the birth of new sequoia trees. At the Grand Canyon, I learned about California condors, how they became endangered, and how the park is helping grow their population. In Haleakala, I learned the native tribal sun song “E ala Ē” as I watched the sun rise over volcanoes. The energy and passion of park rangers is palpable and left an everlasting impression on me, not only in terms of knowledge, but also inspiration by their way of teaching. I leave each park with stories of the Earth, animals, and culture that I will cherish forever.

6. National parks are wild.

If you thrive on the feeling of adventure, national parks provide a wide range of activities: hiking trails varying from easy to very challenging, observing viewpoints, drives through winding roads at elevations of thousands of feet, swims in freezing cold glacial water, the movie-esque interactions of wildlife, and more.

Admittedly, I am a bit biased. Ever since my family visited our first national park, we try to plan one trip every year. Despite being above the typical age that participates in the Junior Ranger program, at 18, I still complete the program at every park I visit and stand proudly alongside little kids to take the Junior Ranger pledge. In my free time, I sometimes put on my favorite songs and travel virtually through new parks on Google Earth. In my metals class in high school, I spent a month designing, engraving, and staining a national park arrowhead logo plaque that I mounted on my bedroom wall. I collect national park coins that are in circulation. One day, I want to be a national park ranger.

I love national parks and if you visit one I think you will fall in love too. If you do visit one, I would love to hear about your experiences or if you would like any help planning your trip, I would be happy to share some recommendations. You can reach me at anushka@poly.rpi.edu.