Celebrating our (closed) national parks

The last few days have brought even more than the usual political vitriol, and with the sadness and frustration and anger I share with many of you over the government shutdown, I thought maybe we should distract ourselves by going on an armchair road trip together.

Let’s not talk about the events that have closed down our national parks. Instead, let’s celebrate them. Will you come along with me as we go to some of my favorites? Those of you who don’t live in the US, you’re invited, too! Maybe this virtual visit will inspire you to plan an actual visit to one of the parks someday … once they’ve reopened.

Acadia National Park (Maine)


A view from the top of Mt. Desert, complete with lichen and pink granite


Arches National Park (Utah)


You actually can’t see this arch even when the park is open. It collapsed shortly after our visit, but the rest of the park is still there and is well-worth a visit.

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The Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina and Virginia)
Because this one’s a road, too, you can still see parts of it during the shutdown. The road itself is open, as are the overlooks. But campgrounds, visitor centers and bathrooms are closed. I don’t know whether trails are closed.

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Canyonlands National Park (Utah)
This is the most serene national park I’ve ever visited. Arches National Park is nearby and draws a larger crowd. But this place is phenomenal and raw and beautiful. Oh, and there are no guardrails to protect you from yourself.

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Crater Lake (Oregon)
We visited Crater Lake during the summer. And yes, that’s a huge pile of snow left over from their record-breaking snowfall total that year. It’s closed, too, but not surprisingly, a snow plow operator is one of the few employees still working.

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The Grand Canyon (Arizona)
Pictures don’t do the Grand Canyon justice, but I’m including some anyway. Be prepared if you go: it’s the opposite of Canyonlands (see above), but it’s amazing in its, well, … grandeur. You really should go see it. Seriously, put it on your bucket list.

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Yosemite National Park (California)
I cannot even begin to convey how fabulous this place is. It is amazing and awesome and stunning and too much to take in. Yesterday marked its 123rd anniversary as a national park. Google even did an animated doodle for it yesterday. I’m trying to ignore the irony of that and the fact that I also got a Yosemite email yesterday morning inviting me to visit. Ahem.

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Do you have a favorite national park that you’ve visited? If so, which one? Are there others on your bucket list? What parks would you describe as “must-see” that I haven’t mentioned here? If so, celebrate them by leaving a reply below.

A tourist’s impression of trees

My husband and I headed to Kentucky this weekend to run a race – a 10K road race for me and a 60K (!) trail race for him. This was my first visit to Kentucky and my husband’s first stay there when he wasn’t just driving through from one state to another.

We ran in a beautiful National Recreation Area called Land Between the Lakes, and I was struck by how much beauty and grace trees lend to a landscape. Maybe I was thinking of the trees so much because I had a long wait for my husband to come through a path among the trees before he could head to the finish line.

I’d had enough time after my race to drive back to our hotel, shower, change and check out before heading back out to watch him finish. I waited at this final trail crossing/aid station for over an hour, grateful for having finished my race but also grateful for such a beautiful place to run. I was also happy to see little signs that spring was coming, the hint of color rising on the trees, a bit of green peeking through here and there. I also didn’t mind the wait because it’s always fun to see how different runners react when heading in to another loop or turning toward the finish.

I wasn't the only one waiting for a runner to come out of these woods.

I wasn’t the only one waiting for a runner to come out of these woods.


A little green vine by the runners’ trail promised of spring coming soon.

When we drove through Land Between the Lakes the day before, we stopped at one of the visitor centers to walk around a bit. While there, we walked through a historical exhibit that spoke of the sacrifices of turning this area into a National Recreation Area. The Tennessee Valley Authority displaced whole communities to create this area, and though I’m glad for the beauty of the place, I know it didn’t come without great economic and emotional cost for those who lived here before.

From trail to traffic
After my husband finished his race, we headed for Nashville. Talk about a transition! We went from serene, quiet, tree-filled trails and small towns to really, really terrible traffic and the constant wail of car horns and sirens. We headed to the Ryman for a concert Saturday night, and the traffic on the way from our hotel left me saying, “I would not ever want to live here.”  Continue reading