August is almost upon us and in the coming weeks many will be squeezing in that last family vacation of the summer. For most, the annual trek entails weeks of careful planning and time spent packing up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster (points if you get the film reference). However, even the best laid schemes of mice and men can often find oneself in a hotel room in southeastern Alberta watching their vay-kay quite literally go up in smoke. When that happens (but preferably before), resources available through the National Park Service can pull your vacation plans out of the fire.
Why all the fire-related puns? In July 2015, I was on my way to Wood Buffalo National Park in extreme northeastern Alberta to hike and take in the park’s eponymous wood bison and whooping cranes. Per Parks Canada, the wildfires ravaging British Columbia and western Alberta were being contained and my route unobstructed when I left Kansas. By the time I’d reached Medicine Hat, it had become abundantly clear that it was time to make other plans. That’s when I turned to the National Park Service’s Find A Park feature and discovered what Montana had to offer. This feature allows users to search state-by-state for national historic sites & monuments, national parks & recreational areas, and trails all under the management of the National Park Service. In turn, each park listing contains up-to-date park alerts & conditions, basic information, an events calendar, and maps.The NPS also provides a Trip Planning Guide that helps you identify activities appropriate for your group, learn about your destination & become aware of any potential hazards, and pack accordingly. The NPS website also provides interactive and informative pages for children and educational materials for teachers. Unsure where to visit or just can’t get away? The NPS Multimedia Search provides users with a preview of our national parks by allowing them to view photos, listen to audio files, and watch videos taken by park visitors and personnel.
Without NPS Find A Park, I might have driven straight to the Yellowstone Ecosystem (and still had a grand time). Instead, I spent a eight glorious days tooling around western Montana, getting a guided boat tour on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, visiting the Great Falls Portage on the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, and enjoying all points in between before wandering into West Yellowstone and running into this guy. And yes, the NPS can even tell you the difference between the plains bison that makeup the Yellowstone Herd and their northern cousin.