WHAT DO YOU DO... when you visit a national park? Perhaps you're all about the ranger-led programs, the hikes and the tours and the tales told around a campfire. Maybe you're into trekking on your own, and getting away from the main road and the hotels and the campgrounds. Or perhaps it is all about the vistas, about finding a spot that's above it all, the better to enjoy a sunset or a cloud formation or to see how far you can see. (The typical answer: Pretty dang far in many parks.) But the things to do in our national park system are as plentiful as fir trees in a fir-filled valley and landing upon the same activity, again and again, says that an adventurer may want to break out of their usual mold. The National Park Foundation, the citizen-inspired charitable organization that works hand-in-hand with the National Park Service, has ideas for park goers on the "what should I do on this visit?" front. And this list of ideas comes with a significant number -- 99 -- in honor of a significant anniversary.
THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE... turns 99 on Tuesday, Aug. 25, and while its big centennial is still to come, in 2016, the foundation is feting its partner with a list of "99 Ways to Find Your Park." What made the cut? "Experience silence" is on the roster, an always important pursuit when one is looking to spend some time in nature. "Walk through the doorway of a historic house" definitely fits for those travelers visiting one of the history-focused locations in the system. "Stand on a mountaintop" is always good, as are "(e)xplore a cave" and "(g)o biking" and "(j)oin a trail clean-up." Could you do all 99 things on the list? Probably eventually, though taking them all on over one long weekend in the park of your choice would likely best even the hardiest among us.
AS FOR TUESDAY, AUG. 25? That's a free day in the fee-charging national parks, so get out, do the vista/historic house/biking thing, and don't forget to with the national park service a very fine 99th.