My family drove across the country to the Grand Canyon when I was 15. Me, Mom, Dad, younger sister & brother in a van & a pop-up camper. The stuff nightmares are made of, for 15-year-olds anyway. I remember the St. Louis Arch & walking by Busch Stadium; Painted Desert and Walnut Canyon; wanting to hide when we ran into my former best friend and her family in Four Corners (totally by coincidence) and the Grand Canyon. Other than that I remember mostly being bored in the back of the car, kicking my sister in the double “bed” we had to share, and hoping that Mom would win out over Dad and we would stay in a motel instead of cramming into the camper. (We did this more than a few times. Mom is not much into camping.)
Before we left, my grandmother bought us “National Park Passports”–little books offered as a fundraiser for National Parks where you can get a “stamp,” like on your regular passport, to show you’ve been there. We brought them along, usually forgot to bring them in when we stopped and had to dig them out from underneath the seats. But by the end of the trip we’d gotten into the swing of things and I have a few from the places furthest west. I have some postcards and faded 3×5 photos from my little Kodak 110. Most of the souvenirs have disappeared or broken, the van is long gone, and my Mom will probably never camp again, unless in a luxury RV with a/c and a working toilet.
I discovered my Passport from that trip 10 years later while cleaning out an old file cabinet. It brought back memories but I didn’t know what to do with it. Then a few months later, while visiting a friend from Seattle in New York, we were waiting in line for the Statue of Liberty, and in Castle Clinton, there was a small gift shop with these passports and sheets of commemorative stamps. I bought a sheet, got a stamp from Castle Clinton, and did a little more research when I got home.
Every year, the National Parks Foundation issues commemorative stamps from each of the regions of the country. Not too long before, I had started Get Out Philly, and was just rediscovering National Parks and what, exactly, they mean to the country. I upgraded to a binder-style passport and am on a mission to revisit all the parks that we went to on the family trip, and record my own thoughts on all the new places there are to discover.
Where I’ve been on this adventure, so far:
Castle Clinton NM, July 2006
Fort McHenry NHS, July 2007
Shenandoah National Park, Memorial Day 2008
Assateague Island, Labor Day 2008
Cape Cod National Seashore, Labor Day 2009
Ford’s Theater & Washington Monument, Summer 2009
Gettysburg NMP, February 2010
Harpers’ Ferry NHP, Memorial Day 2010
Antietam National Battlefield, Memorial Day 2010
Valley Forge NHP, July 5 2010
I collect patches from the parks, pins from the military parks and battlefields, and the little parchment replicas from anyplace that offers them 🙂
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection & State Parks also issued a similar passport book, several years ago. They don’t seem to have them anymore but there are still stamps in many of the parks. I’ve been to:
Wharton State Forest/Batsto
Stokes State Forest
Bass River State Park
Wawayanda State Park
Worthington State Forest
Also hiking the Appalachian trail, in sections. Working on this one!