Well, I should have figured when I first set out to do this series that it would provide to be nearly impossible to pick just 30 favorite moments from the hundreds of visits that I have made to the first 300 national parks that I have already visited. Or even worse, that I would get to the end and realize, “how could I possibly have left out that?” So sure enough, I have a few national park memories that got left on the figurative cutting room floor that I just couldn’t leave unmentioned.
Thus, as a postscript to my “30 for 300” series, here are five “honorable mentions” that I just couldn’t leave out.
#5) Searching for Starfish in the Tidepools at Olympic National Park – August 2003
Olympic National Park is often called “three national parks in one” for its combination of rugged alpine scenery, lush temperate rainforests, and spectacular Pacific coastline. The day after that 20 mile hike I mentioned earlier in this series, I’m not sure which I enjoyed more – seeking out the fabulously colorful starfish like these guys:
Or else enjoying the absolutely amazing sunset behind the rock spires of the coastline:
#4) Walking Among the Ruins at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument – February 2003
This trip was memorable in large part simply because my friend and I were not supposed to be there. We were only visiting this Park because a major snowstorm had cancelled all flights to the East Coast, giving us an unexpected extra two days in New Mexico. Salinas Pueblo Misssions was the first national park I visited that primarily preserves the civilization of the prehistoric pueblo-dwelling peoples, so it will always be special to me for that reason. What makes Salinas Pueblo MIssions particularly distinctive, however, is that at each of the three prehistoric pueblos preserved in the park, the Spanish had also built a large mission church right in the middle of the pueblo, which is also preserved. Thus, this park preserves the moment of contact between two cultures, and is a place where you can really feel the sweep of history beneath your feet.
#3) Special 100th Anniversary Commemorative Programs at Mesa Verde National Park – June 2006
By the time I visited Mesa Verde National Park three and a half years afte rmy visit to Salinas Pueblo Missions, I had started to become abundantly familiar with the story of the Ancestral Puebloan people, or as they are sometimes called, the Anasazi. Since the ancient pueblos are largely permanent structures that were built in a desert environment, the U.S. National Park System includes quite a few of them.
Mesa Verde National Park, of course, preserves some of the most-spectacular abandoned Ancestral Puebloan ruins out of all of them. In 2006, Mesa Verde also celebrated its 100th Anniversary with numerous special programsthroughout the summer. One program my friends and I were particularly lucky to catch was a Ranger providing costumed interpretation as J. Walter Fewkes, one of the first archaeologists to study the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde.
#2) Rafting with Au Pairs on the New River Gorge National River – June 2003
One of my former co-workers used to be, as he described, a “den mother” for au pairs working in our area. Essentially this meant that he had some responsibility for looking out for them, helping them deal with any problems they may have, and also organizing a social activity for them each month – so that they could have some regular time together with peers while adjusting to life in a new country.
For three years, one of the biggest events he organized as a “cap” to their year in this country was a whitewater rafting trip on West Virginia’s New River Gorge, and for those years he invited me to come along as an additional chaperone and driver (since the au pairs generally did not have their own car in this country, naturally.) It was an offer that I couldn’t refuse. A two-day trip on the New River Gorge in late spring or early summer is perhaps the perfect river for “newbie” whitewater rafters. The first day provides some light rapids to get used to the water, and the second has enough big rapids to provide a real adrenaline rush without requiring too much in the way of technical maneuvers from the paddlers. Plus, the trip provided a great opportunity to make new friends with young women from far away places like Poland, Hungary, and Germany without ever leaving this country.
#1) An Evening Walk on the Beach at Assateague Island National Seashore – August 2007
There’s nothing like walking on a beach at sunset in the summer, when there is no longer a harsh sun beating down on you, and the sand is cool underfoot, and the water is still warm to the touch. I snapped this picture by wading into the water and taking this picture of the future Mrs. Parkasaurus by looking back towards the shore, and the sunset off in the west.
And that’s a “wrap” for the series. If you missed any part of it, you may want to go back and check out:
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