America's National Parks

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Looking across the salt flats of Death Valley

In response to an invitation by fellow garden blogger Pam, at Digging, I’m going to write a bit about some of the National Parks I’ve visited over the years. As Pam noted in her introductory post (here), most gardeners share a love of the greater outdoors, not just their own little patch of dirt. There’s so much to learn from, and be inspired by, the vast expanses of natural landscapes featured in our parks. Each and every one of them has at least one OMG! vista that will live in your mind’s eye forever. They are truly a gift of our American heritage.

My First

One of my earliest childhood memories is of a rare family vacation that was not just a visit to “the relatives.” Our destination was Yellowstone Park, or as I thought of it, Jellystone Park. Our goal was to see Yogi and Boo-Boo, and we did! I also remember looking out over a steep cliff to view a beautiful waterfall and the river far below. My dear dad kept urging me to “get closer for a better look!” (Amazingly, I did not develop a deep seated fear of heights.) I must admit though, that my biggest memory of that entire trip was that we got to stay in a motel, and that the motel had a swimming pool, and that I had gotten a new swimming suit just for the trip that matched my big sister’s (oversized harlequin diamonds, hers was blue, mine gold). Oh, well. I guess when you’re five years old it’s the little things that make the big impressions.

My Most Recent

Last December my husband and I took a long road trip over the Christmas holidays. Part of the plan was to spend a day in Death Valley. The enormity of the space is pretty overwhelming; I kept thinking, “This is what Afghanistan must look like?!” That, plus the extremely low speed limits and poorly designed/built roads (must’ve taken the lowest bid on that one…), made for a marathon day. I would recommend that you plan to stay in the park at least one night so you can see some of the attractions featured off of the main road. The ability to be there very early in the morning or at sunset would allow for some terrific photo opps!

My All Time Favorite

Gotta be Mesa Verde. I first visited this park when I was about ten years old. I loved reading historical fiction as a child. Stories of pioneers, cowboys and, particularly, Native Americans were my favorites. The idea that this remnant of an ancient civilization had been discovered just recently by working cowboys really captured my imagination. As I grew older, my interests in architecture, fine crafts, and plants! would also be enriched and expanded by visits to Mesa Verde. My roots are deep in the southwest; New Mexico, Colorado, and even (yes, I’ll admit it) Texas. The beauty of the southwestern landscape really speaks to me, and the vistas in this park are gorgeous in any season. A special sense of place and timelessness is what makes Mesa Verde resonate deep within my core and makes it a joy to visit again and again.

Been Here, Too

Rocky Mountain - kind of a snooze for me, I see vistas like this all the time!

Zion - awsome! I would love to stay in the lodge here.

Grand Canyon - make it a destination. It's too hard to get to for a quick peek over the edge.

Great Sand Dunes - a fun, fun family spot.

Don’t Forget our National Monuments!

They are certainly smaller, but typically quirky and fun. Check out Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado, Capulin, Bandelier, and White Sands (my destination come November) in New Mexico, and Four Corners in, well, the four corners.

Happy travels!

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