National Park Service wins big this week

The National Park Service had a great week.

Rocky Mountain National Park - Longs Peak
Rocky Mountain National Park – Longs Peak

They started off with the announcement of 2014 park visit numbers. A NPS press release stated:

In 2014, there were 292.8 million visits to national parks, breaking the previous record set in 1987 when parks saw just over 287.2 million visits.

Not only did 2014 break a visit record, but some parks broke records, too. On the heels of 2012 Superstorm Sandy and the 2013 government shutdown, Joshua Tree, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks saw a huge spike in visits. I’ve been to all of these parks since 2013 – and some more than once! Click on each park to see my blog posts from my visits.

The report lists the top 10 most visited places in the National Park System, which includes recreation areas and monuments, and the 10 most visited national parks. Golden Gate National Recreation Area clocked in at 15 million visitors in 2014, topping the park system side, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park topped the national parks list with 10 million visitors!

national park visitors 2014 parks system visitors 2014

After this announcement, we learned about the three new national monument designations President Obama penned, his 14th, 15th and 16th use of the Antiquities Act since taking office. OnEarth reports Obama has protected Chicago’s Pullman Park District, Hawaii’s Honouliuli Internment Camp, and 21,000 newly protected acres surrounding the Arkansas River in Colorado’s Browns Canyon.

These designations mean the land is protected under the federal government and are public lands for use to use and enjoy, much like the Washington Monument in Washington DC. The Wilderness Society does a great job of explaining what exactly these new monuments have to offer as our newest public lands:

Browns Canyon is a scenic 22,000-acre stretch of public lands along the Arkansas River in Chaffee County, between Buena Vista and Salida, Colorado. These lands are managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The Wilderness Society has been working to protect the natural values of the Browns Canyon landscape since the early 1970s.

The Honouliuli camp on the island of O’ahu was the last, largest and longest operating internment camp during World War II. By acknowledging past injustices, this site honors the experiences of those interned and allows us to enlighten future generations.

The historic Pullman district in Chicago honors a unique, shared legacy that is integrally connected to the push for fair labor conditions and civil rights. The community represents the first model industrial town in America.

Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument from my trip in June 2014
Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument from my trip in June 2014

Lastly, the White House announced the Every Kid in a Park Initiative on Thursday, which provides a free pass for 4th graders and their families to all public lands for a year!

Hopefully, this initiative will tie in with the Park Service’s centennial celebration in 2016, as well as help people understand what public lands are. If you need a refresher yourself, check out my blog post about national forests.

The National Park Service had a banner week, and it was all for good. We can send our 4th graders out into our newly designated public lands, or they can choose to enjoy the existing ones. Wherever they (and you!) decide to visit, lets all be sure to get outside!

How millennials can save wilderness (and the planet)

I don’t have to take a Buzzfeed quiz to know I am the stereotypical millennial.

Okay, okay, I did take a PEW Research Center quiz. Questions included whether I have a cell phone, landline or both (I only have a cell phone), whether I watch an hour of TV per day (Netflix, duh), and whether I read the newspaper regularly (I don’t). Electronics attached to limbs is the stereotypical definition of a millennial.

On a normal day, I watch TV on my iPad, text my friends on my iPhone and answer e-mails on my computer, sometimes all at once.

This is why some older wilderness protectors seem to have lost faith in us, the technologically-savvy, sassy-mouthed, social networking-obsessed generation. But what happens when you can harness that power to help save Earth’s most pristine places?

Being a millennial, I obviously have an Instagram account – who doesn’t these days? While some of my peers would rather post a drunken selfie, I post my outdoor adventures, most of them #nofilter.

Did you hear that? I take my iPhone into the wilderness and share my photos with my Facebook friends, Twitter followers and Instagram acquaintances.

Some of my millennial friends just like the post. Others comment on how beautiful the landscape is. Others text me in jealousy. Yes, my selfie-obsessed, East Coast suburban-living group of friends is jealous of my cliff dangling Utah trip, day hikes in Glacier National Park, and snowy walks along the continental divide.

After arguing with someone at the Society of Environmental Journalist’s conference in New Orleans in September about how he has no faith in our generation, I have taken a new stance: these older-generation wilderness lovers and guardians should use their power to mobilize us.

Some have already done so. The Wilderness Society has a hashtag – #wearethewild – with over 1500 posts on Instagram as I write this. REI and Backpacker Magazine also have hashtags to promote sharing love of wilderness through photos.

Instead of bashing us for taking Buzzfeed quizzes or getting our news from Twitter instead of regular news outlets, use your power to mobilize us. We care about things, one of those things being the outdoors, and you can help us make a difference in protecting the wild lands you have been trying to hard to keep. And not only do we care, but we care enough to sign petitions. All. The. Time. We’re also starting to vote more.

I want to include a shoutout to my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who have taken me out into the wilderness. Because of them, I have explored in 44 states, 13 National Parks, and countless State Parks, wilderness areas and outdoor places. Because of them, I aspire to take everyone outside with me.

So instead of putting us down, help us help you. We are your sons, daughters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and we care about protecting the planet and beautiful places as much as you do. All you have to do is help us get started.

Outdoor Exploration: Glacier National Park (October 2014)

This weekend, I went up to Glacier NP and the surrounding area for the day to see some fall colors!

Park map

Unfortunately, the Going-to-the-Sun road was closed right before Logan Pass, but we were still able to make it pretty far. My friend Kasey and I entered in West Glacier, like always, and headed up past the Triple Arches, where we had this view:

More mountains!
More mountains!

Next we headed down the Loop Trail and scrambled along some boulders across a waterfall!

Kasey wandering around along the river.
Kasey wandering around along Mineral Creek

We stopped along the road on the way back to the entrance:

Kasey along McDonald Creek.
Kasey along McDonald Creek
Trail of the Cedars
Trail of the Cedars

One last stop in the Southern part of the park: Lake McDonald. Check out my post on Instagram below!

Off the end of the dock!
Off the end of the dock!


The last best place. Lake McDonald, Glacier NP. {#nofilter#iphoneography#montana}

View on Instagram

After heading up the Inside North Fork Road (which was mostly dirt/gravel) –

Flathead National Forest on the way to Polebridge
Flathead National Forest on the way to Polebridge

–  we stopped in Polebridge – one of the smallest towns I’ve ever seen. The lending library was the size of a mailbox and the one cafe they had was shut down for the winter season.

Polebridge Merchantile - the only open store!
Polebridge Merchantile – the only open store!

After the off-road drive to Columbia Falls, we headed to Whitefish for dinner – and stopped at the lake, of course.

Stand-up-paddleboarder on Whitefish Lake.
Stand-up-paddleboarder on Whitefish Lake.

Last stop – sunset on Flathead Lake at Finley Point State Park. Because what could be better to conclude a Western Montana day?

Sunset on Flathead Lake
Sunset on Flathead Lake

*All photos are my own, except the map.

Outdoor Exploration: Banff, Alberta (Canada)

On my drive to and from the Under Western Skies conference, I was able to stop in Banff.

Banff National Park Map

The first day, it had started snowing, so I couldn’t see the mountains AT ALL. Here is a photo from the Bow River from Monday September 8th, and one from the Banff National Park museum:

Bow River in Banff
Bow River in Banff

I visited it again on the way home, 6 days later, and was greeted by big and beautiful mountains.

Cascade Mountain from the streets of Banff
Cascade Mountain from the streets of Banff
Mount Rundle from the streets of Banff
Mount Rundle

Here are some more photos from the drive through the national park:


Castle Mountain near the border of Alberta-British Columbia
Castle Mountain near the border of Alberta-British Columbia

I wasn’t able to make it to Lake Louise, but am hoping to the next time I go up to Alberta!

My chipmunk friend!
My chipmunk friend!

**All photos (except map) are my own.