As we celebrate National Park Week, I would like to offer a sincere thank you to all the dedicated National Park Service employees who provide park visitors an exceptional and unparalleled experience every day. My family’s incredible experiences with our national parks are what compelled me to pursue the opportunity to join the Coalition’s staff this year.
Living in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area, we are beyond fortunate to have an abundance of national parks within walking distance or a short drive from our home. In fact, I would describe us as downright spoiled! As a stay-at-home parent for the last several years, national parks are an integral part of our daily lives.
The trails within Rock Creek Park are a regular destination when we need a short, quick trip out of the house. It can be a full day excursion if we want a long walk, or a three minute drive gets us to a trailhead. Every time, my kids race to the bridge which crosses the creek because there is just something mesmerizing about watching the water rushing underneath. There is no discussion as to which way to go as they just head straight for the sandy area near the water which is perfect for skipping stones. This past Christmas Eve was unseasonably warm and after wandering the trails, we were ecstatic to find an owl watching us from high up in a Sycamore tree on our way out.
The D.C. area can be a fairly transient place and some family friends relocated to Pennsylvania. Fortunately, Catoctin Mountain is an easy meeting place for us. It was on our last trip there that I finally accepted that my son does not enjoy hiking mountain trails. He prefers to run them! He and his friend sprinted the trail to Thurmont Vista where we eventually caught up to them and enjoyed a scenic, picnic lunch. And no kids could refuse a side trip to Wolf Rock to scramble across and jump the crevices.
For our family, no trip to a national park is complete without completing the Junior Ranger quest. Our first experience with the NPS Junior Ranger program was several years ago at the Lotus and Water Lily Festival at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Stationed throughout the park, rangers were quick to help the little ones complete their booklets, answer never-ending questions, and share incredible stories of caring for the unique plants. The park brought in wonderful artists to share music and dancing; my daughter’s souvenir of a guided painting continues to decorate our walls.
We are surrounded by a diverse natural world from mountains to waterways. We are immersed in American history ranging from the memorials of the National Mall to Civil War battlefields. We are excited to share in the National Park Week celebration this week and hope others join us in experiencing the treasures of the National Park Service both virtually and in their own communities.
By Theresa Manthripragada
Coalition Staff Assistant