Happy Birthday National Parks

Saturday, January 9, 2016 - by Diane Siskin

There is an historic happening taking place in our nation’s National Parks during 2016. It is the 100th anniversary of the creation of the act which preserves and protects many of our country’s most beautiful wild areas; parks, forests and lakes, rivers and deserts.

The exciting thing is that you can participate in the celebration.

This year, 2016 is the actual 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the government agency which runs the various parks and public lands.
Several parks, Yellowstone established in 1872 (the nation’s first park) and Yosemite, in 1890were established before the National Park Service. Before 1916 these two parks were managed by the Department of the Interior.

And even if you are unable to physically visit many of these glorious locations you still take in their wonder by viewing The National Parks Adventure, a 3-D IMAX film, which will be (in IMAX) theaters on February 12th.

This movie which has been called “the ultimate off-trail adventure,’ is narrated by Robert Redford, a well-known movie star and environmentalist filmmaker.

The film follows world-class mountaineers and adventure photographers as they rock climb, mountain climb and hike through Utah’s Arches, Canyonlands and Zion national parks.

Several months ago we visited Zion National Park and did a much abbreviated tour through this breathtaking area with a combination shuttle, walking and “very little climbing.” tour. Nevertheless, the sights we were able to view were stunning.

Zion is an easy day drive from Las Vegas Nevada and with good weather you can see and do quite a bit in a short-time span. The drive alone to Zion, which weaves through incredibly beautiful scenery, makes the trip worthwhile. It is a wonderland of narrow (slot) sandstone canyons which run to St. George Utah, and then onto Kolob Canyons.

Once inside the park you can view hanging gardens, cascading waterfalls and hear about how geological events shaped this land for more than 200 million years. 

With Las Vegas, as home base it is also easy to explore the Grand Canyon and Bryce National Parks. 

And while most of Grand Canyon National Park is now closed until mid-May, there are still those visitors who choose to hike the North Rim in winter with the purchase of a back-country permit, even though the snow and cold make most of the park inaccessible.

Just because it is winter, doesn’t mean that all of our country’s national parks, forests and recreational areas go into hibernation. In a driving distance, much closer to Chattanooga, you can visit the Number 1 most visited (with more than 10 million tourists) National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains. This park spreads across Tennessee and into North Carolina.

If you want to visit a national park in a warm weather destination you need only to check out the offerings of Florida’s Pristine Parks.

Or you could head for Haleakala in Hawaii or even the Virgin Islands, Dry Tortugas or Katmi. Or don’t stop there, go to American Samoa.

When it gets too hot in summer where you live, what about visiting the Gates of the Artic, a lesser well-known National Park.

Included on many tourist bucket lists are the following (not already mentioned) parks; Death Valley, Denali, Glacier Bay, Shenandoah, Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

A few years ago, we visited Yosemite National Park in the Yosemite Valley of California, which is especially known for its stunning granite monument, Half Dome, which rises 4,737 feet above the Merced River. El Capitan, another spectacular sight, is a popular climbing spot. 

This past year saw, (via televised accounts) two men who where able to climb the glacier polished granite dome side of this mammoth without ever descending until they reached the top. Coverage and photos of their “sleeping bag huts” hanging off the side of monument were mesmerizing.

From Glacier Point, within Yosemite, you have sweeping views of Half Dome and El Capitan other visitors choose to climb or walk Lembert Dome and the granite slopes of Sentinel Dome.

We also dined in Ahwahnee Lodge, a National Historic Landmark. The food, ambience and service were excellent. The lodge also offers guest accommodations and its great lawn is well-known as a stargazing site.

We visited Yosemite on a day trip from Murphys, California, where we were staying with friends, Gloria Miller and David Bowman, of Chattanooga. The couple and their extended family have been active members of the Yosemite Conservancy for several generations

David’s late sister, Shelley Andrews of Chattanooga, was recently honored with the placement of two very unique wood benches on a bluff above the Tennessee River and the Moccasin Bend Trail.

This tribute came from the Friends of Moccasin Bend, an organization which Mrs. (Don) Andrews had been instrumental with uncovering what had long ago been Federal Road, according to Gloria Miller.

“Shelley spearheaded the cleaning of the trail of this natural area for the enjoyment of all.” Moccasin Bend Trail is a Federal Park under the auspices of Chickamauga National Park.
In whatever way you are able, celebrate this wonderful National Park birthday by visiting a national park, forest, lakeshore, desert or canyon this year. Or go to the movies and catch the beauty on screen. Visit a museum and marvel at photos by Ansel Adams or take in landscape paintings of scenes in various parks. Or you can visit a library and check out books about the parks. The beauty and adventure is there for the enjoyment of all.

For Your Information:

If you are 62 years or older and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. you can obtain a lifetime pass for admission to the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands. You can purchase this pass at the auto entrance gate to most parks. The standard amenity fee covers the pass holder and occupants of a single, private non-commercial vehicle, or one motorcycle.

This senior pass covers the pass holder and three persons (16 and older) where per person fees are charged. A valid photo ID is required. We paid only $10. An inexpensive entrance price for so much grandeur.

When we visited the Sabino Canyon in Coronado National Forest Recreation in Tucson, Arizona on the same trip, the passes enabled us to park and enter for free.

This year there will be free entrance fees, commercial tour fees and transportation entrance fees on selected dates such as National Park Week (April 16-24) and National Park Service Birthday celebration (August 25-28) and National Public Lands Day on September 24.

And while more than 100 parks charge only a nominal entrance fee, the rest, almost 300 locations, are always free.

Still another special initiative during this anniversary year is called the White House’s Every Kid in a Park. This is a free pass to all National Park Service sites for any fourth-grader through August 31. 



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