My Favorite National Park
Knowing that I am a national parks junkie, from time to time friends inquire what national park tops my “most favorite” list. Of course, since I recently gave up making lists (see Forgotten from August 2012), I rarely have a ready answer. Sometimes the most recent park I have visited gets special billing, other times I consider which has been the most impactful to me, or to the country, or to history, or is most photogenic, or I have spent the most time, or with whom I experienced the site, or, or, or. Then, also, the nomenclature of ‘parks’ may not be entirely accurate for the purposes of my sharing my favorites because I have equal affinity for national monuments, battlefields, historic sites, preserves, and memorials.
Truthfully, I never bothered to rank the various entities of the National Parks Service as favorites because each provides such unique experiences, offers spectacular and varied vistas, and holds special places in my mind and my heart. Some I have seen only once, but I desperately want to return. Others I have visited more than once, and the second time I have felt unbelievably fortunate to experience the places twice. Still others I know I will adore, but I have yet to see them for myself. Asking me for a favorite national park may be like asking parents who is their favorite child – I love them all for different reasons.
If Such A List Existed
I begin to rethink the question now that I am visiting Dry Tortugas National Park. Such history, such remoteness, such tranquility – it all reminds me of what I love most about the national park system. “Maybe,” I think, “maybe this is my new favorite site.” And no sooner do the words cross my mind than I realize I have never really declared my favorite, so how could this amazing location unseat that which has not yet been established? The time has come to select a favorite. And within moments, some of my most beloved sites in America scroll through my mind: Grand Canyon, Glacier, Glacier Bay, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Carlsbad Caverns, Golden Spike, Gettysburg, Everglades, Channel Islands, the National Mall, North Cascades, Lewis and Clark Trail – oh, I cannot even think of them all as I stand in this idyllic setting.
So rather than think about one, I think about two and decide which one ranks higher; for example, Glacier Bay versus Channel Islands. I have visited Glacier Bay twice and Channel Islands once, so Glacier Bay earns a theoretical hash mark. Both involve riding a boat, so each gets a nod. Glacier Bay takes more effort to reach, but I enjoyed the Channel Islands with Son #2, and I observed far more wildlife at the Channel Islands, so they are still pretty close. On and on I go until my rankings take shape: 1) Carlsbad Caverns (see Hidden Beauty from March 2012), and then 2) Glacier National Park (see Went-To-The-Sun Road from February 2012), followed by my new favorite, Dry Tortugas National Park, although it nearly ties with 4) Grand Canyon National Park. Next is Yellowstone National Park followed by Yosemite National Park – oh, wait, no, switch those – Yosemite and then Yellowstone. And here I pause and remind myself this is why I gave up making lists: I cannot even count higher than four without being utterly confused.