How can you pick just one? All national park sites established around the world are favorites of someone. It’s why they are protected and preserved. Although I’m drawn to the nature based parks I also enjoy cultural sites.
Visited 61 out of 401 US National Parks
I started visiting national parks during my first major solo road trip 38 years ago. My first was Rocky Mountain and I told myself, “I want to live here.” Hasn’t happened yet, but I’m still thinking about it. At that time I knew nothing about being a Park Ranger and little did I dream that 16 years later as an adult college student I’d be introduced to rangering at Mt St Helens National Volcanic Monument. I was hooked immediately. Some days it’s hard to believe I get paid for sharing stories about people and places.
Working in parks
Although I’d already worked for the Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife and the National Park Service, the first time I visited the South Rim of Grand Canyon I said, “I’m going to work here someday.” Of course I ended up on the North Rim which is even better in my opinion even though there are no bad views of the canyon.
My favorite things about working in a park is learning, sharing and meeting wonderful people from around the world. Visitors love national parks. All us Rangers ask is not to love them to death. Have respect for the people and place. Before cliff dwelling tours at Mesa Verde I asked visitors to treat these ancient sites like their Grandmother’s home. Part of a Rangers’ job is protecting these special places “for future generations.” We try to reach this goal through education and helping visitors connect to the site emotionally and intellectually.
I love to do research and learn new things which I did a lot of putting together a history of hatcheries along the Columbia River while working for US Fish & Wildlife. My office was located at Little White Salmon Fish Hatchery so I also lead hatchery tours. I think what I learned most here was I’d rather eat salmon than study them. Though it was interesting.
Visited 12 out of 19 South African National Parks
Many of the SANParks I’ve visited are way different than anything here in the States. While self-driving on safari in wildlife parks there aren’t a lot of options to hike unless with an armed Ranger. Yet it feels right to me being in the cage of a vehicle so the animals can live free. Plus there are many parks with hiking options into interesting landscapes like mountains, desert and beach. And although I don’t usually pick favorites, so far Kruger National Park is number one on my list with Addo Elephant running a close second.
America’s Best Idea
The United States may have been first to establish a national park — Yellowstone, in 1872 — but governments around the world have reserved thousands of acres supporting wildlife conservation, protecting natural beauty and important cultural sites while promoting ecotourism. In fact nearly 100 countries around the world have lands classified as a national park. Australia started in 1879 and currently has 685 parks. If the rate of exchange was in my favor this would be the next place for me to travel. Or maybe to China’s 208 parks with a current rate of exchange 1US$ to 6.12 Yuan, except it’s winter there when I want to travel.
They are all my favorite, just for different reasons. Not trying to break any records but there are still a lot of national park sites on my list. There’s something about connecting to the land that soothes my Pleistocene soul.
Do you have a ‘favorite’ national park?
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