Calendars for Education

47parks.com has a 2017 calendar for sale!

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All proceeds will go towards Open Outdoors for Kids, an initiative that seeks to connect kids to nature through experiential outdoor explorations and events. Not only does Open Outdoorsopen-outdoors focus on getting kids to learn about our natural world through investigation, they also provide multiple training opportunities for teachers.

Calendars are spiral-bound and feature some of my favorite pictures from Part I of my trip. You can order them online by clicking here.

Short-Term Roots

It’s been a week since I’ve temporarily ended my lifestyle as a traveler and put down some short-term roots in Northern Virginia. Transitioning from a nomadic lifestyle to a more settled one is a much-needed break, but I still can’t quite shake the feelings of restlessness.

I said goodbye to Clarence, placing him in a spacious home where he will live out the winter months until we’re reunited in the spring.

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I miss the open road already, the wide spaces, and the newness of each day. I miss being immersed in nature and having hours to reflect upon the beauty of the natural world. Yet I have a newfound appreciation for this area, as well. It’s got a contagious energy, a myriad of opportunities, and a unending supply of things to do and see.

So for now, I rest. And in the resting, I rediscover the joy of what it means to be alive.

 

And the Award Goes To…

Many people have asked me what my favorite park is. Answering that question is difficult; I’ve felt connected to most of the national parks I’ve visited and struggle choosing simply one that takes the cake.

Ask any parent who their preferred child is and (hopefully), they’ll respond “all of them”. After all, each child has his/her own merits and unique attributes. While there have definitely been some parks I haven’t enjoyed as well as others, I have decided to give awards to some of my most-liked places.

(1) Best Hiking: Smokies

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This park has an infinite number of hiking opportunities, including the famous Appalachian Trail. There are summit hikes, waterfall loops, and simple walks in the woods.

(2) Best Exploration: Badlands

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Most parks have a very strict code regarding staying on the designated trails. The Badlands let’s you go anywhere, meaning you can explore to your heart’s content.

(3) Best History: Mesa Verde

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This is a “full-immersion” historical park where visitors get to check out ancient dwellings. You can still find broken pieces of pottery left behind over 800 years ago.

(4) Best “Pure Fun”: Great Sand Dunes

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Sand boarding was insanely fun. Even full-grown adults prance around like little kids out here on The Dunes.

(5) Best Canyon: Black Canyon of the Gunnison

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Though not as big as the Grand Canyon, Black Canyon holds its own with its sheer walls, gorgeous river, and dark-colored rock.

(6) Most Isolated: Great Basin

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Not only is this park in the middle of nowhere, it has very few visitors and multiple opportunities to truly get away from it all.

(7) Best Lil Town: Estes Park (outside of Rocky Mountain)

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This pic was taken right outside of Estes Park. This town boasts some pretty awesome eateries, eclectic shops, and amazing views.

(8) Best Desert Park: Zion

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Although not all of Zion is within a desert ecosystem, a large portion of this park is an arid environment.

(9) Best Wildlife Park: Yellowstone

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A handsome-looking bison at the side of the road. Yellowstone has a ridiculous amount of wildlife, housed at various places around the 2.2 million acre park.

(10) Best Overall: Grand Tetons

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This park has it all: mountains, lakes, and forests. There’s enough beauty, adventure, and history to make every visitor happy.

Homeward Bound

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30 hours! It seemed inaccurate, so I hit the refresh button and waited. Yep. Home was definitely a lot further away then I initially thought. After all, I had taken the trip out West in short little bursts, stopping at parks and having a jolly good time along the way. But now it’s pretty much a straight shot back to the east coast, with one tiny layover in Tennessee to visit my brother and his family.

I typically don’t do well with long, extended time in the car. My back gets sore, my bladder seems oh-so-small, and I feel pretty loopy after staring at so many car bumpers. Yet Arizona was the perfect stopping point in my journey. I was halfway finished with my quest to visit all 47 parks in the contiguous U.S., and the cooler weather was a sign that it was time to head home. With the holiday season around the corner, I’m quite content to take a break for a while and regroup. Come spring, Clarence the MyPod and I will once again hit the road and continue our epic adventure.

I made a list for my multi-day, multi-hour, multi-mile upcoming drive.

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See ya soon, Northern Virginia!

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Petrified Forest Recap

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Length of Stay:

  • 3 days, 3 nights

High:

  • Painted Desert Inn lantern tour
  • Investigating an ancient petraglyph calendar which perfectly aligns with the summer solstice
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Nice landscape, nice sky!

Low:

  • Falling down a soft rock strata during one of my back country expedition

Favorite Hike:

  • Agate House
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Agate House – an ancient dwelling made from petrified wood

Favorite Treat:

  • Sopapilla (a Mexican deep-fried pastry)

Stony Wood and a Haunted Inn

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Petrified Forest national park is chock-full of fossilized wood. Based on the pictures I’d seen, I figured that there may be a couple of key places where one might be able to see this mineral-permeated organic matter. After all, how much “rock-wood” can actually be found in an arid desert-like environment?

Apparently a lot.

Thanks to plate tectonics, this area of Arizona used to be near the equator, resulting in a lush, rain forest environment. These trees got buried under layers of sediment, became saturated with minerals, and turned to stone. (This all took many, many years, of course). There are big chunks that can be found at the Long Log section, and smaller multi-colored pieces that are strewn all about the Crystal Forest.

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Crystal Forest

It’s pretty. It’s unique. It’s science!

I also had a chance to tour the Painted Desert Inn, an old traveler’s rest stop that now serves as a museum. In the spirit of Halloween, we took the entire tour in the dark. Using only glow sticks to light our way, the ranger told stories and tall tales about a myriad of suspicious and creepy behavior that happened in the old inn. Spoiler alert: someone actually did die there. We entered the basement through a locked door – a place where park visitor’s are only allowed to go once a year. The floor creaked and the dumbwaiter was super eerie.

Was it truly haunted? The park rangers and volunteers seem to think so.

Was it semi-historical and fun? You bet!