Spring, Covid, and the National Park System

It’s spring in North Carolina, and the weather of late has been gorgeous. As more and more of us are vaccinated and Covid restrictions are eased, there is no better time to enjoy the outdoors Even adults are susceptible to spring fever, so rather than a traditional blog post this month, I thought I would focus instead on one of the great benefits that we as Americans have access to: our National Parks.

Covid has caused many people to turn (or return, as the case may be) to outdoor recreation to keep themselves busy and entertained during the seemingly interminable lockdowns and closures. Here in North Carolina, we have natural beauty in abundance, a fantastic state park system, beaches, rivers, and mountains. There is no shortage of outdoor recreation opportunities.

Our National Park System is a true treasure. It began in 1872 with the Yellowstone National Park Act, which created the world’s first National Park. In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act, which gave the President powers to designate landmarks and historically or scientifically significant objects as “national monuments.” In 1916, the National Park Service was created to oversee national parks and monuments.

Today, the National Park Service manages 423 different sites, including 63 National Parks. North Carolina has easy access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here in Guilford County, the National Park Service manages Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, commemorating the Revolutionary War battles that happened here.

Those of you who know me know that I am an avid hiker, backpacker, and camper. I dragged my wife with me on a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail back when we were just dating. It was her first backpacking trip, and somehow she still agreed to marry me. When our boys came along, I frequently strapped them to my back and carted them all over North Carolina’s trails and parks. Now that they are older, they strap on their own packs and make me struggle to keep up with them.

Over spring break this year, we decided to take a family trip to Utah to see some of the national parks there. Utah has five national parks, and we put a lot of miles on our rental car. We didn’t make it to them all, but we were able to see Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park. Each park was unique and unbelievably beautiful. We could have spent months exploring, but we made the most of our week.

The National Park Service does a great job of managing the properties. The park rangers are pleasant and knowledgeable. Roads and Trails are well-marked, and it is generally easy to navigate. Some places were crowded; however, we found that if you are willing to get up early and hike a little farther from the parking lots, you can avoid the crowds.

We had a fantastic time together as a family enjoying these incredible places. I have attached some pictures from the trip, but they do not begin to do it justice. I highly encourage everyone to take advantage our national park properties and enjoy the outdoors this spring.