One Hundred Years and Counting
This week marks the one hundredth birthday of the National Park Service. Here's to celebrating the past, enjoying the present, and looking forward to the future.
That's right. The National Park service was founded in the Department of the Interior back in 1916 by act of Congress and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25th. That same year, World War One was well underway and Albert Einstein completed work on his general theory of relativity. Charlie Chaplin signed with Mutual Studios, and the toggle light switch was invented by William Newton and Morris Goldberg. A First Class postage stamp cost two cents. A lot has changed in a hundred years, but thankfully, the National Park Service is still going strong.
I moved to the Seattle area back in 1993, in large part because of its proximity to several national parks. The Puget Sound region is comfortably situated in between Mt. Rainier to the south, the North Cascades to the north, and Olympic National Park to the west. I feel fortunate that within a few hours drive, I can be to any of the three. I know people who live even closer to a national park, but I'm happy where I'm at. Regardless how close or how far you may live to one, I'm trusting that you would agree that it's nice to know they are there and available for generations of visitors to enjoy.
Most national parks feature a collection of significant landmarks such as majestic mountain peaks, a rugged seashore, or perhaps a geothermal geyser basin. Some include a collection of such landmarks. These are what national parks are known for. These are what get the most attention from photographers and tourists at large when they visit. Park boundaries are drawn so as to surround such places.
But those boundaries also encompass countless smaller sights just waiting for you to discover them. The valley between two mountains, the stretch of river beside the road to the next grand vista, or even the stand of woods next to the picnic area where you stopped for lunch can all yield photographic possibilities. The National Parks offer far more possibilities than just those pictured on the postcard rack at the visitor center. Some of the best times I've had in a national park started by noticing some small detail while I sat on the ground, resting on my way from where I was, to where I was going. I may not even be able to tell you the details of my destination that day, but I have plenty of fond memories of what I found along the way. Those surprise discoveries can be rewarding in part because they are generally quite personal. They're your discoveries, after all.
There's a tendency to think that once you've visited a particular national, you can cross it off your buck list and start planning your visit to the next one. But that approach would barely begin to scratch the surface of what they offer. Even once you have seen the major sights in a national park, there are countless smaller, more intimate sights to be discovered. And what you have already seen changes too. It changes with the time of day, the seasons throughout the year, and even with the passing of a cloud across the sun on any given day.
I've visited only a fraction of the parks in the National Parks system, and even fewer still do I feel like I know that well. As often as I've been to the three nearest me, I still keep coming back, drawn by possibility of finding something new.
Hopefully, you have your favorite parks too. If you don't yet, what are you waiting for?
To celebrate the centennial anniversary, the National Park Service providing free admission to all parks this week from August 25 through 28.