by Abby McAllister
Well, now that the hustle and bustle of Christmas has passed us by once again, it is time to start looking ahead to 2021. This sweet and quiet time between Christmas and New Years is typically a time people use to reflect on the past year and set goals (dare we say "resolutions"?) for the year to come. After the year we've just been through I suspect that there will be a lot less goal setting and a lot more "wait and see" attitudes. One thing 2020 taught us was that we have a lot less control over our lives and plans than we thought. I think that's made us much more flexible and elastic in how we look at our lives and plans.
However, I do think we are generally hopeful for a return to "normal" (at least what was considered normal before 2020). I think we may be willing to make small, tentative goals and plans, with all our newfound flexibility there to back us up if things don't go the way we hope.
With those thoughts in mind, my husband and I are starting to plan a few National Park trips for our family for the coming year. Taking stock we realized that our 4 newest kids have never been to a national park here in the US. Since their adoption from Colombia 2 years ago life was first hectic and really difficult (trying to add 4 kids simultaneously with all their trauma and culture shock is not to be taken lightly!) and then slowed to an almost stand-still due to COVID. We just haven't had the capability or time to get these newer members of our family into the parks. We've gotten them outside for hiking, rafting, hunting, mountain biking and dog training but not specifically to a National Park. It's time.
It's also time to start your planning for summer trips to the parks. Yes, it seems early but if you plan to make any kind of reservations (camping, tours, permits etc) many venues start taking reservations up to 6 months in advance! It's time people. Dust off your dreams and aspirations of getting your kids outside and start to think about where you might take them this year. It's time to plan on how you will build confidence and self-esteem into your kids by challenging them to do something harder than they've done before. It's time to see the wonder in their eyes and the laughter as they dance through the woods-a natural playground for kids. It's time to let them bathe in the beauty and serenity of nature, away from the screens we've all had to come to grips with. There is no educator like nature. It's time to get those kids outside! Let's do some dreaming and planning together.
I haven't finished all my gift buying yet...if you are in the same boat you might have a procrastination problem. I on the other hand have a perfect excuse. We still have two more birthdays to celebrate this week and I tell myself that I don't want Christmas to overshadow those two days. Putting off some of the final touches on Christmas gift giving means I can focus on the birthdays. That's what I tell myself anyway. Sigh.
Anyway, if you are like me and still have a little shopping to do we have some great ideas for National Parks lovers (did I mention that I don't have an excuse for why this blog post didn't come out weeks ago like I planned..? Opps..!) Here are our top 5 favorite gifts for those parks lovers in your life...
1. The Parks Project - This fantastic organization not only makes really cool retro stuff (that my teens love) but they give a ton back to parks projects focusing on conservation, kids in parks, visitor experience, and advocacy and education. If you have young people (or an older "hipster") in your life, check out their cool gear. We love their shirts, enamelware dish sets and very cool Polaroid cameras.
2. The Wander Club - We ordered the Wander Chain and one token for each of our older kids as really fun but also meaningful stocking stuffers. This rich leather and metal "fob," for lack of a better term, holds tokens engraved with your choice of a National Park name, a State name or Country name. They are really fun for collectors and a perfect way to bring to mind beautiful memories of past visits. Best of all, the tokens are only $6 each so you have low priced built-in gifts for years to come! We are starting our kids out with one token but plan to build up their collection in the years to come. (I might have also bought one for myself...just saying). And of course, they donate to a great cause (really, can you be a responsible company anymore and not?)-with each purchase they send a meal to a child in need through Rice Bowls.
3. Scratch off maps - in the spirit of Christmas 2020, a year to end all years, many people (us included) are looking for ways to use our shopping dollars to also support small businesses. If you go to www.etsy.com and search on "National Park scratch off" you'll find lots of options to choose from. One that I really like (can be found on Esty or here) is by a mom who is an amazing artist. As you scratch off the map a beautiful background is revealed. She painted these! So cool. It's fun while you scratch along and then beautiful artwork when you are done! She, like us, loves adventuring outdoors with her family and has found a way to bring together her art and adventuring. Love it!
4. National Park Annual Pass - What a great way to encourage your loved ones to get outside and visit a park! There are a few options available so check out the link to the National Park Service website and see what works for you. The annual pass for the general public is $80 per year. But wait! There are a few free passes that the park service has authorized. The first is the free pass for families of 5th graders. That's right! If you have a fifth grader you can submit a request for a free pass, good through August 2021. There is also a very cool new free pass for families of veterans and Gold Star families (families who have made the ultimate sacrifice to our country). The link above has information on that too. There is also a lifetime pass for senior citizens. So there's something for everyone!
5. Ok, this last one is hard to promote in an unbiased way since we are the authors of the books I'm recommending. Right?! Still, we do believe our books are making a big difference for families planning trips to the parks. If you have a family you know planning a visit to Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite, or any of the Utah parks, how about a guide book aimed right at them? Check out our books and see if they might be helpful to someone you know. They are available through Amazon, as well as other major book sellers. Thanks!
We, Harley and Abby, are the parents of 7 boys and 1 girl whom we regularly drag into any and every national park we come near to. We love our parks and know that the only chance we have of keeping and maintaining this priceless resource is to give our children a love of them too.