The Big 100

Life is too short to spend your days sitting back and watching the world go by. Especially when you consider the wide variety of adventures to be had in the 400-plus units under the protection of the National Park Service (NPS).

As the NPS celebrates its 100th birthday this summer, Vogel Talks RVing is right here beside you as we continue our yearlong series full of unforgettable national park experiences—from the mild to the wild—that are unique to America’s National Park Service sites. Places to Find Your Adventure.

Mountain Farm Museum near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mountain Farm Museum near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The history of the National Park system extends well beyond its 100 official years. Yellowstone became America’s first National Park in 1872, but in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that formally created the National Park Service, which, at the time, comprised 35 parks. Mark your calendars for August 25.

Excitement is in the air. On August 25, the National Park Service will be 100 years old. While fun events and activities are happening the entire centennial year, there is something so special about the actual day that the National Park Service was established.

From the steps where Dr. King delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech, to the hills that witnessed the Wright Brother’s first flights, to skies dark enough to see the Milky Way, these treasures and more are available to all of us because of August 25, 1916.

“Bear Jam on the 441.” That’s ranger-speak for a traffic backup along the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s main artery caused by grazing black bears. To be fair, the bears aren’t to blame; they’re happily munching their way along the hillside, oblivious to the rubbernecking humans who are passing by at 2 mph, phones and cameras thrust out of windows and sunroofs. So if you’re trying to make it from Clingmans Dome to the Grotto Falls trailhead, be prepared to wait. But it just so happens that slow is the best speed at which to take in the breathtaking beauty of the park.

The colorful rock layers of northeastern Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park form an incredible visual display of eroded badlands, dating to the Triassic. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The colorful rock layers of northeastern Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park form an incredible visual display of eroded badlands, dating to the Triassic. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to black bears, you may spot white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and if you visit the Cataloochee area at the park’s eastern edge, elk. On September 17, immerse yourself in Appalachian history and culture at the Mountain Life Festival, which takes place at the Mountain Farm Museum near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a 33,000-acre oasis just south of Cleveland, Ohio, is best known for Brandywine Falls, a 65-foot cascading waterfall, which you can hike to along the Brandywine Gorge Trail. But there is plenty to explore beyond the falls. Take in the diverse wetland community at the Beaver Marsh, or bike along the Ohio & Erie Canal—pedal in one direction, then hop aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for the return trip. The railroad features numerous special events throughout the summer, including sunset beer and wine tastings.

Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park lie side by side to form “The Land of the Giants”. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park lie side by side to form “The Land of the Giants”. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go underground at Carlsbad Caverns, a magical world of mysterious passageways, colossal rock formations, crystal-clear pools of water, and giant subterranean chambers. Most of the formations—or speleothems—found inside Carlsbad Cavern today were active and growing during the last ice age when instead of having a desert above the cave, there were pine forests.

Petrified Forest National Park preserves one of the world’s largest and most vibrantly colored assemblies of petrified wood, historic structures, and archeological sites. The park is composed of two sections: the north section is a colorful badlands called the Painted Desert along with archaeological sites, and the southern section contains most of the petrified wood.

And be amazed at the largest trees on Earth. Big trees are the prime attraction of Sequoia and Kings Canyon. The scale and grandeur of these reddish giants is stunning. The centerpiece of the Giant Forest, General Sherman, is the world-record holder for the most massive living thing.

Carlsbad Cavern, with one of the world’s largest underground chambers and countless formations, is also highly accessible, with a variety of tours offered year round. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carlsbad Cavern, with one of the world’s largest underground chambers and countless formations, is also highly accessible, with a variety of tours offered year round. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So wherever you are, however it is you like to celebrate birthdays, join in and honor the National Park Service’s 100th. Cheers to many, many, many more!

Please Note: This is part of an on-going series on America’s National Parks Centennial

Worth Pondering…

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

—Rachel Carson

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