Jewels of the US – The National Parks System

By Mark Scott

“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.”

Song of the Open Road, 1856
Walt Whitman

In my early 20s, I was fortunate to take a trip across the U.S. and visit numerous National Parks. I visited several parks from the Badlands in South Dakota to Yellowstone and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and Death Valley and Yosemite in California to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I have many special memories from those two months on the road. Camping outside of Devil’s Tower, and gazing up at the night sky, I’ve never felt so infinitesimal with the massive number of stars in the sky. Death Valley is HOT! While standing in the shade, a nearby thermometer read 113 degrees!  Once you enter the big western states, make sure your car has enough gas, for what appears like a shortcut on a (paper map) might be a lot longer than you realize.

Grand Canyon National Park – South Rim, photo by Mark Scott

July is National Parks and Recreation Month. In 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed resolution H.Res. 288 recognizing the importance of parks and recreation facilities in the U.S. The U.S. Department of the Interior manages the country’s land and natural resources and oversees the National Parks Service (NPS). Yellowstone became the first National Park on March 1, 1872 when President Grant signed legislation into law. The NPS didn’t come into existence until 1916 when President Wilson signed into law the National Parks Service Organic Act. Today the NPS oversees not only the National Parks but also monuments, historic sites, and recreational areas. Washington D.C. 

The summer is a great time of year to explore our country’s parks and historic sites. If your time is limited there are many wonderful sites to see in eastern PA.  The Delaware Water Gap Recreational Area is less than an hour away from the Lehigh Valley. There are also many historic sites in the Philadelphia area such as Independence Hall and the Edgar Allen Poe site. Gettysburg National Historic Military Park is also a two hour drive from the area and offers a fascinating look at the turning point of the U.S. Civil War among the scenic rolling hills of south central Pennsylvania.

We live in a vast, beautiful country with miles of open spaces. I encourage you to get outside and explore the wonders of nature. Planning a trip to a national park takes time and planning. If time is limited, the are numerous hikes and trails to visit right here in eastern Pennsylvania. Take a day trip and explore the beauty of nature, you may be surprised at what you discover.