I have officially visited every national park within the contiguous United States.
I felt such a sense of accomplishment adding the last stamp to my passport booklet in Cuyahoga Valley, a park snuggled neatly in between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Huge bridges overhead shuttled cars along the interstate while visitors and wildlife enjoyed this small piece of nature hidden within an urban landscape.
There was an incredible amount of history that I found fascinating. Who knew that canals played such an integral part in America’s development? I rented a bike and pedaled along the old canal, admiring abandoned locks and water fowl. I even saw a big ol’ snapping turtle resting on a log.
There were some charming waterfalls that I had to myself briefly during the early morning hours. Water cascaded down and I took the time to appreciate every second. I was intent on eking out the last drop of enjoyment from my year-long nature exploration.
Only Ansel Adams, the famous photographer, could so perfectly sum up my thoughts as I officially wrapped up my trip.
“I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful – an endless prospect of magic and wonder.”
Or in my case: When life throws a deer in front of your car, fly to Acadia National Park.
It just didn’t make sense to hang out in Wisconsin for a week while I waited for my car to get fixed. Hotels were pretty pricey, and I knew that I would be going stir-crazy lingering in a city.
I crunched some numbers. When I calculated the cost of gas, lodging during the drive, and tolls, taking a last-minute flight to Maine didn’t seem like such a bad decision.
So I spent a glorious 2 days on Mt. Desert Island, the largest and most popular part of Acadia.
I drove my sweet rental car, a Jeep Cherokee, along the coast, marveling at the rugged rock meeting the Atlantic Ocean. I laced up my hiking boots and explored the mountains and unique ecosystems, the sound of the crashing sea in the distance.
On one occasion, I decided to do a quick 0.4 mile hike to a lookout point. I soon realized that the majority of the hike was iron ladders, and that the “trail” was really more of a nontechnical rock climb.
It was fun.
Even though flying is a pain, I’m happy that my impromptu decision will save me hours in the car in the long run.
Now, my trip is officially back on track. One more park to go!