Monday, September 28, 2009

The National Parks: America's Best Idea

Fifteen or more years ago, I was planning a trip to California, focused mainly on the Bay Area. A friend suggested that since we'd be a straight shot (ok, five hour straight shot) across the state from Yosemite National Park, that we should try to include it in our itinerary. How prophetic that suggestion was, because once I entered Yosemite, my life was changed forever. I had visited Great Smoky Mountains NP and Hot Springs NP as a kid but didn't appreciate them enough, and had a quickie of Acadia NP when I was at a conference in Maine, but nothing prepared me for this.

Seeing the breathtaking beauty of Yosemite's sweeping vistas and grand glacial granite formations, for the first time and every time, are moments where you feel the wonder of creation; and if you happen to believe in God as I do, it will inspire a deep feeling of gratitude for the creation he has bestowed upon us. Even an atheist or agnostic can easily appreciate the amazing marvels that nature has created, whether you think God had anything to do with it or not!

I have now visited Yosemite at least three times, as well as Mammoth Cave NP, Olympic NP, Yellowstone NP, Grand Teton NP, Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Grand Canyon NP, Hawaii Volcanoes NP, Petrified Forest NP...many National Forests...quite a few National Monuments, including Wupatki, Walnut Canyon, Montezuma Castle, Sunset Crater, El Morro and El Malpais, Bandelier, Pearl Harbor, Fort Sumter, and others.

The first Mon Voyage Small Group Trip to percolate is a nine-day trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, timed to coincide with the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower next August. Several people have taken advantage of my early bird discount offer and it looks like I'm down to about three rooms, which means the trip will definitely make!

The new Ken Burns documentary series on the parks is airing this week on most PBS stations and once it's done, all bets are off for 2010 summer accommodations at official park lodges. Below is the extended video preview (go to YouTube for the wider-screen version), and we've got the rooms. Grab 'em while they're hot!

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