Tuesday, January 08, 2013

National Parks

My wife, not too long ago, made the comment that she believed my goal in life (or one of them, anyway--one that's relevant to one of the things I talk about here) is to visit every national park in the US.  I told her that that wasn't really true.  I don't want to just check off names on a list; I want to go see places that I really want to see.  Because of that, there are national parks that I don't really care very much about (Dry Tortugas, Hot Springs, etc.) and there are others that I've been to, but absolutely do not feel satisfied with my visit; all it did was whet my appetite to see more of the park (Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Arches, etc.)  So yes, I absolutely want to travel to national parks, but it's not as simple as saying that I want to visit them all.

Because of that, I decided to make a matrix with a list of all the parks, and then a somewhat subjective rating for how high a priority it would be for me to visit, another subjective rating for how easy it would be for me to get to within the next five years or so.  Giving it a five point ranking scale from Very Low, through Low, Medium, High and Very High (with commensurate scores of 0-4 for each ranking) I was able to get a "Visiting Score" for each park which is a combination of the priority and the ease of visiting.  8 would be a perfect score; a very high priority park that would be very easy for me to visit.  There were no such parks, but I did have several 7s and 6s, both of which were "top picks" parks.  I then had a longer list (almost three times as long, actually) of "medium picks" parks, with a score of 4 or 5.  This are a bit of a mixed bag, including parks like Yosemite which are Very High priority but Low ease (because it's far away and I don't have any plans to go anywhere near California in the next few years), and parks like the Everglades or Great Sand Dunes which were medium on both scores.

Only one park was in the "top picks" due primarily to ease of visiting (Cuyahoga Valley) without also being a high priority due to personal desirability.  Anyway, just for the heckuvit, here's my list of Top Picks and Medium Picks parks.  Some of them have relatively reduced ease of visitation due to expected trips (I'll go to Utah in a year and a half for personal business, I'll go to west Texas in six months for personal business--and could go at other times as well since my folks live out there--and will pass through a number of Colorado or Dakota locations on the way--or at least could choose to do so with relative ease.)  Island or Alaskan parks automatically got Very Low ease of visitation scores, regardless of how desirable I thought them, so none of them made the list.

Top Picks:
Big Bend
Bryce Canyon
Cuyahoga Valley
Grand Teton
Guadalupe Mountains

Medium Picks:
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Capitol Reef
Carlsbad Caverns
Death Valley
Grand Canyon
Great Basin
Great Sand Dunes
Great Smoky Mountains
Isle Royale
Joshua Tree
King’s Canyon
Lassen Volcanic
Mammoth Cave
Mesa Verde
Mount Ranier
North Cascades
Rocky Mountain
Theodore Roosevelt
Wind Cave


James Sullivan said...

It's sad but I've only visited two of those: Redwood and Everglades.

Both were incredible. Riding in an airboat in the Everglades was worth every penny.

And it's one thing to see pictures of the redwood trees and another to see them in person.

Here, the big attraction is the Adirondack Park, which is a state park. It's cool but lacks the really high peaks you see out west.

Joshua Dyal said...

Oh, man. If I expanded the list to include state parks, federal wilderness areas, national monuments, and other scenic areas, my list would explode like a supernova. National parks are an easy one to concentrate on because the list is (relatively) short. But in reality, I'm as interested in seeing some of the wilderness areas (like Ansel Adams, or the Wind Rivers) or other stuff that's not national parks as I am most of the national parks themselves.