|Glacier National Park, Montana|
The world has changed a lot since Congress passed the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916. So have the National Parks. There are tour bus-filled roads, overflowing trailheads, and tame squirrels begging for nibbles of granola. But the parks are also full of craggy summits, miles of pristine shoreline, and hallowed ground that is central to the American experience. Visiting the National Parks is about discovering the magic of place and leaving inspired. It’s about recognizing that these natural and cultural treasures are set aside because we, as a society, value them enough to protect them.
|A morning run up the Lincoln Memorial should be on every runner's bucket list. It was a 2016 National Park Week highlight for me.|
A couple years ago, I celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act by running in Montana’s Wilderness Areas. Running wilderness got me up close and personal with mountain ranges I barely knew existed. It also gave me an opportunity to share my love for wild lands with anyone who would listen. This year, I hope to relive some of that experience in a whole new way. I’m turning my attention to running the National Parks in honor of the NPS centennial. I'm calling it Project Run Your Park.
|I kicked off Project Run You Park earlier this month with a week of family camping and running in Zion National Park.|
There are hundreds of National Park units and I’ll be lucky if I run a few dozen of them. I won’t always run them fast or even long, but I intend to do the effort justice. I’ll open up my stride down empty canyon roads in the crisp morning air, long before the endless flow of cars trace my path. I’ll jog slowly along some riverside interpretive trail, taking the time to read up on some otherwise unknown factoid. I’ll venture into the wilderness to embrace the majesty we can only experience on our own two feet. To me, the NPS centennial is motivation to connect with these special places during a special year. It’s a time to discover new places and return to the places that have shaped me.
|Sporting the red, white, and blue at Washington Monument this week|
|Bryce Canyon is a trail running paradise and a wonderful place to get lost. April 2016.|
|Sunset on the C & O Canal National Historic Park. A classic DC run. April 2016.|
|A morning run up Zion Canyon Road a few weeks ago had its rewards|
|Throwback to signing off on a Jr. Ranger in Moose, Wyoming. Circa 2004.|
I hope that running the parks this year will bring education and discovery, sort of like a junior ranger project. Inaugurating junior rangers was a daily ritual when I wore the grey and green. Some of those dedicated kids displayed badges earned from National Parks all over the country. I was always envious. So this year, in place of badges I'll collect experiences. I’ll run roads and trails, and places where there is no trail. I’ll visit monuments and wilderness. I’ll run up mountains and through cities. I’ll do my best to avoid traffic, crowds, and wildlife. In exchange, I’ll earn sunrises, sunsets, and summits. If I’m lucky I'll learn why these parks matter and hear the stories of the people who have fought to protect them.
|Discovering a new trail in Bryce Canyon National Park|
I’ll be posting occasional updates from my adventure at www.montanatrailcrew.com and will be sharing photos along the way via Instagram tagged #RunYourPark and #montantrailcrew. So if you’re up for sharing your own experience running the parks this centennial through words or images, tag it or let us know about it and I'll post it in my MTC Weekly News column or through Montana Trail Crew social media. By experiencing and demonstrating that we support the National Parks and other public lands we can do our own little part to help ensure that they'll be around for another century.