THE BOUNTY OF NATURE: Loads of friendly arguments could be made about the pleasures of the wilderness in the wintertime vs. the hotter months, with most of the debate centering on the fact that summer brings more crowds but winter sometimes offers fewer diversions. Both sides of merit, of course, but it all depends on where you stand on the subjects. (Crowds for some invigorate, while a lesser number of to-dos sits well with those looking to venture into a forest or canyon for pure contemplation.) But there are no debates nor arguments to be made over getting into somewhere that usually carries an entrance fee for free. Excuse us while we put a hand to one ear. Nope, no arguments heard. Everyone likes it, and regardless of where you stand on the winter vs. summer debate, you can enjoy free days in the national parks in both the cooler and slightly toastier months.
FIRST FREE DAY OF THE YEAR: The Free Entrance Days, a program courtesy of the National Park Service, start with the new year, or nearly: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is the first pay-no-entrance date on the NPS calendar. That date in 2013 is Monday, Jan. 21, meaning it comes at the close of a three-day weekend. You can build a little road trip to one of our California parks, right? Perfection.
AND ON THAT TOPIC... Pinnacles National Monument near Salinas was named our 59th national park on Thursday, Jan. 10. Certainly cause for celebration, and not an event that rolls around every day. Do you like dramatic spires and monoliths and rocky splendor? You'll want to make a date to see it.