We’re big fans of our national parks here at Oars + Alps, and today is their 106th birthday!
President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the National Park Service on August 25th, 1916, and every year since that day is known as National Park Service Founders Day. It's the day we honor the National Park Service's incredible preservation and conservation efforts which make it possible for all of us to experience the treasures our national parks have to offer.
One of our ambassadors, James Shaw, has been a longtime visitor of our national parks and has created some spectacular memories along the way. Read on to learn more about James’s adventures.
When did you become familiar with National Parks?
"When I was an early grade schooler, we had the opportunity to learn about our National and State Parks system as a whole, but I saw my first up close and personally in seventh grade at Yosemite. Growing up in California, I am one of the lucky ones to be living in close enough proximity to a Park to make a four hour drive and be in the heart of Yosemite, Redwood, Lassen, or Sequoia/Kings. California truly is a state full of some of the best Parks in the country, and we were made aware of that from an early age in my public school system upbringing in Northern California."
Which is your favorite National Park?
"It’s incredibly difficult to pick just one, because I’ve had such life-changing experiences in more than I can count on two hands. However, one that I keep coming back to in my mind as the one I’d most like to make repeat visits to throughout my life is Grand Teton National Park. There is something about the sky in Jackson, Wyoming that is just a little bit bigger, bluer, and more full of life than anywhere I’ve ever been. You can’t get more picturesque, too, than the seven(-ish) jagged purple peaks silhouetted in front of a setting late summer sun in Wyoming.
The wildlife sighting possibilities are spectacular, too. On one hike in the summer last year, my now-fiancée, Molly, and I came across a moose and a black bear standing within fifty feet of each other in the river bed of a valley between two of the peaks. That’s something no one could ever forget."
What is your favorite memory at a National Park?
"My favorite memory, and most recent one, is our trip to Glacier National Park in late July. Molly and I drove 19+ hours from our place in Los Angeles to arrive in Montana for a three day stay in one of the most gorgeous settings in the world - the northern Rocky Mountains. It also just so happened to be the trip where I proposed to her at the top of the Grinnell Glacier Overlook, one of the park’s most sought after scenic views.
It’ll be an easy one to remember for the rest of my life, for obvious reasons. I couldn’t recommend a trip north to Glacier enough, engagement plans or not."
What do you normally bring with you when visiting a National Park?
"Molly and I are fortunate to have a Thule rooftop tent that gives us the ability to pull off the road and sleep pretty much anywhere we deem to be a legal overnight locale. So the camping supplies are first and foremost.
Nearly just as importantly, we always pack our hiking supplies - hiking sandals, plenty of Oars + Alps SPF and skin care products (of course), snacks from any nearby health food stores, and Molly’s camera. Bug and bear spray have become essentials for us, as almost all of the Parks we visit are in the areas which tend to attract those kinds of critters."
How do you want to see National Parks impact future generations?
"I would love to see more of our nation’s young people become turned on about the idea of spending time in nature, in general. I realize that the pull of social media and of an online, indoor presence is powerful in this day and age. However, there’s something that changes in a person’s daily outlook when they experience their first National Park. When I was in 7th grade, I visited Yosemite for the first time and my life has never been the same since."
"I’ve always longed for time in magical places like Yosemite and have made it a mission to see as many of these great, vast, open spaces that we’re afforded the luxury of access to in our country - all because of that first visit. I’d love to see National Parks stir in future generations the desire to change how humanity currently thinks of its relationship to the natural world. And they absolutely have the power to do that."
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