Yes, I know I have mentioned this before (2 years ago in fact, when my daughter was in 4th grade) but the National Parks Service has a program called Every Kid in a Park which grants every fourth grader in the US, and their family members traveling with them, free access to the National Parks (and other federal lands and waters) for the year. Now, my son is in fourth grade and we’ve got our ticket to the parks!
In truth, we buy an Interagency Annual Pass most every year. It’s not really expensive and we use it a lot considering that there are so many National Parks and other federal lands that we regularly visit to hike and camp. Still, there’s something cool about a nine year old interacting with the Park Ranger who gives him his own National Parks entry card. Signing for the card is a first step in taking personal responsibility for the stewardship of our precious lands.
This summer we drove our kids to summer camp and stopped at a nearby town that is a popular stop along the Pacific Crest Trail, the famous 2,650 mile-long walking trail that runs from Mexico to Canada traversing 3 states, 25 national forests and 7 national parks. Strong, adventurous, weary but happy hikers emerge from the Trail and lumber into town where they will rest and resupply for a day or two before heading back out. Seeing this was fascinating and inspiring. I don’t think I have that epic journey in my future, but I have a lot of other ideas for fun nature vacations—guided family tours, cabin rentals, luxurious glamping, and self-drive trips in awesome campers are some of the ways to experience our National Parks. All you need is the time.
Well, time and maybe some cute clothes and accessories. Check out the Parks Projects website. This company, started by veterans of TOMS (the shoe company that pioneered the one-on-one giving model), sells collections of park goods that directly fund the ongoing care of National Parks. Camp in style and support the Park Service—so our fourth graders (and all of us) have even more to enjoy.