National Parks

by Honolulu Mother

We’ve talked about national park visits before, but it’s summer so why not take the chance to reminisce, plan, and share experiences again.

This FiveThirtyEight article, The National Parks Have Never Been More Popular, notes that the park system continues to get more and more visits over the years. Even though on a per person basis we’re visiting a bit less often than previously, population growth has driven visitor numbers upward. The article goes on to list parks from the most-visited to the least-visited, so if you want to avoid a crowd you can look to the bottom of the list.

Based on the list, the least-visited one I’ve been to recently was Mesa Verde, which was indeed vastly less crowded than the Grand Canyon (our next stop) and for that reason was beautiful and peaceful in a way that Grand Canyon village really couldn’t compare with. We were able to sit out on our porch having a drink and watching the cottontails scurry around in the scrub outside our room while the daylight slowly faded, feeling like we had the place to ourselves.

And I clearly should plan a visit to the North Cascades, which MooshiMooshi so highly recommended and which is in a state we often visit!

What park experiences have stood out for you? What is the least-visited park on the list that you’ve been to? And do you think visitor numbers are all that important in planning a trip, or do you go with the theory that even in the Great Smoky Mountains, you’re pretty much on your own once you get a little way down a trail?

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173 thoughts on “National Parks

  1. Other than Glacier Bay in Alaska, which sort of doesn’t count because it is not accessible by automobile, Crater Lake is the least visited park in which I have personally set foot. It is worth the trip. It has a short opening season because of late melting snow. Bryce Canyon is also a favorite. I had no idea that there were so many visitors each year to Acadia – I think of it as a long drive with not much to see – just a whole lot of forest.

  2. From the article: “RV camping, however, is dead — or dying, at least. It has declined 46 percent since 1979 and now makes up less than one-quarter of all overnight stays across the national parks.”

    Interesting.

  3. I can personally vouch for Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I am all for uncrowded. Too many people = clogged roads = ugh.

    I think next summer is going to be a US vacation — we are talking about renting a house on the beach in Oregon with my sister and mom for a week in August. So I am now tossing around the option of flying into Denver or Salt Lake a week early, renting an RV, and taking the slow route N and W, through Yellowstone and Big Sky and all that. I take it for granted, but my kids have never really seen that part of the country (at least when they were old enough to remember anything).

    This is NOT a good day for this post. I am on my 3rd day of complete inability to focus on boring-crap-that-must-be-done at work. This is going to be far too tempting a distraction.

  4. Black Canyon of the Gunnison is the least popular one of the list DH and I have been to

  5. “RV camping, however, is dead — or dying, at least. It has declined 46 percent since 1979 and now makes up less than one-quarter of all overnight stays across the national parks.”

    I wonder why. I’m all for touring the parks in an RV:

    http://winnebagoind.com/products/class-a-diesel/2016/journey/overview

    Although, I’m very surprised to see that they don’t offer adaptive cruise control. You’d think of any vehicle you’d want it – it would be an RV.

  6. RMS,

    I would have expected RV’s to have all kinds of driver aids: stability control, 360 camera view, crash avoidance, autopark, etc. But, they seem very unsophisticated for their price. However, it does look like some vendors offer that.

    http://www.entegracoach.com/

    Oh, yeeeeh!

  7. Wow! But I want a professional driver to take me places in that thing.

  8. Black Canyon of the Gunnison is the least visited one for me.
    +1 to LfB re that and Mesa Verde
    I have been to 29 of the parks.
    If I have to choose just one, Yellowstone has to be it. But Arches is a very close second. IMO. They’re all great in their own way, meaning that I’d be up for going back to them. Except maybe Canyonlands…really did nothing for me.

  9. I would very much like to punch this woman in the face. Love National Parks. Nothing beats Yellowstone – I try to visit a little off season. I don’t go into nature to be around a whole bunch of people. I’m already hating the people who are hitting the canal (MY canal) now that it is nice out. I’m like “Where were you in February? Fair weather canal walkers!”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3654897/Woman-banned-20-percent-land-including-national-parks-defacing-rock-formations-posting-evidence-crimes-Instagram.html

  10. She should have had to clean up the rocks! That’s disgraceful!

    Rhett – those coaches are awesome! I built one for $680k. Modest price…

    The least visited park I’ve been to is the Everglades. But I really just drove through it. Visited and explored – Acadia. This list has great potential for future vacations! :)

  11. We went to Yellowstone last summer in the height of tourist season, but it was easy to escape the crowds when we wanted to. We did several hikes where we encountered almost no one. But I think it was also fun to experience the multi-national crowd that gathered to watch Old Faithful. It was a wonderful trip.

    This summer on our Alaska trip we are going to spend a couple of days at Glacier Bay. We’re not doing a cruise, so we’re spending two nights in the park lodge. That will be the least-visited park that I have gone to.

    Question for the group: One of my bucket-list items is to take my kids to the Grand Canyon. This would be an April vacation trip, perhaps in 2018. I would love to go down into the canyon. I was thinking about trying to get into Phantom Ranch, but looking around online, Havasupai Falls looks really cool, too. Has anyone been to Havasupai? Any other ideas for bottom-of-the-canyon experiences?

  12. Rhett – those coaches are awesome! I built one for $680k. Modest price…

    Certainly not to buy – to rent. It looks like a week in a Class A motor home is about $2600. So, maybe the Entegra’s 4600? I tried to look online but it just says call for a quote.

    Obviously, it would be cheaper at a hotel. But, does a hotel room have a fire place?

    Not usually.

  13. Fun topic! I’m currently on my way to a state park, which isn’t as great as a National Park, but does offer some relief from the city.

    I’m headed to Crater Lake later this summer and can’t wait. I love checking off NP visits. Nothing beats Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Even with the crowds, it is breathtaking.

  14. I love visiting national parks. Like Fred, I’ve been to 29 on that list. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is the least popular I’ve visited, but I’ve also been to the Guadalupe Mountains, Great Sand Dunes, Big Bend, Carlsbad Caverns and others on the lower part of the list. I LOVED Canyonlands, but then I love the desert.

    President Obama visited Carlsbad Caverns last week. Not sure how he chose that particular park. When I went there with my NY-born husband years ago, he got a little freaked out when a group of tourists spontaneously started singing the gospel hymn Rock of Ages as we approached the Rock of Ages formation. I thought it was quite moving, but he thought those folks were crazy.

    Although an RV could be a convenient way to travel, I think navigating that thing in some of the parks could be a big headache. No thanks.

  15. The most unimpressive park I’ve been to is Mammoth Cave. It was just a tacky hole in the ground with colored lights shining on meh rock formations. Sorry.

  16. Junior and I recently went to the Dry Tortugas. I can verify that it is dry, very dry. Good thing the ferry over there leaves from and returns to Key West.

    It was utterly fascinating! Fort Jefferson is not just a pile of rocks, but a very historic and somewhat ghostly brick outpost. Talk about remote!

    We went with a noisy tour group, so we never felt any solitude. I can only imagine what it was like, however, for those soldiers who were stationed there many years ago.

    The Everglade National Park (I believe they have deleted the plural in keeping with the times) is worth seeing if you can get down here quickly. Unfortunately, however, the River of Grass is rapidly becoming the Ocean of Crap thanks to Big Sugar in the North, FPL in the South, over-expansion from Broward and Miami-Dade counties and state government in Tallahassee giving way to every interest other than the public one.

    Florida could be beautiful, but it isn’t.

  17. Wait, never mind about Mammoth Cave. I’ve never been there. I was thinking of Meramac Caverns.

  18. RMS – last time we were in Cali we thought about going to Lassen Volcanic Park, we went to SF, Lake Tahoe and Point reyes but decided it would add too much driving

  19. I was going to say CoC, I’ve been to Mammoth cave, best cave I’ve been to, lots of tour options

  20. Although an RV could be a convenient way to travel, I think navigating that thing in some of the parks could be a big headache. No thanks.

    That’s why you tow a smaller vehicle behind you for excursions within the park.

    I bet you didn’t know that, The 4WD Suburban is designed for ‘flat towing’, which means it can be towed behind the coach with the transfer case in neutral and the transmission in park. This allows the wheels to spin freely and does not accumulate towed miles on the odometer.

  21. Mount Rainier! Ohanepecosh is my favorite campground anywhere. The hike up from Paradise is fantastic, with spectacular views of Mt Adams and Mt St Helens, and you get passed every so often by macho groups of climbers on their way to Camp John Muir, which is the base camp for the ascent to the summit

  22. The least crowded parks that I’ve been to are Mesa Verde and Badlands. I didn’t want to visit Badlands, but we were going to Mt. Rushmore so it made sense to visit. It is one of the few parks that I slept overnight so we did the ranger activities in the evening. Very fun and I didn’t expect it because it was at the end of a trip that included north and south rims of GC, Mesa Verde, Yelliwstone, Grand Tetons, Arches and a few more. 8000 miles in a K car. I just wish we didn’t miss Yosemite.

    I love Acadia, and we almost went this summer. I couldn’t convince DH to take the drive.

  23. Rhett – Renting wouldn’t be bad at all. I think I could handle it in the big parks, but not Acadia. It would be like driving a bus there. No thank you.

    PTM – I so want to go to the Dry Tortugas. I think our next family vacation may by Key West. I want to visit again before it sinks.

  24. Acadia is probably one of my favorite parks and places in the country. I can’t wait for DS to get a bit bigger to take him hiking and climbing on all the rocks. And we’ll show him the “couch” which is a rock near Sand Beach which looks like a couch.

  25. Slightly off topic, but related to hiking, walking and fitness – any recommendations on fitbits or other movement tracking devices? Is a heart rate monitor useful or a waste of money? They seem to add about $40 to the price.

    Foot issues aside, I need to start moving again.

  26. NoB, I looked at Havasupai when we were trip planning last year, and the overnight staying down in the canyon on the reservation there did look like it would be amazing, but it would be a trip unto itself, not something you could readily combine with a couple days’ visit to the actual national park like we were doing. With that timeframe, we did a ranger-led family hike down a ways into the canyon from Hermit’s Rest (part of the Junior Ranger requirements, but well worth doing for it’s own sake) and then the rest of our time was just on the canyon’s rim.

    The one thing I thought I might have done differently would be to go North Rim rather than South Rim. I considered it when planning, but it would have added a couple of hours’ drive getting to and from the main roads even approaching from the closest direction as we were doing, so I went with South Rim. But I think North Rim would have been cooler in temperature (it’s 1000 feet higher), way less crowded, plus that’s where Brighty spent his time in Brighty of the Grand Canyon, which we were listening to while driving to and around the park.

  27. and this post is killing me, we didn’t end up going on a summer vacation, and the soonest I could with work is the last week of July, but that is the week school starts

  28. Ok, I feel like a bad Totebagger bc I just don’t see the appeal of traveling across the country to camp. I prefer a plush hotel room at the end of the day.

  29. Wine, all those SW desert parks are supposed to be better visited in spring or fall.

  30. OK, I think I’ve visited 14, but I’m not completely sure (e.g., I can’t remember if I drove through Badlands or just near it). And a lot of them were when I was little — I remember being told something was petrified wood and thinking it looked like a rock, and seeing giant trees, but those are my only recollections of the Petrified Forest and Redwood (whaddya want, I was 6). I do, however, distinctly remember Crater Lake from that trip, and it was awesome.

    Smokies are probably my least favorite, because you want to drive around a lot for the views, and people just go soooooo sloooooooowlyyyyy.

  31. Ah Rio, but many of the parks have lodges to stay in. For instance, for the view from the balcony of Far View Lodge at Mesa Verde that’s in the main post, here’s what the room interior looks like:

    And then you walk two minutes down the hill, past the feeding mule deer, to the nice restaurant with a view for dinner, or the next morning for breakfast.

  32. I prefer a plush hotel room at the end of the day.

    I agree. But, what about a super plush RV?

  33. BTW, for those unfamiliar with it, the selling point of Mesa Verde isn’t actually the view, it’s all the ruins:

    But it’s up on a mesa, so the views are pretty nice too.

  34. I’ve visited 6 of the parks on the list and kids have visited 0. Byproduct of spending every vacation with the paternal grandparents.
    Would most like to go to Yellowstone, but I don’t see it happening retirement.

  35. Rhode, Key West is great fun, but is very expensive and not entirely polite. Also, there are no real beaches to speak of, so the real entertainment is the art galleries, shopping, restaurants and drinking establishments, music and sundown. Of course, I love visiting Hemmingway’s House and the Truman White House. Key West has kind of an interesting history.

    The Dry Tortugas make a good day trip. There is some camping available and supposedly excellent snorkeling . They don’t exactly have a Four Seasons or any other lodging for that matter, and Rhett’s RV would have a hard time there, but it is a very interesting place.

    Somewhat ironically Junior and I visited the Tortugas with my lush sister, Tipsy Teen Mom-Smith (see, I was around yesterday) Of course, we had our picture taken in front of the sign and she sent it out with her Christmas cards.

  36. Come sit by me, Rio, in the air-conditioned hotel room with the lovely view out the window.

  37. I’ve visited only 4-5 of these and the Great Smokies were part of a drive to Florida as a kid. I’ve probably spent the most time in the Everglades. Not many National Parks in the NE!

  38. and Rhett’s RV would have a hard time there,

    We could take Milo’s ocean going RV.

  39. “But, does a hotel room have a fire place?”

    But they do have room service and cleaning service. And they usually take care of your sewage for you. . . .

    The problem we had when we lived out west was the RVs we’d want to stay in were waaaaay too big for the little roads we wanted to drive on to explore, so it was easier just to drive and find B&Bs or hotels. But I still want to rent one. :-)

  40. @RMS – I was going to say the same thing. I stayed in the lodge at Mt Rainer. It was fine. But it was not plush at all.

  41. Honolulu — I was interested in the North Rim, but it is still closed there in April. It seems to open in mid-May.

  42. I love going to the national parks! I’ve been to 12 on the list. We’re going to try to do a Yellowstone / Grand Tetons trip next summer. NOB, we went to the Grand Canyon in April. Be prepared for some cold temps. It went down to 10F at night with days in the 40’s and 50’s. Some parts of the trails going into the canyon (we didn’t hike all the way down) were still ice covered but rim trails were fine. It’s beautiful.

  43. I must not be a neurotypical parks person. I don’t like the outdoors all that well. It’s usually either too hot or too cold. I force myself to go outside and walk a few times a day because the sunshine does help my mood. But a little is plenty. Scenery is just scenery, and you can buy a nice coffee-table book full of scenery and stay in the climate-controlled room and look at the pretty pictures. And what do you guys DO when you’re there. Okay, you hike. Now you’re done hiking. Now what? Sit around? I guess you can read, but you can read indoors on a comfy sofa. I guess you can identify plants. I just don’t get it.

  44. I’ve driven through the Shenandoah Valley but that’s the extent of my national parks visiting. I’m with Rocky. Dh used to camp in Acadia in high school but I think that is probably the only one he’s been to. Our vacations are usually to the beach or cities, I have never even considered doing a national park vacation.

  45. I’ve been to 15. I checked the complete list, and I forgot that I went to Mt. Rainier and Olympic on later trips that I took to visit friends out west. I really want to get to Yosemite, Glacier bay and the Smokey mountains.

    I don’t think DH has been to any of these parks yet. One of the best things I did was to skip the trip after college to backpack around Europe and go to see all of these national and state parks instead. One of my favorite places isn’t a national park, but we did visit after going to the Grand Canyon. We spent a few days in Lake Powell and I really loved it there.

    I really appreciate the rangers too. I didn’t have enough water in Bryce during a “moderate” hike, and it was during the summer. One of the rangers really saved me, and I learned so much for any lecture or hike we took with the rangers.

    I was in Yellowstone just a week before the largest fires in the history of the park in 1988. Some of my pictures were taken in parts of the park that were destroyed. It was heartbreaking even though I know it is part of the nature cycle.

    I definitely want to figure out a way to get DD and DH to spend more time in the parks in future years. We are not campers, but the lodges are beautiful. I am happy that they will spend time in the Rockies this summer.

  46. Okay, you hike. Now you’re done hiking. Now what?

    That’s like saying “You read a book. Now you’re done reading. Now what?” There are more hikes! They don’t all go the same place or look the same! And you see stuff — views, plants, animals, rocks, historic sites, geological features. Depending on the park there may also be boating, rafting, horseback riding, biking. However, I say this to answer your question, not to try to sell you on park visits. If outdoor recreation is not for you, then it’s not for you.

  47. “Scenery is just scenery, and you can buy a nice coffee-table book full of scenery”

    no picture does it justice for scenes from Yosemite or Tetons

  48. “Scenery is just scenery, and you can buy a nice coffee-table book full of scenery and stay in the climate-controlled room and look at the pretty pictures.”

    Do you feel the same way about museums or city sightseeing? What type of travel do you enjoy?

    If you don’t see a difference between looking at a picture of the Grand Canyon vs. hiking down or along the rim, then definitely park trips are not for you. Being in a park touches my senses and emotions in a way that pictures do not. However, I do look forward to virtual reality technology when I can experience a park without having to travel far.

  49. Most of our trips have been more focused on scenery rather than big cities (NPS, Lake Tahoe. Oregon Coast, etc)

  50. My sister and parents all stayed together at Jenny Lake Lodge on one trip. That one you have to call the day reservations open, a year + in advance, to get in, but it would be really nice.

  51. It’s been over 30 years but I still sometimes dream about Old Faithful Lodge. TBH, sometimes more like nightmares.

  52. We wanted to get up to Jenny Lake, but they were doing road construction when we were there and closed the entire road. It was very depressing. But, we figured that’s a risk you take coming off season.

    RMS – I can see why you’d say that. But I just don’t understand it. To stand on the rim of Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon… that view and feeling cannot be replicated by a book. To hug a tree taller and wider than you’ve ever seen… to see so much uninterrupted sky, you have to wonder “how many Rhode Islands fit in this space”… Even with a baby in tow, we were never want for things to explore and see during our adventure. The only thing we lacked was more time to explore.

  53. “And what do you guys DO when you’re there. Okay, you hike. Now you’re done hiking. Now what? Sit around?”

    What do people do when there’s an extended power outage and they can’t watch TV?

  54. Old Faithful Lodge was so cool! We wanted to go up to the tower, but an earthquake that happened 30 years before we were born thwarted us.

    Why nightmares, COC?

  55. “I just don’t see the appeal of traveling across the country to camp. I prefer a plush hotel room at the end of the day.”

    How about something like this?

  56. Do you feel the same way about museums or city sightseeing? What type of travel do you enjoy?

    Some museums, some of the time. Mostly I travel to visit people. And I have the weird attachment to California. I do not have any emotional response to scenery, though I am fully aware that other people do. I just want to see the people I care about.

  57. RMS – I have a friend who has taken many trips to European cities. Her slides: Here is, let me double check, P—-. Here is the Cathedral. We walked up a winding cobblestone street to this lovely terrace for lunch. Here is the City Hall. Here is a colorful festival performance. Here is the local monument to ___. Rinse, repeat. My slides; Here is, let me double check, Mount M—. We took a short hike and stumbled upon this elk. Here is the grand salon of xyz lodge and the view from the terrace. Here is the odd rock formation – see the effect of geologic forces. Rinse, repeat.

  58. RMS, I wonder if this is partly because living where you do, and I know you’ve mentioned day trips to RMNP before, the mountain parks seem like same old, same old? Like how to me, lush tropical foliage, waterfall pools, and beautiful beaches with clear water are nice, ‘lucky you live Hawaii,’ but not anything out of the common way.

  59. It was about 20 years ago, but when we went to Grand Teton, there were a lot of very nice lodging options near the base of the Jackson Hole ski area that were very reasonably priced. We stayed in a very nice condo, and there were more plush options available.

  60. I thought Old Faithful Lodge was cool too, but we did not get to stay there

  61. What do people do when there’s an extended power outage and they can’t watch TV?

    They talk to each other, or work crossword puzzles, or read, or play backgammon. Indoors. Where it’s climate-controlled.

  62. that is what we did too, Finn , stayed in Teton Village in a nice condo during the off season

    we tried to repeat the experience in Mammoth Lakes, but it was dead in comparison, even a lot of the stores and restaurants weren’t open

  63. I’ve been to 21 on the list.

    Timely post, HM. It’s a good time to start planning for a trip for next summer. It’s been a while since I’ve visited a NP on the continent, but at many of them, reservations start filling up about a year in advance.

    Perhaps next summer we can do a Griswold-type trip on the way to delivering DS to his college. Are there any nice NPs in the northeast where we don’t need to take a lot of precautions against Lyme disease?

  64. I was upset Devils Postpile National Monument was closed when we were out there

  65. The lowest on the list that I’ve visited is Pinnacles. It’s nothing spectacular, but I think it’s on the list because it’s quite close to the Bay Area, suitable for an afternoon hike.

  66. I unfortunately know more about Lyme now than I used to (DH has been confirmed with it)

    His doctor said to report it, you have to test positive on 5 different indicators, and DH was positive for 3

    I’m pretty sure you can contract Lyme any where in the US, but it looks like NY/PA region has had less cases reported (1990-2013)

    I would guess the tick that bit him was from our local hikes (IN/KY)

  67. Finn – NPS tells you to prep for ticks in Acadia… so the answer is no. All parks in the Northeast will have ticks that carry some sort of disease. If you’re dropping DS at college – bring bug spray.

  68. I like visiting National Parks, but I just wouldn’t say that the lodges that I’ve stayed at were plush. They are serviceable & worthwhile for the location within the park. IIRC, at Mt Rainier, we were considered to be in a luxury wing because we had an en suite bathroom & didn’t have to use the communal showers. The bathroom was old & only had a tub – no shower. No TV’s or radios. There was a bar there where we played cards in the evening and chatted. It was nice for a couple of nights.

    I enjoy hiking & the outdoors. I enjoyed kayaking at Olympic NP. I like scenery. So I will put up with the accommodations. But it’s not the Four Seasons. It’s not even a Hampton Inn, really. But regular hotels are often a long drive.

  69. Ah, Rocky, I am so sad to find myself exactly opposite you! I am much more like Rhode: I get a visceral lifting in my chest at those beautiful, wide-open views. My version of a great vacation would actually be similar to your; I would just spend it outside, on a deck, with my feet up and a glass of wine, looking at that gorgeous view and being happy. It calms my mind in a way nothing else does.

    I agree with HM, maybe you’re spoiled for choice. I never had that feeling before I moved west and lived with that great expanse of sky and mountain. Now that I am back east, the views are smaller, more contained, and I start to feel claustrophobic and kind of itchy inside. So vacation has become all about that view — I just *need* it. Even when I go to Manhattan, I stay at the hotel that gives me the side-on corner view of Central Park, and I turn the chair around and put my feet up on the windowsill and look out or read or listen to music or whatever. For hours.

    The only other thing that ever came close to that zen feeling was scuba diving in Turks & Caicos, hanging motionless off a wall that plummeted hundreds of feet straight down below me. But a nice balcony is easier to achieve on a daily basis. Plus, you know, you don’t run out of air or get the bends or anything. Maybe it would make more sense if I called it something froofy like “visual meditation”?

  70. “I’m pretty sure you can contract Lyme any where in the US”

    I haven’t heard of any cases here.

  71. the map I pulled up on google says only 6 cases in HI over 20 yr period (safest place to be for Lyme)

  72. A little to the right of the scene at the North Rim that CoC posted, there’s a restaurant with big picture windows capturing the same view.

    We had dinner there, at a table right next to the window. The sun was still up when we were seated, and it was dark by the time we left the restaurant. One of the more memorable dinners I’ve ever had.

  73. Winemama, then again, we get dengue fever in HI, and CO gets bubonic plague, and probably the NE gets very little of either of those.

  74. RMS, I wonder if this is partly because living where you do, and I know you’ve mentioned day trips to RMNP before, the mountain parks seem like same old, same old?

    I was thinking the same thing. MA is almost 2/3 forest and relatively flat so there are no great vistas, it’s just all trees. But, out west you have great vistas so it seems more impressive to me than if you already lived in the Rockies.

  75. “I’ve visited 6 of the parks on the list and kids have visited 0. Byproduct of spending every vacation with the paternal grandparents.”

    Where do the GP live? Are there no NP within driving distance?

    I’m thinking if there are any within 2 to 3 hours or so, you could do day trips from the GP’s home.

    If there are some somewhat further, you might do an overnight, or perhaps 2 or 3 night, road trip from the GP’s home.

    Or if there are any between your home and the GP’s home, you could do a Griswold-type trip.

    If none of those work, a single trip, flying in to somewhere like Vegas, could allow your family to visit quite a few NPs.

  76. RMS also grew in in a location that lends well to weekend trips to quite a few NP.

    Among those I visited from there on weekends: Yosemite, Lassen, Redwood, Crater Lake, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Pinnacles.

    OTOH, Fred had access to the same parks, but still seems to enjoy visiting others.

  77. RMS – you and my dad are the same. I love scenery. As a family we call out “SPLENDOR” whenever we come upon a lovely vista! I also love walking around interesting cities and seeing the people there, what they do, how they dress etc…. I do not like to camp though and I HATE, HATE the beach with a red hot hate that is visceral and deep. I’ll tolerate the beach at dawn and sunset only.

  78. Three of my neighbor’s kids were diagnosed with Lyme in the last two months. One boy is really sick, but the other kids are already getting better.

    I obviously don’t live in a national park, but there are deer all over the place in this area. Ticks are carried on deer, field mice, birds etc. generally don’t acquire Lyme from deer. Even if you think there aren’t a lot of deer around in one neighborhood, there still could be a risk of Lyme if the ticks are around.

    It is a fact of life around here, and I wouldn’t avoid a trip to certain parks or hikes because of Lyme. I think your risk of Lyme is fairly low. If you are hiking, and you wear long pants or high socks – it is more protection. You can also just check each other at the end of the day if you’re concerned. A tick has to be infected with Lyme and be stuck to you for 24 – 48 hours in order to infect you. Almost all of these boys, roll around in the grass because they’re diving for a ball or wrestling with each other. The ticks are often found in less visible places like their hair or scalp, so you might have a much lower chance of picking up a tick.

    There are so many other things to worry about vs. the minimal risk of Lyme.

  79. “Why nightmares, COC?”

    Not sure. I think over time I remembered the lodge as a kind of Shining spooky hotel, which I actually visited last year in Estes Park. IIRC, our room at the Old Faithful Lodge was spartan, with a shared bathroom.

    Speaking of ticks, parks, and museums, last weekend I visited the Storm King Art Center. It’s a huge outdoor modern art museum, with wonderful pathways to walk around and enjoy both the beautiful scenery and the art. We slathered ourselves with bug spray.

  80. Speaking of lodges / hotels with nice views, lets not forget Volcano House:

    Although we always stay at KMC, also in the park but limited to those with military / DOD connection, which has individual cabins, some with kitchen, plus the bar, restaurant, a mini store, and even a bowling alley and rec center. It doesn’t give you crater views, but the whole area is scenic, even away from the crater’s edge. We need to go there again — it’s been close to a decade — interisland fares are so high that it doesn’t really make sense for a weekend.

  81. Yeah, you’re probably right, it’s probably just “Oh, God’s magnificent creation again?” syndrome. We used to go regularly to Foothills Park for family picnics and Girl Scouts, and even that’s nice than most random parks in other states.

    I do like the Pacific Ocean. I like walking along West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz. Of course it’s rarely disgustingly hot or cold, and it’s never humid.

  82. “The one thing I thought I might have done differently would be to go North Rim rather than South Rim.”

    As you might guess from my posts today, I recommend the North Rim. However, North and South are not mutually exclusive, although it takes quite a while to get from one to the other.

    “North Rim would have been cooler in temperature (it’s 1000 feet higher), way less crowded”

    This was our experience.

    The South Rim has more stuff to do. There’s the fairly easy walk along the rim to the various vantage points. I’m not sure if they still do this, but when I’ve been there during peak season, they close the road along the rim to private cars, but allow bikes, so it’s great for biking from vantage point to vantage point. It’s also the takeoff point to hikes into the canyon.

  83. How you’ve described mountains and open plains is how I feel about oceans or other large bodies of water. A glass of wine on a terrace with a view of the Aegean – heaven!

  84. We do day trips or drives through scenic places. DH likes hotel rooms also, so while he likes to drive and stop, staying in any accommodation that is not a hotel does not appeal to him. Bed and breakfasts with their frilly ambience (I don’t know how else to describe it) just do not appeal to him. So, while I would like to more camping and hiking, I can’t do that as part of a family vacation. All of us loved the big sky and open spaces when were in Arizona and also like California, Oregon and Vancouver because the scenery is so different.

  85. “Fred had access to the same parks, but still seems to enjoy visiting others.”

    Yup. And to your earlier comment about Pinnacles…in my 2 year stint in the Boy Scouts, we probably went there half a dozen times for campouts; probably 2.5 hours away. The rest of the time we went to the Sierras / their foothills. Sometimes in state parks, sometimes just in national forests which were less restrictive than national parks.

    One that was actually nice was Cuyahoga Valley. Not in downtown Cleveland, but really close. We went in the winter (DS had a hockey tournament there) and had the place to ourselves.

  86. ” Bed and breakfasts with their frilly ambience”

    I know what you mean, but they aren’t ALL like that

  87. Thanks Wine: we would like to do more trips out west so that is a good suggestion.

  88. I’m not sure if they still do this, but when I’ve been there during peak season, they close the road along the rim to private cars, but allow bikes, so it’s great for biking from vantage point to vantage point.

    Yes, you have to take the shuttle bus (or walk or bike) for points between Grand Canyon Village and Hermit’s Rest. There’s a bike outfitter that will set you up with rentals and the option of doing the round trip, or biking one way with a van ride to/from the rental place.

  89. NoB, I’ve never been to Havasupai Falls, but now you’ve got me thinking about doing that at some point.

    I’ve hiked into the canyon, and based on that, I don’t suggest hiking down to Phantom Ranch one day, and then out the next, unless you’re in pretty good shape and have a willingness to push yourself physically.

    A buddy and I hiked about halfway down. At that point, there’s a large flat area, and a canyon within the canyon to get all the way down to the river. After walking to the edge of that to see the river, we hiked out, which was a climb of several thousand feet, and the next day we were pretty tired, although I guess the tiredness was mostly from the hike up, rather than down.

    So while I guess hiking down, rather than up, several thousand feet would’ve left us much fresher the next day for hiking out, it would’ve been a pretty monstrous hike out from the river, especially if you’re thinking of hiking out to the north rim, which is about 1000′ higher. I’m sure people do it all the time, but I don’t suggest it without a lot of training in advance.

  90. A lot of the NPs are great for biking.

    I’ve mentioned here before that the ride around Crater Lake is great.

    I’ve also taken my bike to Lassen and Yosemite and had really good rides.

    When I’ve been to Yosemite during peak season, much of the valley floor roads were closed to private vehicles, but bikes were allowed. Those roads are pretty flat, so they are quite appropriate for casual cyclists on all sorts of bikes.

    IIRC, the road along south rim of Grand Canyon that gets closed to cars is not flat, but doesn’t have big hills, so it’s probably OK for casual cyclists. I didn’t do it, but it seems like the ride between the two entrances to the south rim would be pretty good for less casual cyclists.

    The ride around Crater Lake, rides at Yosemite leaving the valley floor (the ride to Glacier Point is great but challenging, at least to me), and the ride along the main road through Lassen include a fair amount of climbing, and of course, some pretty fun downhill sections that could easily take you well above 40mph. I don’t suggest those to casual cyclists without good bikes.

  91. “The rest of the time we went to the Sierras / their foothills.”

    My guess is if you lived where RMS did, you would’ve gone camping in Foothills Park, and other parks in the Coast Range on the peninsula, e.g., Big Basin.

  92. I also like flowers. Lots and lots of pretty colorful flowers. So more like a garden than a national park.

  93. I like the outdoors because I think it fosters a certain intimacy – I love sitting around a campfire. It’s the closest I get to meditation. I worked as a guide for awhile (multi-day white water rafting), and I think there is a different rhythm to living with natural light, less distractions.

    I follow Edward Abbey on Facebook. Despite his death, he still manages to post about once a week. Beautiful pictures and interesting commentary. “I despise my own nation most. BecauseI know ti best. Because I still love it, suffering from Hope. For me, that’s patriotism.”

  94. RMS, do you like Japanese gardens, e.g., the one in Golden Gate Park, or Hakone Gardens in Saratoga?

  95. Hmm, Japanese gardens reminds me that one thing you can’t capture in photo books is sound, since so many Japanese gardens have water features. OTOH, you can capture sound with video cameras.

    But even video cameras don’t capture smells.

    Perhaps that’s part of what you enjoy about the ocean. Besides just seeing the ocean, being there also involves the sounds of the waves, the smell of the ocean, and often a nice breeze. There are also sensory experiences, e.g., walking barefoot in wet sand, feeling the breeze.

  96. “It’s the closest I get to meditation.”

    Have you been to any Japanese gardens? I find they can provide a great deal of that feeling of tranquility within some quite urban areas.

    Back before kids, I went camping with my friends a lot. One of our favorite things to do was to find somewhere away from any earthbound light sources, and go there at night and just lie on our backs, looking at the start. Invariably, there’d be some conversation, some pointing out of astronomical features, but eventually we’d all become silent for awhile, just sort of contemplating things, until either we got too cold, or someone started snoring.

  97. Back OT, I recall that when we were in Boston and DC, there were a number of tourist attractions we visited that were run by the National Park Service.

  98. Winemama, in addition to the rock-desert national parks, I recommend Yellowstone in September. That’s when lots of the animals come down from the higher altitudes for their fall feeding.

    Since we’ve had kids, I’ve especially liked parks because there is so much physical activity there. My kids are energetic. Vacations to grandparents are too sedentary and Disneyland/Legoland was too much waiting in line. I prefer national forests and non-national parks, because there are fewer rules. We’re planning to camp after 4th of July somewhere with wading and rocks/trees to climb (BLM or national forest campground) and the backpacking trip is scheduled in August during the Perseids meteor shower. (Baby WCE and I may not make that; haven’t decided.)

    I am underwhelmed by North Cascades national park. You have to be a serious backpacker/climber to really enjoy it and we had little kids. We rode the boat on Lake Chelan. It was just OK because recent forest fires had devastated the scenery.

    On our visits to Redwoods National Park and Olympic National Park, I recall a lot of time spent watching slugs. One of the great things about Redwood National Park is that the weather is about the same all year- Mr WCE and I started the millenium there with a New Year’s hike.

  99. CoC and MM, did you see the news that a B &N new concept store is opening in the shopping center?

    MM- I think this is the same shopping center that your kids used to be able to walk to when they went to their former bookstore. B & N is trying something new with books and a full service restaurant. It might open by October. I hope it is true because I really miss that bagel store.

  100. Finn, yes, I do like the Japanese Garden in Golden Gate Park. I also like the DeYoung Museum and the aquarium. It’s small enough to be manageable. I do not like parking there, however.

  101. I’ve been there, HM! It was at a crummy time of year, but it was very nice. Also, there was some rose garden in Portland that was just gorgeous.

  102. Oh, and the azalea festivals in North Carolina were so beautiful.

  103. There’s a great Japanese garden right next to the Rose Garden in Portland.

    Parking in GGP is OK if you go early. My experience suggests that if you’re there when the museums open, and there are no special events going on, you can find parking there.

  104. The beach is my happy place. Not necessarily sitting in the sun, but I love love walking on the beach, it’s so peaceful. And I have a strong preference for Atlantic Coast beaches (I may be the only one in Atlanta who doesn’t prefer 30A), probably because they remind me so much of home. I’ve spent a lot of time at the Cape Cod National Seashore which is so beautiful.

  105. I never think about ticks in Georgia, it just doesn’t seem to be a thing, but last summer in Rhode Island when visiting my in-laws we pulled two ticks off of my son. My MIL had insisted that she had no ticks in her yard, like it was a personal insult to her if we thought she did have them, and we weren’t careful (because we just don’t think about that down here). We are headed out of town for New England and I am packing my bug spray. My sister had lyme disease when we were kids and my BIL had it a year ago.

  106. Now that I am back east, the views are smaller, more contained, and I start to feel claustrophobic and kind of itchy inside.

    I feel that way when I am in the east. I keep wanting the trees and buildings to go away so I can see something.

  107. @Finn – no, I don’t tend toward the meditative, really, and the places that are supposed to foster that (like Japanese gardens) tend to leave me cold. I think it only happens when I’m not expecting it, so it can sneak up on me and before I realize it I’m calm and happy. And then when I go to that same place again, the muscle memory kicks in, and then I start to associate that kind of place with calm, and Bob’s your uncle.

    The tick stuff is timely – DD found one on her last night. Judging by her complete sobbing panic freakout, she has been more than sufficiently educated regarding the dangers of Lyme disease. Is the 24-48 hours a real thing? She can’t have had this one more than about 8 hrs, and probably half that.

  108. There is a newish parking garage under the deYoung, Japanese Tea Garden, and Academy of Sciences. As long as you get there in the morning the parking is easy.

  109. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 24 to 48 hours for it to transmit the disease.

    We went to a party last night for all of the kids going to sleep away to say goodbye to each other. I did check DD when we got home and I tried to stress the importance of checking when she’s away at camp.

  110. Lauren, we are eagerly anticipating the new B&N bookstore/restaurant. But tbh I’m not all that excited about having a bookstore nearby because most of my book shopping is on Amazon. Maybe I’ll appreciate it more when it opens, but mainly for stationary and gift items.

    I’d like to visit Watkins Glen State Park, which was voted #3 among all state parks in the US. Bonus nearby is Watkins Glen International racetrack to catch a race. Actually I’d like to go on a NYS road trip to visit many places I’ve never been, like Niagara Falls for example.

    Watkins Glen State Park is the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks, with a reputation for leaving visitors spellbound. Within two miles, the glen’s stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade. Rim trails overlook the gorge. Campers and day-visitors can enjoy the Olympic-size pool, scheduled summer tours through the gorge,

  111. I am going to steal the phrase “carefully curated nuptial mass”. Curated sounds much nicer and stuffier than planned.

  112. I am going to steal the phrase “carefully curated nuptial mass”. Curated sounds much nicer and stuffier than planned.

    Doesn’t it, though? And like you would need a graduate degree to do it.

  113. ATM – I tried that B remedy (B12) and it totally worked. At 17, I was a “Junior Forest Ranger” for a summer. Out in the bush clearing portages and sandvikking down white pines and whatnot 8 hours/day, 5 days/week for 2 months. My doc told me before I left that I should take B12 daily for several months before I left. I did it, and it really seemed to work. Bugs allegedly don’t like the smell of it? Anyway, they ate all my friend all summer and pretty much left me alone.

    I just put a kid on a plane headed for a malaria/rabies/Japanese Encephalitis/typhoid rich country for a month. The travel nurse recommended a bug spray you use on your clothes. It lasts for 6 washes. I think it’s called Johnson’s or something like that? Can get it at REI. Also recommended a bug cream with high % of DEET. I expect all of that stuff would be a good defense for ticks in the USA.

  114. COC, is it possible for the comments on the Election 2016 thread to show up under “recent comments” on the home page?

  115. MM – you NEED to go to Watkins Glen State Park. It is really nice for hiking. If you plan to go there please let me know as there are other state parks that are worth going to as long as you’re in the area. (Not to mention visiting Cornell and SUNY Binghamton if they are on anyone’s lists.)

  116. HFN — The election comments don’t show up on the home page because the Election 2016 updates are “pages” not “posts”. (That’s WordPress inside baseball terminology that doesn’t mean much to most readers.) With a little extra work I can change that, as I did for the 30-day challenge pages. It would cause election posts and comments to show up in the regular feed. I thought most people preferred the political posts to stay in the background, but if people want to sound in with their preferences I’m open to changing things around.

  117. CoC, I’m not a WordPress guru, so I don’t know if this is possible, but what I think HfN is asking (and what I would like too) is for the comments in the political threads to show up on the “side listing” of Recent Posts but not show up in the actual comment stream of the main day’s posts. I don’t know if that’s clear.

    Thank you again for your work on this site, and as a former webmaster, let me say I am very sympathetic to any irritation you may feel at the users asking for stupid little rinkydink changes all the time. So, I’m sorry to be one of those users.

  118. Coc, I was thinking of the side list, like RMS described, and definitely don’t want you to have to do any extra work. You do so much as it is, and I really appreciate what you do for is!

  119. I’ve been to Busboys twice, and no one was paying any attention to the books when I visited. They seemed to be accessories.
    (It’s easy to make fun of these places, which I do, but at the same time it would be really nice to have a few hipster spots where we live now, instead of the multiple breakfast chains serving pancakes from a mix topped with fake syrup and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.)

  120. LfB – For some reason that link won’t work.

    If I remember correctly, one of the two big RV companies (I think it’s Cruise America, not El Monte) does one-way rentals, but only to and from their refresh and refurbishment center in (Phoenix?). And it’s cheaper going TO there, because you’re taking one in need of refurbishment rather than a freshly cleaned and waxed one.

    As for sitting, yeah, exactly. It rarely makes logical sense. When we would rent a boat and pull in to a cove, there’d be all these other boats anchored for hours with the people sunbathing and relaxing. I would think “you could have just brought a chair and umbrella to the water’s edge at the state park and done basically the same thing.”

    But then you can say that for just about everything: camping, RV’ing, boat-cruising/Looping or whatever we’ll call it.

  121. But is the food at Busboys good? I worry at places with a shtick that the food will be bad. If the food is good you don’t need a shtick. I am skeptical of the whole concept of food + bookstores. Coffee & some pastries/snacks – sure. Encourages people to stay longer. Although it does make me think of when George Costanza took the book into the bathroom & he said that having coffee, bran muffins and reading material was entrapment.

  122. “I’ve been to Busboys twice, and no one was paying any attention to the books when I visited.”

    Same. But it was right near my Dad’s old office and it was one of his usual lunch spots.

  123. LfB – out west all I saw was 1800 RV 4 Rent. It was on so many RVs that I would say that was the Hertz of RVs.

  124. @Milo — the link was just the same pic of a boat Rhett posted earlier.

  125. “Why else do people buy boats exclusively to park them 1/2 mile from shore and drink all day?”

    Status symbol. And gas (at least for a time, not sure about now) is expensive to just cruise all day long.

    My favorite are the people who leave their boats in the marina and party on them while still tied up to the dock. Why have a boat at all? You’re not really “on the water” in the marina. I think it’s a gas cost issue. But isn’t that the problem with boats – “cheap” to buy and expensive to maintain.

  126. Ivy, this is a picture from downtown Annapolis called “Ego Alley.”

    It’s a tiny little area right at the center of town where boats can tie up only for a night or two, and then the attraction is that you can stumble in and out of all the nearby bars and restaurants, and back to your boat. And if you walk along the water on a nice night, the boats will mostly be filled with people hanging out and having a good time, and you’re there to look at them, and they’re there to look at you in return. And others dine and drink right across the water-alley on the water at Pusser’s Landing, and they crowd a bunch of tables on the docks so that people can look at the boats coming and going, and all the boats crowd into this one little area so that they can look at all the people eating dinner on the dock.

    It really makes no sense if you think about it, but we all do it.

  127. I do get it, but it’s all kind of funny really. I am chuckling at the analogy of finding new places to sit. (or new places to party for some)

    My friend used to date a guy who had a status symbol sailboat. The reason he hung out in the marina was that he never learned to sail. He would putter around near the shore with the engine, but he had never sailed and wasn’t that interested in learning, so he wouldn’t take the boat too far from shore. One might ask why he bought a SAILboat and not another type of boat, but I think it is the thing to do here.

  128. My friend’s parents who had the yacht when I was a kid would take it out about once a year, on average, but they went there and stayed on it every summer weekend. They also had a ski boat at the same club, and little inflatable dinghy with a 6 hp Johnson that moved at a thrilling speed to this eight-year-old, especially since it was just the two of us. But the big boat generally stayed put and was more like a small floating condo.

  129. Supreme Court unanimously overturns Gov McDonnell’s conviction for bribery/corruption.

    The WSJ writes “The court, in an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, said the Justice Department’s theory of the case and the instructions given to the jury were too broad and could potentially criminalize conduct that politicians engage in routinely.”

    Is that it, or is it that the conduct that politicians engage in routinely actually IS criminal?

  130. “But the big boat generally stayed put and was more like a small floating condo.”

    Why not? The view is probably better from there, and you can drink all the refreshing beverages you want.

    DH and I had dinner downtown this weekend, and afterwards we walked around the harbor a little bit. We ended up on a deck outside one of the new hotels, with an awesome view across the harbor to downtown and the stadium and all. We must have stood there for a good 45 minutes, just talking and watching the boats come and go. The only things missing were comfy chairs and a refreshing beverage. If I had a boat at that marina, I’d sure go hang out there every weekend myself — not necessarily the only thing I’d do every day, but it’s an awesome way to end the day.

    Last night, we ate on the deck and relaxed in our comfy chairs with our refreshing beverages. It was a nice way to end the weekend. But the view wasn’t nearly as good. :-)

  131. “If I had a boat at that marina, I’d sure go hang out there every weekend myself”

    that’s what my kid’s teacher and her DH do. And before DW’s aunt and uncle moved, they had a great view across the harbor to the Domino sugar sign.

  132. “HfN is asking (and what I would like too) is for the comments in the political threads to show up on the “side listing” of Recent Posts but not show up in the actual comment stream of the main day’s posts.”

    Yes, that’s what I meant by “regular feed”. The original request had been to pin election posts to the header, but doing that means the comments and posts do not show up on the side listing. The easiest thing would be to instead create an extra election post each week. If most people want that, I can easily make that change. It would give more prominence to election posts/commentary.

  133. Milo – What is criminal is determined by law or custom or fiat. When politicians promise things that can’t be delivered or two things that are mutually exclusive, when they lie (let’s just refer to the Brexit claim of xxx millions of pounds for the national health service as an example), when their friends and contributors are appointed to government posts, when they act in their own or their party’s or their clan’s self interest and not in the common interest, whatever that it, we consider that either free speech/business as usual/buyer beware – not even a misdemeanor – or perhaps the same as a speeding ticket.

  134. There used to be a restaurant in Hilo that had all the walls and booth dividers lined with old books. As a kid I thought it was an amazing idea — something to read while you ate! — and got most of the way through some trashy novel about a model (from back when haute couture buyers would see the clothes on a model in the showroom before ordering) who was also being kept by a buyer’s husband, but then she got leprosy and had to go away after she couldn’t hide it anymore. Years later I realized that the books were probably bought in bulk and were meant to be decoration, not entertainment.

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