Plan A Trip To A National Park, Mostly Without Grandchildren

Plan A Trip To A National Park, Mostly Without GrandchildrenFor the last several years, actually beginning when we realized we could get $10 lifetime passes to all national parks in the U.S. upon our 62nd birthdays, and we loved getting “carded,” because the rangers could not believe we were that old, Grandpa and I have intentionally visited as many national parks as we can. We know that such visits require an ability to be active, and we want to experience the beauty of nature in “young old,” before age 84, according to GG (great grandmother), who should know at age 91. Our next national park trip takes us to some new parks, and has us return to the best for a second time, with new perspectives.

With age comes wisdom and understanding, including the ability to fully appreciate the beauty of nature and the treasures that are our national parks. Grandpa and I have come to believe that national parks are not for children, but for adults. When our daughter mentioned taking the older grandchildren to Yellowstone, we discouraged her, especially after we saw the markers where children died in hot springs when they fell in walking on open boardwalks that had no railings!

Then reading the New York Times at bedtime, I came across that, as usual, Boomers are usual. Again, we are the trend, in “Walkabout: For National Parks An Older Crowd.” The blurb:

“The average age of visitors to Yellowstone is 45. Younger Visitors Skipping the Parks The number of young people who visit national parks in the United States is declining. Employees of the National Park Service are aging, too. (CNN)”

The link was to a CNN on line article, “Does the National Park Service have a youth problem?”
By Ryan Bergeron and Sean Redlitz, March 19, 2015.

Here is the CNN list of the most popular national parks;

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

2. Grand Canyon National Park

3. Yosemite National Park

4. Yellowstone National Park

5. Rocky Mountain National Park

6. Olympic National Park

7. Zion National Park

8. Grand Teton National Park

9. Acadia National Park

10. Glacier National Park

This Grandma and Grandpa have been to eight out of ten, and expect to visit three again this year for the second time. If you have not gotten your $10 pass yet, you should, and you should visit at least one park a year, starting with the top ten above. The parks are spectacular, but this Grandma remembers coming home from Yellowstone fixated on those tombstones for young children along the boardwalks, where children had fallen in the hot springs and died. Every time I saw a family with young children at Yellowstone, I shuttered. National parks are for those of us who appreciate their beauty and can conserve their beauty.

The article on line at CNN said,

“In 2014, America’s national parks attracted a record-setting 292.8 million visits, but the typical visitor to the country’s biggest parks is edging closer to retirement age. As Morgan Spurlock points out in the latest episode of “Inside Man,” the average age of visitors to Denali is 57 years. In Yellowstone it is 54. But in the past decade, the number of visitors under the age of 15 has fallen by half.”

“It’s not just the visitors who are getting grayer. According to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), half of the employees in park service leadership positions are scheduled to retire by 2016, which could lead to even more understaffing for the national parks. Right now, there is one park guide for every 100,000 visitors.”

“So what’s not attracting the younger generation to having some of the most beautiful offices in the country?”

Those persons quoted seem to think electronics have made children more interested in spending time indoors rather than outdoors. This Grandma just thinks the beauty of nature is lost on children. Traveling to national parks with children was tedious with the long drives in between sites, and now, at least, children have electronics to keep them occupied.

It seems that the National Park Service is looking at 800,000 new Junior Rangers, “as more and more rangers race toward retirement, the National Park Service is looking to inspire a love of the outdoors in new generations.”

“More than 800,000 children last year got their Junior Ranger patches and certificates. The activity-based program is designed to foster interest and educate kids (typically between ages 5 and 13) about national parks and the park service.”

When speaking with children, the ranger explains the program:

“Because you’re more important than I am,” the ranger explained. “Because in 40 years I’m going to be old and retired, and you’re going to be coming to national parks with your kids.”

“That’s the plan, at least.”

Or should it be? Yes, we can get our grandchildren interested in national parks on line:
When we are visiting a national park, we can review that with the grandchildren and spark their interest. If they are then interested, we can take them back on a subsequent visit, when we have scoped out the park and selectively chosen where to go in the park and what activities to plan.

This Grandma called her eleven year old grandson who just had the privilege of going to Moab, Utah, to Arches National Park with his father. I am surprised it is not in the top ten of national parks as it is one of the most beautiful national parks.

Now that he had seen Arches, one of the most beautiful of the national parks, I asked him if he thought children should go to national parks or need to wait until they are older to appreciate them. He said he climbed a lot of rocks and did a lot of hiking and if kids are not into that sort of thing, and few are, national parks may not be of interest to children. He did say the nature was beautiful and he loved seeing the arches.

Of course, he is just the most special child and so smart and so intuitive. Aren’t all of our grandchildren brilliant!




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