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National parks are worth visiting

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Diane Becker, "Country Life"

How many national parks have you been to? There are 61 of them, so it’d be a challenge to visit them all, but wouldn’t it be great if you could? It’s been done, and when Maddie mentioned she had a teacher who’s been to all the national parks, I had to count how many our family has been to.

The Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is a park that we, like many Nebraskans, have been to so we can mark that off the list.

The Badlands in South Dakota is a national park which surprised me as you don’t hear about many people who make a special trip to see it. Another unexpected national park is the Gateway Arch in Missouri.

WE’VE ALSO been to Yellowstone in Wyoming which, in 1872, was the first to be named a national park. The Grand Tetons is another national park in Wyoming and we caught a glimpse of it as we drove by on our way to Jackson Hole, but I’m not sure a drive by counts as being there.

We’ve also seen Mount Rainier in Washington from afar. It’s not like we have to have our foot on the park land, right?

We were in a national park and didn’t even know it one year when we made a brief stop at the Indiana Dunes on the southern rim of Lake Michigan.

Counting these parks and the Redwood National Forest in California and the Saguaro National Forest in Arizona we visited years ago makes nine national parks we’ve been to or have been in close proximity to. That leaves us with 52 left to get to which makes me think visiting all the parks may be a bit of a reach.

We could get nine national parks visited if we went to California or eight if we headed to Alaska. I’d really like to go to Utah and see the five national parks there \h— Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce and Capitol Reef.

My daughters loved hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park when they lived on the east coast. They not the only ones as it’s the most visited of all the national parks with 11.3 million visitors yearly.

PARKS THAT are fairly close — within a 12 hour drive — include the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and the Mesa Verde National Parks — all in Colorado; Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas; Isle Royale in Michigan; Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota; and Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota. Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota is only 6½ hours away, so it’s definitely doable.

We may not see all 61 national parks in our lifetime but we might see a few more if we make a point of it. That’s what nice about looking ahead to summer, all the possibilities.

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