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A snow-covered part of the Grand Canyon
”Why are you flying to Albuquerque?” were the words on most people’s lips last week when we told them we were cutting short a trip to Vegas to hit New Mexico.
Why Albuquerque? Well, to start with, for the flightone of the most spectacular ones we’ve ever been on.
From Las Vegas to Albuquerque we were looking south, and got a prime view of the snow-covered high desert, mountains and miniscule trees poking out of the snow. All very beautiful, except we heard the pilot announce that “on the left, you’ll see the Grand Canyon.”
So on the way back, we swapped sides to face north, and were greeted by snow-covered mountains, snow-covered plains…and then, yeah, the Grand Canyon. We flew pretty much all the way along the Grand Canyonfrom 40,000 feet we picked out the famous South Rim, less famous North Rim and, we think, possibly the West Rim, too (though we didn’t see the Skywalk).
On September 24, 2011, parks across the country will welcome volunteers to plant trees, repair trails and enhance natural habitats for National Public Lands Day.
There are over 1800 sites looking for volunteers, ranging from the Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City to the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.
Volunteers of all ages from around the world are welcome at any of the volunteer sites, but they will not be able to provide housing or meals for those helping out. Most parks are waiving the entry fee for the day though.
To browse the list of parks accepting volunteers and register to join in, visit PublicLandsDay.org.
The other day we got the chance to get some advice from an older, wiser, big sister travel expert, Samantha Brown. You know her as the host of her own show on the Travel Channel and as The Woman Whose Job We All Covet.
This summer, she's got another gig--she's the spokesperson for Nature Valley's National Parks Project, an awareness campaign to get folks to take advantage of the nearly 400 national parks in America and in doing that, help preserve our national parks for the next generation.
Now in a perfect world with unlimited funds we'd be at the Acadia National Park in Maine walking along with Sam in matching L.L. Bean jackets and duck boots but instead we did a Skype interview indoors--she in a hotel room in Boston and we in the cleanest corner of our home office.
Outdoorsy types, get your hiking boots on and backpacks ready. National Park Week is set for April 16 to 24, giving you the chance to explore 394 national parks for free all week long. Freebies include national monuments and historic sites.
While a number of national parks are usually free, more than 100 of them charge you to enter. So you'll save the $20 car fee at Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Park as well as the $25 vehicle fee at the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.
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Snow has started to blanket much of the nation, but some of the country’s national parks are far more white than green right now. Parks like Yellowstone, Olympic, and Grand Teton are some of the best places to explore the great outdoors under a fresh blanket of snow this month, as the parks have opened their doors for winter exploration.
Since some of these parks get so much of the fluffy stuff during the winter, hours and access to the parks change during the colder months. As of yesterday, Yellowstone has opened for the winter, which means fewer roads for normal cars and more roads and access points for over-snow vehicles. Access to some of the main attractions—like Old Faithful—is now only accessible via snowmobile (this would be awesome to do) or through a snow coach operator. The park limits the amount of vehicles allowed in the park per day, so be sure to plan ahead if you want to visit this winter.
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America's National Parks have been having a pretty good month, publicity-wise. First there was the announcement that master documentarian Ken Burns would be lending his skills and voice to creating tours of some of America's backlands and badlands and now comes news that the world's single biggest marketing jackpotOprah Winfrey herselfs getting into the mix.
The talk show host/erstwhile cult leader took a camping trip to California travel destination Yosemite National Park earlier this month, and then featured the experience on her show. The hope from the park service is that the episode and all the associated attention will increase interest in National Parks across the board, but they're especially looking to remedy the disproportionate lack of African-American visitors.
Plaques and signs can only describe so much of the story at some of the country’s most historic locations, and that’s why the Tauck tour company is getting a pretty experienced storyteller to help guide its tours.
Ken Burns is partnering with the tour company to share his secrets and experiences with travelers looking for something a little more than the traditional go-round. Sure, tours aren’t necessary at most national parks, but getting the Ken Burns touch should provide a whole new perspective, one different from the first time you visited some of those Civil War monuments back in the 5th grade. Burns will be adding his magic by developing specific itineraries, but unfortunately, he usually won't be available for questions and answers at Gettysburg.
El Matador State Beach in Malibu, California
Rest easy, Pio Pico State Historic Park, as California's burly Governor Schwarzenegger won't pulverize you (metaphorically speaking) just yet. California's hotly debated budget woes have been well documented in the press, with the closure of several state parks proposed to cut state spending.
Yet in recent weeks, reports The San Jose Mercury News, the Governor has changed course, no doubt due to the "protests, letters from the public, critical newspaper editorials and requests from Republican lawmakers in rural districts that their parks not be closed because of the loss to tourism." Back in May, Schwarzenegger suggested shutting down up to 220 of 279 parks, nearly 80 percent of California's parks.
Even in the big city, one needs a little wildlife once in a while. Tristaters should get to know their local greenspace at the National Parks of New York City's Park Week, held Sept. 20-27 to coincide with Ken Burns' latest documentary, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea."
NYC has 10 National Park sites and they're all doing something special for the event: Here's your chance to take a candlelit tour of Grant's Tomb (120th St and Riverside Dr) or check out what a Japanese artist saw at Yellowstone at Federal Hall (26 Wall St). Take the kiddies to the Brooklyn Children's Museum (145 Brooklyn Ave.) on September 20th for a special presentation about bearsStephen Colbert, consider yourself warned.