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Archive for August, 2016

NATIONAL PARKS: BEST GIFT EVER!

Yellowstone National Park was the first national park, initially established in 1872.

Yellowstone National Park was the first national park, initially established in 1872.

logo jpgToday is the 100th birthday for the National Park Service.  It was President Woodrow Wilson who signed the mandate creating the agency on 25 August 1916.  Since then, its charge has remained the same: protect designated land for its beauty and wildlife as well as its historical significance for the enjoyment of future generations.  That goal expanded to include assuring public access to these protected areas.

That assurance of public access is what makes the National Parks the best gift ever.  Not only can visitors enter the areas, but they will find visitor centers, knowledgeable rangers and volunteers, established paths and scenic drives as well as parking and bathroom facilities.  Not all locations are 100% accessible, but most are upgrading their facilities and have at least some hiking options accessible for wheelchairs.  The access is not free, but the entrance fee is minimal, typically $30 for a car to have access for a week.* Annual and lifelong passes are options as well.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Book heacoxWhen you unwrap this gift, you will find a wide variety of places to visit and enjoy.  To see the magnitude of what the national parks oversee, I went to National Geographic’s The National Parks: An Illustrated History (May 2015).  Through photos and essays, the book explains how the National Park Service “represents freedom, adventure, diversity, dedication, respect, and restraint.”  Here is the book’s opening overview, by the numbers:

84,000,000 acres of land

75,000 archaeological sites

18,000 miles of trails

247 endangered plants and animals

407 park properties including

78 national monuments

59 national parks

25 battlefields

10 seashores

27,000 historic and prehistoric structures

20,000 employees

246,000 volunteers

292,800,082 recreational visits in 2014

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

Not everyone is a fan of the national parks, however.  Some visitors even offer some less than stellar Yelp reviews.  According to a few of these reviews, the parks are too crowded, which can happen in the height of the season. The potential of too many other visitors is why I try to visit places in early spring, before summer crowds start showing up.  Other complaints, of course, are just downright silly and say more about the complainer than the national park in question:  too lonely, too expensive, lack of cell service, poor food, no adequate showers, not seeing enough wildlife, but also seeing rattlesnakes OMG.

More specifically, someone felt Yellowstone National Park smelled too much like sulfur, which—of course—is a bi-product of the thermal features that make the place unique.  And one person advises to be careful when visiting that big hole in the ground, the Grand Canyon, because it is a long fall to the bottom: “Do not hover about the Canyon whilst drunk.  You will fall over the edge and you will die.”  I think my favorite comment was posted about South Dakota’s Badlands National Park:  “Waste of time.  Thank god I was drunk in the backseat for the majority of the trip.” 

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

YSNP bison sitting

YSNP bison scratch

IMG_2769I have had the good fortune of visiting many but not enough national parks as I wander on my nature treks, typically in the spring each year.  My most recent visits were to Yellowstone National Park, where I was able to see bison up close and personal, and Saguaro National Park, where I finally saw saguaro cacti in bloom. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the nation, with nearly 10.1 million recreational visits in 2014.   The Golden Gate National Recreation Area was the most visited property with 15 million visitors in 2014.  Utah offers many parks from which to choose, including Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Zion National Parks.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

GC deer close

Winter at the Grand Canyon

Winter at the Grand Canyon

Two of my favorite destinations are Yosemite National Park and the Grand Canyon.  They feel the same to me in their majestic and beautiful vistas that encourage quiet contemplation and spiritual connections.  But they are different in mood, I suppose.  The grays and blues of Yosemite are cool and calm, punctuated by the power of waterfalls.  The red and brown hues of the Grand Canyon are warm and soothing, inviting one to sit and enjoy the view of the often muddy Colorado River far below. If you sit quietly at either location, you are apt to see some wildlife as well.

Spring at Yosemite

Spring at Yosemite

Squirrel Enjoying the View

Squirrel Enjoying the View

Running Off with Lots of Nuts! Grand Canyon

Running Off with Lots of Nuts! Grand Canyon

Yosemite Cloud's Rest, Hazy Day

Yosemite Cloud’s Rest, Hazy Day

Yosemite Falls

Upper Yosemite Falls

Book shiveWhen you visit, wherever you visit, I am certain you will be delighted.  There are three great books that provide magnificent photos and details about the national parks and monuments.  The books themselves became my souvenirs this year to mark the National Parks’ 100th Birthday.

Here are the book titles—they do make great gifts:

The National Parks: An American Legacy (2105) with photographs by Ian Shive.

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea An Illustrated History (2009) by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns.

Book Burns

National Geographic’s The National Parks: An Illustrated History 100 Years of American Splendor (2015) by Kim Heacox (mentioned above).

Of course, it is the visit to any of the parks that is the real gift.  I encourage you to accept the present and get out there visiting a park or monument near you soon!  It will be a gift that keeps on giving!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE NATIONAL PARK? 

WHAT PARK ARE YOU HOPING TO VISIT NEXT?

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*For price comparisons:  Entry fees to Disneyland are $110 per adult per day; San Diego Zoo, $50 per adult per day, and Los Angeles Zoo, $20 per adult per day.  National Parks are certainly a great value!

For the Wonder of Books: National Book Lover’s Day

Me ReadingI have always loved reading, even when I was a kid. 

But if you need an excuse to read a book, this is it:  Today is National Book Lover’s Day! 

Still—it seems to me—every day should be considered National Book Lover’s Day.  Books are the best gifts and the best friends in the world.  They open doors to adventure, people and ideas.  They build bridges and create communities.  Books inspire awe and wonder, outrage and determination, insight and understanding.  They teach lessons, build awareness, spark imagination, and present possibilities.  They can awaken readers to love and prejudice, commitment and injustice, degradation and renewal—and the courage to make a difference.

One of the best things about being retired is I can spend so many hours reading, without the worry of having to attend an early meeting after a sleepless night, just because I could not stop turning pages!  I always have books going, usually one at a time, but sometimes with several open wherever I sit and relax.  One of the best things about owning a kindle is that I can bring a decent library with me wherever I go.  Getting stuck in traffic as lanes are cleared of an accident’s aftermath or waiting much too long for the doctor to get back from an emergency is not so bad, if I can read.

ladies 16My fall back for fun reading is a good murder mystery.  If a dog or animal is part of the plot, even better.  I do have favorite authors who I wish would publish new books more often:  Tony Hillerman and now his daughter Anne Hillerman, Barbara Kingsolver, and Alexander McCall Smith come to mind.  A favorite I have only recently discovered is Stan Jones, who brings life in small town Alaska to life.

Robert bookJust recently I finished a novel by a cousinit is so cool to know actual authors! His novel turns the fear and hatred from current headlines into a war novel about a terrorist invasion in America in 2016.  I posted my review of his book—Robert Owens’ America’s Trojan War—on Amazon, if you want to take a look.  Yesterday, I reread The Little Prince to be filled again with the love and hope that silencecomes from being tamed as well as the appreciation of flowers and foxes and little travelers that only someone who never truly grows up can understand.  Several books ae coming up next on my to-read list:  Joyce Carol Oates’ In Rough Country: Essays and Reviews; Louise Erdrich’s The Game of Silence; Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools, and Carl Safina’s Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel. 

terribleWhenever someone asks me for reading suggestions, I mention my favorites.  But, of course, no one can go wrong with the classics from Shakespeare animaliato Angelou, Faulker to Morrison.  And there is not much better than Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find.  More recent authors you might like are J.K. Rowlings for her Harry Potter series, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, or any title by Sherman Alexie.   For kids, anything by Dr. Seuss is always fun as are Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth and Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  Even Graeme Base’s picture book Animalia is a great place to start.  The title does not really matter.  If it captures your fancy, it is worth the effort.

The point is to read!

Personally, I would love to hear what you have been reading, so I can add more titles to my neverending list of books-to-read-next.  There’s another fun book, The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.

SOME QUOTES ABOUT THE LOVE OF READING

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Dr. Seuss always offers good advice:

reading-across-america

“To be allowed, no, invited into the private lives of strangers, and to share their joys and fears, was a chance to exchange the Southern bitter wormwood for a cup of mead with Beowulf or a hot cup of tea and milk with Oliver Twist.”  Maya Angelou

“Oh, how scary and wonderful it is that words can change our lives simply by being next to each other.”   Kamand Kojouri

“Free time is a terrible thing to waste.  Read a book.”  E. A. Bucchianeri

“With a library you are free, not confined by temporary political climates.  It is the most democratic of institutions because no one—but no one at all—can tell you what to read and when and how.”  Doris Lessing

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road.  They are the destination, and the journey.  They are home.”  Anna Quindlen

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.”  Ernest Hemingway

“She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.”  Annie Dillard

“The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it.”  Dylan Thomas

“Some women have a weakness for shoes.  I can go barefoot if necessary.  I have a weakness for books.”  Oprah Winfrey

“You can find magic wherever you look.  Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.”  Dr. Seuss

“If you want your child to be intelligent, read them fairytales.  If you want your child to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales.”  Albert Einstein

“You will be transformed by what you read.”  Deepak Chopra

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.”  Marcel Proust

“We shouldn’t teach great books.  We should teach a love of reading.”  B. F. Skinner

“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.”  C. S. Lewis

“This is part of the beauty of literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone.  You belong.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”  Lemony Snicket

“From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot in front of the other.  But when books are opened, you discover you have wings.”  Helen Hayes

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”   Confucious

“There are many ways to enlarge your child’s world.  Love of books is the best of all.”  Jacqueline Kennedy

“I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books.  But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.”  J. K. Rowling

“Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier.”  Kathleen Norris

“To learn to read is to light a fire.”  Victor Hugo

“The book to read is not one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think.”  Harper Lee

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.”  Garrison Keillor

“All I have learned, I learned from books.”  Abraham Lincoln

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”  Cicero

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”  Mark Twain

Some last words from Dr. Seuss:

dr.-Seuss-hat

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