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Candle in the Night

Monday, March 7, 2011

National Parks 2011 Fee-Free Days

Melissa over at Saving Cents with Sense posted a while back a list of the National Parks Fee-Free days for 2011.  I thought I'd share those days with my readers and reminisce about some of the National Parks I have visited.  Here is the list of Free Days from Melissa's blog.  

2011 Fee-Free Days Include:
  • January 15-17 
    (Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday weekend)
  • April 16-24 
    (National Park Week)
  • June 21 
    (First day of summer)
  • September 24 
    (Public Lands Day)
  • November 11-13 
    (Veterans Day weekend)
I have been to a total of three National Parks.  I thought it was four, but evidently, Niagara Falls has not made the list.  Surprised me, but I guess I'm not the one who picks them!  If you're looking for a good list of parks, you can find one here.  The one on the National Park website is no fun to navigate.  You pick a state and not only does it have the parks, but also the historical sites and any other thing that has ever been made National.  

The first National Park I visited was Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).  In fact, I kind of feel like I grew up there.  As a child, my family went to Colorado several times during the spring and summer and spent a lot of our time driving through the park.  We would often stay at the YMCA of the Rockies which is just minutes from RMNP.  Driving through the park, you see all kinds of wildlife.  Big horn sheep, elk, birds of all kinds, and even an occasional moose can be spotted.  There are numerous stops along the road where you can pull over, watch the animals, and take pictures.  When I was little, before they posted all the "Do NOT Feed The Animals Under Penalty Of Death" signs, we would take peanuts and feed the chipmunks.  They'd come right up to you and eat them from your hand.  If you were brave, you could hold the nuts up in the air and big black birds would come and take them from you.  I think I saw my dad almost lose a finger doing that once, so I was careful to keep my hands out of the air.  As you drive higher and higher, the temperature drops more and more.  At the top of the mountain, there is a visitor center.  We have numerous family pictures of us shivering in our shorts and springtime jackets while there is snow all around us!  It's incredible that it can be 80 degrees at the bottom of the mountain and 30 at the top!  

Staying at the cabin at the YMCA, we would sit out on the porch and watch deer (or were they elk?) walk through the yard.  The cabins are so neat because you feel like you're alone in the middle of nowhere.  You can't see other cabins from where you are and you're surrounded by grasslands and woods.  The smell of pine is a fond memory from those stays.  Each cabin had a hummingbird feeder hanging out front (I guess it's okay to feed THOSE birds!) and we would sit on the porch and they'd come right up to us!  It was so neat!  

My most recent memory of RMNP is from the fall of 2008 when my sister flew me out to visit her in Colorado.  She asked me what I wanted to do while on my visit and of course, I wanted to go to RMNP!  I had never been there in the fall and it was incredible!  The aspens were changing color and it was like nothing I've ever seen before.  

Since I no longer have family living in Colorado (praise the Lord!) I look forward to taking my children to RMNP someday.  I know it's one of the most beautiful pieces of God's creation I have ever seen and I can't wait to share it with them.  

The next National Park on my very short list is Badlands National Park.  I've only been there once and I was fairly young, so my memories are fairly limited, but the best way to describe it is just like Rocky Mountain National Park, only completely different!  There are high points and valleys, but compared to the Rocky Mountains, there is very little foliage.  The high rock peaks are jagged and lifeless and the only color comes from the layers of rock and dirt.  Although it doesn't sound like a very pleasant place, it is an incredible site to see.  As we walked through the park, I was amazed that there could be such a place in a part of the country that wasn't the desert.  It was incredible.  Definitely a great place to visit.  

I also have to add that if you go to South Dakota, you will have no shortage of other great places to see.  Custer State Park holds the largest herd of buffalo in the United States.  Of course, you'd have to visit Mt. Rushmore, which is actually a National Memorial.  The Black Hills are also worth your time.  And if you feel like taking a short excursion into Wyoming, you'll be much impressed to see Devil's Tower National Monument.  Overall, I think a vacation to South Dakota and the surrounding states is definitely in my future!  Even though I've already visited once before, I'd love to go back!  

The final National Park I have visited is Grand Canyon National Park.  I must say that out of all the places I've visited, this is possibly the most impressive simply because of the sheer size of it.  For anyone to look at the Grand Canyon, unbelief in God has to be due to their fundamental desire to not believe.  Actually, I feel that way about each of the places I've just talked about.  God's fingerprints are clearly visible in His creation.  

One of the things that amazes me about the Grand Canyon is how it creeps up on you.  You're driving through the woods basically and then, in front of you opens this great crevice in the earth.  Can you imagine being the first one to discover it?  That would be quite an experience!  The river that runs through the bottom is so small, and the canyon so vast that there is no way it could possibly have been the cause of it.  God's fingerprints are everywhere!  

Well, spending time writing about these National Parks has really made me want to take a vacation!  I hope it has been enjoyable for you to read as well!  



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