As a precursor to any National Park excursion stories I report on, I have to give a little background on my obsession.
In the summer of 2016, coincidentally the summer of the National Park Centennial, I was working an annual summer camp hosted by my division within my organization. Part of the summer camp included us taking attendees to D.C. and touring some of the monuments, which I came to find out, are also National Parks. Specifically, we were in the Robert E. Lee house when one of said attendees pulled out her National Parks standard passport book to get a stamp.
“What’s that?” I asked, immediately interested at the idea of adding an additional hobby to my overabundant repertoire.
She flipped through a few pages of the passport as a demonstration as she explained to me, what in the next year would become a compulsive obsession in my life, the specifics of the tiny blue book.
“My dad got one for me when I was younger,” she explained. “It’s broken down by regions all across the country, and basically every time you go to a National Park you can get a stamp at that location. I’m glad I brought it, I almost didn’t but I knew I would regret it.”
Say no more, I was hooked. I whipped around inside the visitor’s center to see if I could find one for sale. I ended up leaving that day with both the traditional passport stamp book, as well as the larger collector’s edition version (see below).
The collector’s edition is my favorite. It has each park, split up by region, listed individually, with room for both the cancellation (what they call each stamp you get at each park) and a stamp (what they call a sticker you can buy at each park). Instead of the sticker, I have opted to take a Polaroid picture of myself at each individual park and place it in the sticker spot, since they are roughly the same size as the space allocated.
My hope is to one day be able to look back at all the incredible places that I’ve visited, be able to see all the friends and family who have joined me on these adventures, and essentially have a photo-album-esque collection of memories. The books also have encouraged me to seek out national parks and visit places that I would never have potentially considered before. As corny as it sounds, I’ve learned a lot because of this endeavor and feel like I’ve gained a lot from it. And I get excited planning vacations and driving routes around these experiences.
My friend Megan came up with shortening “National” to “Natty” which I think is hilarious and continue to use frequently, but I can’t take credit for it since I will probably refer to all of these venues with that designation often. Thanks, Megan. Good nick-name work.
And to all the Natty Parks I haven’t been to yet – Just you wait. I’m coming for you.