This year marks the National Park Service centennial – which is CERTAINLY a cause to celebrate – especially if you’re a park-lover like myself! I first fell in love with our nation’s parks when I was a child and I visited Yosemite with my family. I remember admiring the landscapes with sheer wonderment, staring at the climbers on Half Dome with intrigue and being in complete awe of the giant sequoias. What an incredible experience for a child!
As a huge advocate for exploring our country, especially our national parks, I was thrilled to read The Wonder of It All: 100 Stories from the National Park Service published by the Yosemite Conservancy. A collection of charming, heartwarming, riveting and entertaining stories, the book captures experiences of NPS employees and volunteers from across the United States. Tremendous quotes are scattered throughout the book, as well.
A few of my favorite stories and quotes were:
– “I Look Up and I Learn” by Hayley Edmonston, in which she, a self-proclaimed “park brat” (i.e. daughter of park rangers) details the intense emotion felt while summiting Mount Rainier, where she worked as a ranger after college.
As she said, “It was the only time I have ever been overcome by emotion; it was the most meaningful, powerful experience of my life. As we wandered breathlessly across the summit crater, I thought of my parents, who both worked at Rainier, and how honored I am to follow in their actual and metaphorical footsteps.”
– “Forget the Supervolcano; Let’s Talk Buckwheat!” by Daniel E. Winkler, a gentleman who worked at Yellowstone as a scientist studying the endemic Yellowstone sulfur buckwheat. He jumped on every opportunity to teach visitors about the biodiversity of the park and the importance of biological systems in general.
– “Roving at Old Ferry Landing” by Don Winslow, an 85-year-old volunteer at Assateague Island National Seashore. A volunteer there for 15 years, he now works as a “roving interpreter.” He wanders the park and offers a variety of assistance, including helping people use a clam rake to collect hard clams, leading visitors on a walk through shallow water for mussels and teaching children how to drag a net through the water to collect a sample, then having them look through his microscope to see what they’ve collected. It’s clear that he thoroughly enjoys his volunteer experience!
– “The Park Service Saved My Life” by Wayne Rogers, a three-time Iraq War veteran who had a difficult time adjusting to life at home following one of his tours. In the story, he shares a touching poem he wrote about how the park service saved his life. (He worked at Fort Pulaski National Monument and Valley Forge National Historical Park and currently works as a park guide at Independence National Historical Park.) It was incredibly moving and brought tears to my eyes!
So curl up in a comfortable spot to read The Wonder of It All but beware – it may encourage you to promptly book a getaway to one of our amazing national parks!