Blog - Carmen Alex

My National Park Challenge

   A few months ago a friend of mine was telling me that she wanted to take her kids to as many National Parks as possible over the next five or ten years, before going off to college. At the time I figured that I had seen most of them and had already made photographs at many of them. I wanted to know which ones to put on my “to visit” list and so I googled “list of all National Parks in the US”. I came up with 58 National Parks, which I later amended to 59 (Pinnacles has recently been upgraded and isn’t yet on all lists).

   The following is an alphabetic order of parks split in three groups: Continental US, Greater US, and Other Territories. The ones I’ve visited are in bold, and include the year(s) I’ve been there (for photographic visits the years are bold).


CONTINENTAL US

Acadia National Park, ME (Aug 2006)

Arches National Park, UT (Oct 2011)

Badlands National Park, SD (2014)

Big Bend National Park, TX

Biscayne National Park, FL (2012)

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, CO

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT (1993, 2011, 2014)

Canyonlands National Park, UT (2011)

Capitol Reef National Park, UT (2011)

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM (1997)

Channel Islands National Park, CA (1995)

Congaree National Park, SC

Crater Lake National Park, OR

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH

Death Valley National Park, CA (1981, 2000, 2002, 2016)

Dry Tortugas National Park, FL

Everglades National Park, FL (1980, 1995, 2012-16)

Gates of the Arctic National Park, AK

Glacier Bay National Park, AK

Glacier National Park, MT (2014)

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ (1982, 2000, 2011, 2012, 2014)

Grand Teton National Park, WY (1984, 2014)

Great Basin National Park, NV

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, CO (2014)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN (2015)

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX

Hot Springs National Park, AR

Isle Royale National Park, MI

Joshua Tree National Park, CA (2014, 2016)

Kings Canyon National Park, CA

Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA (2001)

Mammoth Cave National Park, KY

Mesa Verde National Park, CO (1999, 2011)

Mount Rainier National Park, WA (1999, 2007, 2014)

North Cascades National Park, WA

Olympic National Park, WA (2007, 2014)

Pinnacles National Park, CA

Petrified Forest National Park, AZ (1984, 1999, 2011, 2016)

Redwood National Park, CA (1982, 2014)

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO (2014)

Saguaro National Park, AZ (2001, 2016)

Sequoia National Park, CA (1982, 2014)

Shenandoah National Park, VA (2015)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

Voyageurs National Park, MN

Wind Cave National Park, SD

Yellowstone National Park, WY (1984, 2014)

Yosemite National Park, CA (~1999)

Zion National Park, UT (2016)


GREATER US (ALASKA & HAWAI’I)

Denali National Park & Preserve, AK

Haleakala National Park, HI-Maui (1990, 1995, 2001, 2014, 2015)

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI-Big Island (1990, 1991, 1996, 2014)

Katmai National Park and Preserve, AK

Kenai Fjords National Park, AK (2008)

Kobuk Valley National Park, AK

Lake Clark National Park, AK

Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, AK


OTHER TERRITORIES

National Park of American Samoa (1998)

Virgin Islands National Park (2010)


   It looks like I’ve been to 34 out of 59 parks. That was a surprise, I really thought it would be more. So I need to see 25 more and, to take it a step further, there are seven I really need to revisit because it has simply been too long since I have been there.

    I’m not really sure how long this will take me but to give myself at least one deadline, I decided to get all the National Parks in the continental US done in the next three years. The parks in Alaska will be next and the one in Samoa – well, who knows. Let’s just say, it’ll be last on the list. When I was in Samoa, I had just spent a week in Fiji and three days in Western Samoa. I flew into American Samoa a day before being due to board the R/V Roger Revelle (https://scripps.ucsd.edu/ships/revelle), a Scripps research vessel, that would take us to the Manihiki Plateau to do surveys and then on to Honolulu. So really, it was more a coincidental drive-by to the National Park, not a planned visit.

But first things first, the next and primary project will be to get a selection of images for all the parks I have already visited onto my web site.

   The park I know best is Everglades National Park, because I’ve lived less than an hour away for the past five years. I’ve been conducting photography tours there for the past three years. For those that are interested in coming here, I wrote a photography guide to the park.

   The next surprise was that I had visited Haleakala National Park as many times as I had been to the Grand Canyon. I’ve been to both of them five times and while I can say I have a pretty good feel for Haleakala and its trails this isn’t at all true for the park of all parks, Grand Canyon National Park… there are so many more stops and sights around the park, away from the regular south rim route, I’m not even sure I’ll be able to do them all. At the top of my list is Havasupai, naturally - no I’ve not made it there, yet. Also, Toroweap, where I got stuck in the mud last time I tried to get there, and for sure a rafting trip to see it all from the bottom. I’m not sure I want to do another flyover. I did one in 1982, as a kid with my parents, and it was phenomenal. We left from Las Vegas on a six seater and when we got there the little plane would dive into the canyon and then shoot straight up and out again and I had such a blast, it was almost like a scenic rollercoaster. My mom got pretty sick but more importantly, it really disturbs the peace of the park and I am very glad that those kinds of flights aren’t allowed anymore.

   Death Valley and Petrified Forest National Parks are my most visited after that. Actually, I just recently re-visited Death Valley but in a more structured way. This May, after a 2-day stop in the Alabama Hills, I drove east and explored Death Valley for several days, instead of spending just one long day. I still only saw about half of what I wanted to see but next time I’ll have to come back earlier in the season. The thermometer at Furnace Creek was already at 112°F and while it helped to be in very dry heat, at some point it just doesn’t matter any more. I was getting parched too quickly. You can read more about my Death Valley experience on my photography blog.

   The reason I’ve been to Petrified Forest NP four times is simply because it is on the main route from Albuquerque to Flagstaff. I seem to drive past it almost once a year and I guess I stop every once in a while. This year was the first time I did some of the more extensive hikes. Again, I didn’t know how much more is to this park than the main road that goes through it. There are some phenomenal trails inside the park that are worth exploring for the amazing rock formations that are not visible from the road.

  I’m not sure which park will be next. Probably Everglades, just because I go there all the time, but I am definitely thinking about some of the parks I haven’t been to, that are in the eastern half of the US. Stay tuned for more on those.




November 2015

I am back home in the Florida Keys after spending a week in Smokey Mountain National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Shenandoah National Park. After a few days rest in Pittsburgh it was back on the road via Lancaster, Chincoteague, and the Outer Banks. The next few weeks will be all about choosing photos for the new web site. Thank you for your patience while the site is being constructed.

October 2015

Just came back from two phenomenal weeks in the Southwest. I hit the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, went to Bosque del Apache (too early in the year), headed west into Williams and onto Grand Canyon National Park. The weather was fantastic and I got some phenomenal views of the Milky Way. After that I went to Page which I used as my base for the North Rim, Antelope Canyon, Vermilion Cliffs, and Marble Canyon. From there I moved north and spent a couple of days around Monument Valley. Lastly, I headed east, through Colorado and back into New Mexico with stops around Taos, Abiquiu, several Pueblos and Santa Fe. Lots of new images but first I am heading north to the Blue Ridge Parkway for some fall foliage.

September 2015

Thank you everybody for being so patient while the new web site is being created. My travel schedule this summer has not helped to speed things up. It will probably take another month or two to get most of the galleries loaded. I'm planning a completely new Southwest gallery and will be traveling around Arizona and New Mexico next month. Stay tuned for new images.