Our family took a cross-country automobile trip in the early 1960s, a time when that journey didn’t involve long stretches of interstate highways and travelers saw America up close, stopped in local restaurants and shops, and stayed in local motels.
One thing that probably hasn’t changed much about that journey is that national parks are still favorite stopping places. The map I made of our journey, which hung on the wall in my room for years, reflected our progress through the Great Smoky Mountains, the Painted Desert, the Grand Canyon, the Sequoias, Redwoods, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, and others.
We were gone for a month, the longest time my father had ever been away from any church he pastored, but you could see the joy in his eyes as he took in God’s creations. That joy is among the precious memories I still hold from a trip 50 years ago.
The National Park Service is preparing to celebrate its own 100th anniversary in 2016 and we’ll be exploring some of the parks, monuments, and historic sites under the service’s stewardship over the next year. We begin with changes at a local favorite, Shenandoah National Park, in this issue. A new park concessionaire, Delaware North Company, is executing improvements in lodging, dining, and other amenities at the park and offering some exciting culinary experiences.
The National Park Service and the National Parks Foundation have already launched a Find Your Park program to raise awareness. (findyourpark.com) The website lets you find a park that is near to you, one that fits your interests, or one that offers experiences that might tempt you. You also have the opportunity to share your national parks experience for a chance to win some great prizes.
Before our trip 50 years ago, Dad bought a new car. In those days before the Internet, my cousin and I wrote to the various park superintendents for information brochures, my uncle built a box to hold luggage on the car’s roof, and my mother and aunt ticked off the picnic preparations we’d need. We all brought home special memories, but I doubt any were as special as Dad’s.
As a father myself, I’ve been privileged to see the awe in my daughters’ eyes as they looked up at the giant Sequoias and the grandeur of Yosemite. It made me understand and appreciate Dad’s special joy. Even though you’re no longer with us, Happy Father’s Day, Dad.