On my drive from Austin to Oakland in mid-July, I cut through Joshua Tree National Park in eastern California. I was planning to just cut through the park to give myself a more scenic trip, but I stopped at the Ranger Station and ended up spending several hours — not enough time to really get to know the place, but long enough to see a few sights. Above is a picture of a Joshua tree — an unusual form of yucca.
Here are some Cholla cacti, also a major feature of this park.
I didn’t hike any trails. Not only was my time short, but it was also July — not a great time for hiking in the desert unless one is very prepared. But I did have a picnic lunch before driving up to Keys View. From that vantage point you can see a lot of California mountains, and the San Andreas Fault.
The U.S. National Parks are a wonderful resource. When I lived in DC, I used to spend a lot of time in Rock Creek Park, which runs through the middle of the city into Maryland. I drove through it, biked through it, jogged through it, hiked along the trails, went to readings at the Art Barn and demonstrations on grinding at the old water mill, and even had an occasional picnic.
I also hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail when I lived on the East Coast, though I never did the whole thing.
But the parks in the western U.S. are even more stunning than those in the East. If you live in the U.S., get out and see your national parks and encourage your members of Congress to keep them well-funded. And if you visit the U.S. from other countries, be sure to put a national park on your itinerary. Our cities have a lot to offer, but our parks provide insights into the history of both this continent and our planet as well as into the people who have lived there over time.