Go Outside.

This year marks the centennial of the National Park Service, and boy should we be proud of it. Ironically enough, it was traveling abroad that gave me an appreciation of the amazing natural beauty, diligent conservation efforts, and organization of the national parks here in the States.

It was 1916 when Woodrow Wilson signed the “Organic Act” to create one organization responsible for protecting the national parks, monuments and federal lands, rather than the disparate system that had come into place. This came 44 years after the establishment of Yellowstone National Park, which spurred worldwide conservation efforts of its own. That’s right–worldwide. Way to go, John Muir!

Today, the US (and outlying islands) has more than 400 national parks. I got to spend the past month with a paper map in hand and Cocoa in the passenger seat, driving around Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico to explore just a sliver of what the NPS works to preserve. In this post I hope to encourage you to celebrate the centennial and Find Your Park!

Southern Utah
My route through Utah’s National Parks and recreation areas.

My first stops were Canyonlands and Arches, as you may have read in my Utah, You’re Beautiful post. And, just as a side note, I took all these pictures with an iPhone6, so no fancy photography here, just beautiful scenery.

My best photos of Arches National Park (#2 on the map):

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And, my best shots of Canyonlands, both Island in the Sky and Needles districts (#1 and 3):

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After Canyonlands, I took the scenic route towards Grand Escalante, passing through Capital Reef National Park (#4):

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After Capital Reef, I headed to Grand Escalante/Glen Canyon and then made my way down to the Grand Canyon for a hike with old coworkers, but not without stopping by a few lookouts on the way.

Bryce Canyon (#5) happened to be on the way from Grand Escalante to the Grand Canyon. Lucky me!


As was Horseshoe Bend (#6). This view of the Colorado was a piddly 10 minute walk off the highway. 

Now, I happened to be in the area and was excited to meet up with some old coworkers for a hike in the Grand Canyon. I didn’t ask too many details of the hike, figuring that any hike that you could take a young child on I should be able to tackle, no problem. I did know we’d be leaving early and returning late, so I figured out the logistics of kenneling Cocoa for the day and arranging for an early drop off before the kennel opened.

What I didn’t know, is that they were leaving the young child behind with his grandparents for the day, and we were going to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back. In a day. Apparently its a thing. 6.5 miles down, 9.5 miles back up. By far, it was the most hiking that I did in one day on my trip; good company and stunning views made it more than worth it, though.

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After the Grand Canyon, I headed south to Tuscon to meet up with friends John and Lauren, who are on an adventure of their own (and have the sweetest van I’ve ever seen). We did a nice little hike outside of Tuscon and checked out some extremely tall cacti (called saguaros).

Catalina State Park outside of Tuscon, AZ; the saguaros seen here can grow to be 50 ft tall. 

From there, I started heading back towards Austin, stopping at both White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns on the way.

Heading back towards ATX after a month on the road; White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. The two black specs in the distance are other hikers.  

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These were my adventures for the last month. Looking back, I continue to be awestruck by the diversity and beauty that the US National Parks have to offer. Hopefully, this onslaught of photos inspires you get out of the city and find your park!


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