Today, the National Park Service turns 100. Happy centennial, NPS! I’m so glad you exist.
If I’ve learned one thing from exploring the national parks, it’s just how much a park can do for you–from the wacky to the inspiring to the wild.
1. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
What it can do for you: Remind you to watch your step, because that would be a long, long way down. (No worries, my brother and I staged the pic above.)
Also about Crater Lake National Park: Great American Road Trip: A Story in Lists
2. Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland
What it can do for you: Give your footprints on the beach a chance to mingle with those of wild horses.
Also about Assateague Island National Seashore: Postcard from Assateague Island
3. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
What it can do for you: Ask you loudly from somewhere beyond the stillness of glowing hoodoos at dawn, what do you want? No, really. WHAT DO YOU WANT?
4. Zion National Park, Utah
What it can do for you: Inspire you to just call the guy, already (and then decide it’s a good idea to drive to Lubbock tomorrow, on purpose, to see him).
5. White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
What it can do for you: Make you laugh, very hard, as you sit on hard sand surrounded by an other-worldly expanse of dunes that seem to both absorb and ooze the colors of sunset, when you accidentally zoom in x10 on your selfie–to hilariously unflattering results.
6. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park, Maryland and West Virginia
What it can do for you: Remind you that, beyond the confining walls of the cubicle you owe nine hours of your life every weekday, there’s still a whole lovely world out there that smells like mud and plants and sounds like water flowing over rocks and looks blue and fresh and shines in the sunlight—and it gives you a chance to breathe…that’s it…just…breathe.
7. Frog Bay National Tribal Park, Wisconsin
What it can do for you: Welcome you home after a long absence with a Superior summer baptism.
Also about Frog Bay National Tribal Park: Postcard from Frog Bay
8. Joshua Tree National Park, California
What it can do for you: Warm the winter right out of your bones with all the clear pressing sunlight of two deserts—Colorado and Mojave—after you survive the 2013-2014 Polar Vortex winter in Minnesota.
9. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
What it can do for you: Prove just how powerful a river can be. Colorado, look at what you fucking did here.
10. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho
What it can do for you: Give you common ground with fascinating, hilarious, quality people you would have probably never otherwise met, including farmers from North Dakota and squatters from Russia and a guy your friends nickname Crazy Eyes, who claims to have gotten his limp from the time he was getting off a bus in Tulsa when a guy came up and stabbed him in the leg 16 times. In fact, the people you meet in a national park are 439% more likely than people you meet anywhere else to become some of the most dear people in your life, for the rest of your life.
Yellowstone friends, I love you more than any damn geyser or bison.