The slogan of the National Park Service on the occasion of its 100th anniversary was designed as an invitation, an enticement to exploration and adventure, much like what my husband and I had in mind when we began our Walking Ohio with Jon and Linda Hall blog to discover all that our own state has to offer.
Find Your Park is a suggestion that has inspired me throughout 2016. Because of the year-long NPS centennial celebration, I’ve paid increasing attention to the precious places — national parks, monuments, battlefields, recreation areas and seashores — it protects. As we see the constantly altered landscape around us resulting from changes in businesses, residential neighborhoods, parking lots, abandoned buildings, and congested commercial districts, the NPS has guaranteed the continuity of 84 million sacrosanct acres, preserved in perpetuity and encompassing 413 unique areas.
Because of the foresight of developers and advocates, we’re guaranteed that scenic beauty will be conserved and sustained, and that we’ll always be able to revisit our past.
Ohio alone has several of my favorite NPS locations — Cuyahoga Valley National Park; Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, where the book “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough can be experienced firsthand; and Canton’s First Ladies National Historic Site, where a visit to this mini-Smithsonian of White House memorabilia is a showcase of its leading ladies.
On our recent trip to the states of Washington and Oregon, I was surprised at how many NPS sites we were able to add to our list, including Mount Rainier National Park, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Crater Lake National Park, Olympic National Park and Redwood National Park.
We were fortunate to see Mount Rainier in its stunning glory from several different locations, as far away as the Space Needle observation deck in Seattle, from which it appeared as an almost surreal white cloud hanging in the horizon, and as close as a road encircling the park. We climbed a section of the Oregon Dunes, and from scenic overlooks stared into the startling bright blue water of the the United States’ deepest lake, Crater Lake. We drove through miles of Olympic National Park, which ranges across almost a million acres; and took pictures of each other at the base of the towering trees in Jedediah Smith State Park, one of the state parks within Redwood National Park.
The Pacific Northwest is rich with sublime views of dense forests, thick vegetation, commanding mountain peaks and areas of relative solitude and less visited areas of shoreline. Of course, the east coast as well is a veritable treasure trove of national historic sites and protected seashores, for example, Cape Cod and Cape Canaveral.
The NPS encompasses every state in the United States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Within our own state of Ohio, there are exceptional places set aside to be admired and enjoyed.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers the same opportunity as other national parks across the nation for a get-away to step outside one’s own self and preoccupations and to take in the wider world.
From Brandywine Falls to The Ledges Overlook, CVNP encompasses new experiences and a different perspective — an opportunity to walk into a sense of wonderment and appreciation.
But in no way does the grandeur, distinction and historic milestone of the national park system, as special as it is, eclipse what can be found in your own backyard in state and metro parks. Ohio’s collection of them is exhaustive.
No matter where we travel, one of the most inspiring sights we’ve taken in is the sun going down over Pleasant Hill Lake as seen from the patio of Mohican State Lodge; it never loses its appeal. To enjoy all that has been preserved for your enrichment, keep a close eye out for national, state and local parks and landmarks. Visit them when you can, and take advantage of their free entertainment, history, scenery and escape to a completely different setting.
Each of them is a gift; find your park. Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park System.