In my last post I referred to the fact that our family likes visiting national parks. At some point, I started collecting park stamps, and introduced this new hobby of mine to my family. We have always loved being outdoors and in nature, so one time we went hiking to Pinnacles National Park and I found a little blue stamp book at the Visitor Center. I bought the book and started collecting stamps (cancellations) in it. And in no time, this hobby had me hooked.
NATIONAL PARKS AND PARK UNITS
The very first national park in the USA and in the world was Yellowstone, which is located within the borders of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. It was established in 1872 when Congress signed a law to protect the area. The father of the national parks is said to be John Muir, who strongly pushed for starting a national parks program. He was an active speaker for the protection of wild lands like Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, and many other similar areas.
There are about 60 actual national parks in the US., but a total of 417 national park units. Some of these are national monuments, recreational areas, preserves and historical buildings. National parks are maintained and funded by the government, and the president decides which units will be added to the national parks system. They employ thousands of people around the country, but suffer from budget cuts and lack of funds. So when you visit national parks, it is good to remember, that the entrance fee is used to maintain the facilities and services in the parks. Also the sale of the passport books and stickers will help the parks.
So I started this hobby innocently from a small, pocket size book with a blue cover, which is still sold in the visitor centers. In every park, you will stamp your book to cancel that park from your list. You can also buy a sticker for each park as well. Pretty soon I noticed that this blue book was too small for all the stamps I was getting. Many parks have multiple different stamps to represent its different sections. Also what bothered me, was that the stamps were kind of disorganised in that book, since there were no slots dedicated for each park. I have heard, that some of the stamp collectors have many of these books because they got full. So I decided to upgrade my book.
At some point I found out that there was a folder called Explorer Edition, but eventually I moved forward even from that to a book called Collector's Edition. This is the only book that makes sense to me and is organised as I would like it to be. Next to every park introduction they have a slot for the stamp, and any extra stamps you can put on the empty pages at the end of each section. This book was originally made for the centennial stamps, but it works well also just for park cancellations. At the same time I decided that I will only go for one stamp per park, and wont be running around collecting them all.
I know this hobby is a little silly, but since I will go to the national parks anyway, why wouldn't I collect these mementos? I am not the only one doing this. There is a club with a few thousand members who all collect these stamps. The membership fee for the club is only a few dollars and you will get a great deal of information from them. So if you are into national parks, collecting stamps or need maps and information, this is a great club to join! And you will most likely always get a quick answer to your question about any park. Also the stamp books have some maps and information in them.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE - JUNIOR RANGER PROGRAM
Now that our family has gotten bigger, our kids go to the parks with us. When our first daughter was smaller, we sometimes hiked with a baby carrier and later with a baby backpack. Now this little girl is already able to participate in the parks kids program called the Junior Ranger Program. And she is always so excited to go to a new park.
The Junior Ranger Program is a very nice program run by most of the parks. Usually you get an activity book that you fill out by drawing and writing about the things you have learned at the park. When you have finished the needed activities, you will have to take it back to the ranger who will recite the junior ranger oath with your child. Kids will get a paper junior ranger hat and a Junior Ranger pin with the park's name in it. Some of the parks even have some extra giveaways. The activities that our daughter has been doing have been fun, and even I have learned so much while helping her. We have looked for plants, spotted animals and studied some of the park rules.
We still have "a few" parks that we haven't visited. I have been to 37 national park units out of 417, and you can see them all here. We are almost done with California though. The furthest parks we have been to are located in Hawaii, but there are also parks in Puerto Rico and Guam. So if you want to visit them all, it means plenty of traveling. Oh well, maybe someday...