When 2017 started, I was in Kuwait. It was the end of my deployment though and by the middle of January I was back in America. I’d spent most of the National Park Service’s centennial year (2016) in foreign lands and I came home determined to make up for my absence.
Two days after being released from the clawed paws of the U.S. Army, I visited my first National Park unit of the year, in New York City, and then spent the rest of the year dreaming of future park visits, driving across Virginia to visit close-to-home parks and generally annoying nearly everyone with my incessant National Park chatter.
It was a good year, at least for National Park adventuring.
2017’s NATIONAL PARK ADVENTURES
1. THEODORE ROOSEVELT BIRTHPLACE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
Jan. 16, 2017, in New York, New York
I always knew Teddy Roosevelt was a badass, but this park added a bit of depth to his legend.
2. JEAN LAFITTE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK & PRESERVE
Feb. 9, 2017, in New Orleans, Louisiana
This visit almost doesn’t count, as we just had enough time to visit the park’s visitor center in the French Quarter.
3. CHATTANOOGA NATIONAL MILITARY PARK
Feb. 10, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tennessse
While driving from Houston, Texas, back to Richmond, my travel companion and I pit-stopped here for some military history and, later, some top-notch BBQ.
4. GOLDEN GATE NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
Feb. 18, 2017, in San Francisco, California
Golden Gate National Recreation Area is one of the largest urban national parks in the world and includes around 25 different locations, spread throughout the city of San Francisco and into Marin and San Mateo counties. One of my favorites is Alcatraz Island, which was the only part of the park I visited on this trip.
5. CABRILLO NATIONAL MONUMENT
Feb. 22, 2017, in San Diego, California
This was my first trip to San Diego and other than meeting some seals in La Jolla and eating tacos for almost every single meal, tide pooling at Cabrillo National Monument was my favorite part.
6. FORT MONROE NATIONAL MONUMENT
Jul. 23, 2017, in Hampton, Virginia
Nicknamed “Freedom’s Fortress,” Fort Monroe was a bastion of freedom for enslaved blacks during the American Civil War.
7. CEDAR CREEK & BELLE GROVE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Jul. 31, 2017, in Middletown, Virginia
I pit-stopped at Cedar Creek on my way to West Virginia for work and managed to arrive just in time for a ranger-led tour. It was just me, the ranger and a retired couple and was probably the height of this year’s national park nerdery.
8. HARPERS FERRY NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Aug. 2, 2017, in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
On the way back from West Virginia I stopped here to explore the place where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers come together and to learn a little more about the history of the place.
9. MAGGIE WALKER NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
Aug. 19, 2017, in Richmond, Virginia
I took friends from Washington, D.C., here, to the park closest to my home.
10. MANASSAS NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD PARK
Sept. 3, 2017, in Manassas, Virginia
One of the first major battles of the American Civil War was fought at Manassas, with tragic and occasionally ridiculous results.
11. GEORGE WASHINGTON BIRTHPLACE NATIONAL MONUMENT
Sept. 16, 2017, in Colonial Beach, Virginia
George Washington was born in what is today Virginia’s Northern Neck. It’s a beautiful spot, but the sheep are exceptionally unfriendly.
12. APPOMATTOX COURT HOUSE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Sept. 17, 2017, in Appomattox, Virginia
I learned the basics of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender back in high school, but there was a lot to the story I didn’t know.
13. PETROGLYPH NATIONAL MONUMENT
Sept. 28, 2017, in Albuquerque, New Mexico
I’d only been off the plane for a few hours by the time I went to Petroglyph National Monument, the first park I visited on a solo trip to New Mexico.
14. PECOS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Sept. 30, 2017, in Pecos, New Mexico
My second park in New Mexico, where I started to learn about the history of both New Mexico and it’s native inhabitants.
15. FORT UNION NATIONAL MONUMENT
Sept. 30, 2017, in Pecos, New Mexico
Due to its ghost town-like feeling, Fort Union wins for eeriest park I visited in 2017.
16. VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE
Oct. 1, 2017, in Jemez Springs, New Mexico
This was the most alone I felt on my trip to New Mexico, in the best way. I think I might have met divinity out on the winding, bumping roads of Valles Caldera.
17. MANHATTAN PROJECT NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Oct. 1, 2017, in Los Alamos, New Mexico
I hesitated to include this visit, as the Los Alamos part of this park is mostly closed to the public. Still, I did wander around Los Alamos, recognized as the birthplace of the atomic bomb.
18. BANDELIER NATIONAL MONUMENT
Oct. 1-2, 2017, in Los Alamos, New Mexico
After visiting Bandelier late in the afternoon, I woke up before the sun to visit again and to hike along ancient trails. I was the only one on the trail that morning and spent five minutes standing still watching two chipmunks welcome in the morning.
19. SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
Oct. 21, 2017, near Waynesboro, Virginia
Shenandoah is only about an hour from me, so the boy & I loaded up on the best biscuits in town and headed out for a day hike and to admire the fall foliage.
20. PETERSBURG NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD
Nov. 25, 2017, in Petersburg, Virginia
I’d driven by this park more than 100 times and finally took the time for a proper visit this year. It’s got three parts, so chances are good I’ll head back soon to see more.
21. WOLF TRAP NATIONAL PARK FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
Dec. 16, 2017, in Vienna, Virginia
I went to high school near Wolf Trap and never knew it was a national park. Having done the backstage tour I’m not anxious to go and see a show.
22. COLONIAL NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Dec. 20, 2017, in Jamestown, Virginia
When my Portlan-dwelling bestie me back for the holidays, she demanded a national park visit, so we went to Jamestown, a place neither one of us had been since we were tiny pups.
2017 NATIONAL PARK VISITS BY THE NUMBERS
In 2017, I visited 7 National Historical Parks, 6 National Monuments, 2 National Historic Sites, 1 National Battlefield, 1 National Military Park, 1 National Recreation Area, 1 National Battlefield Park, 1 National Preserve, 1 National Park & 1 National Park for the Performing Arts for a total of 22 visits to National Park Service units in seven states.
Did 2017 take you to any National Park Service units?