Midwestern National Parks
When we think of National Parks (and I use “we” to mean those who think of National Parks, meaning me) we think of big sprawling majestic sites. The Grand Canyon. Yosemite. Yellowstone. Denali. Mount Rainier. Arches. Canyonlands. The Great Smoky Mountains. Zion.
The only problem is that those thoughts are limited to the areas near the Rockies, Cascades and Appalachian mountain ranges. We don’t think of the wide-open heartland in between the jagged ranges of the West and the historical and highly populated East. However, you’d be wrong to assume there aren’t some nice places to go. Just taking the National Parks (and not all of the National Forests, Grasslands, Historical Sites and Battlefields before we get to the state parks, but I promise not to list any county parks), here are a few places worth a visit.
Everglades National Park: One thing that you will never see in the mountains is an alligator (unless they figure out a way to breed them with Bigfoot to create Gatorfoot aka Big Al), but in the Everglades they are common. To test your mettle, go on a guided kayak or canoe tour and see if you can handle being at the same level as the top of the swamp food chain.
Mammoth Caves National Park: On the other side of the fear scale from the sunny wide-open swamp filled with creepy crawlies is the dark enclosed cave with little animal life. To really make it creepy, take the Violet City Lantern Tour, so that you can experience the cave as the explorers in the 1800s did. Adults can carry lanterns, but when you bring your girlfriend, it’ll be better to hold her close if you don’t.
Hot Springs National Park: This gem in Arkansas has over twenty-six miles of hiking trails to enjoy. But, the real attractions are the baths from the natural hot springs. This park is all about bringing your girl so that she can enjoy her own private bath, a nice steam, a cool-down shower and a massage. Once she has relaxed all day, she’ll be happy to be with you all night long.
Big Bend National Park: Ok, there are mountains here, but the fun comes in the floating of the Rio Grande River. You can plan anywhere from a five day to a ten day raft trip in the Lower Canyons where you will face class II – IV rapids as the banks ascend into walls hundreds of feet high. To get into the spirit of the area at night, you can sit around the camp and tell scary stories of illegal immigration.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park: Theodore Roosevelt evokes thoughts of our National Park system; so taking a few days to explore his namesake park seems to be a great idea. To really feel what he felt, take the cradle of conservation tour to walk the same path as TR from the site of his old home, Elkhorn Ranch. You really can’t feel what he felt though unless you’re really quiet and carrying a large walking stick.
Badlands National Park: How about a nice romantic evening? Attend the night sky program and a ranger will point out constellations for you in the sky. Even if your lady isn’t around for this trip, you can remember the constellations to share on a dark evening back home. If you plan it on a night of a meteor shower (Perseids are in August, Leonids are in November) you can hold her close and show her constellations in between the natural fireworks show. (Unless she prefers the majesty of your gun show. POW. POW.)
Hopefully some of these parks are within a nice road trip for you. If you’re lucky enough to live near the mountains, remember that there is beauty outside your back door.
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About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."