A National Park is defined as “a scenic or historically important area of countryside protected by the federal government for the enjoyment of the general public or the preservation of wildlife.” Why will national parks be so crucial as travel resumes?
Story and photos by Phyllis Nefsky
As confining as the pandemic was at its height, the natural world seemed oblivious. Trees refuse to social distance and pollinators still “cozy up” to their favorite flower, both mask-free. Perhaps this indifference is why a walk or hike in our favorite park or hanging out in our yard was so comforting and health-promoting. Nature defines our place in the universe in spite of world-wide calamities by remaining unchanged and accepting. Perhaps that’s why the creation of National Parks, starting with Yellowstone in 1872, is a testament to our magnetic relationship to the natural world. We seem to be hard-wired to this attraction.
A National Park is defined as “a scenic or historically important area of countryside protected by the federal government for the enjoyment of the general public or the preservation of wildlife.” As development and over-crowding crop up at break-neck speeds, National Parks are thankfully under the highest level of protection and literally need an act of Congress to change that status. Is it no wonder that as National Parks begin to open up, record numbers of enthusiastic visitors have a pent-up demand for “super-sized” nature? But isn’t one of the reasons we like to be in natural environments the feeling of tranquility and well-being, perhaps only shared with family and friends? Enter…Death Valley National Park, the largest in the lower 48 states, topping out at 3.3 million acres, plenty of nature for all! Here’s a roundup of hotels and resorts close to nature.
Originally from NYC, my husband and I moved to L.A. and decided to visit Death Valley National Park (about a 5 hour drive), after a rain-soaked season in southern California (yes, it DOES rain in southern California). We arrived around midnight. After surviving traffic jams and finally exiting the freeway, we experienced something very strange…nothing! For miles and miles we had no idea what we were driving through, a bit disconcerting to say the least. Expecting to see endless sand dunes and cow skulls the next morning, we were joyfully surprised to see a beautiful valley surrounded by towering multi- colored mountains, and later on, the most magnificent star-lit milky way sky. My husband and I don’t agree on many things but this was not one of them! We instantly fell in love with this exotic environment and returned many times before finally leaving our jobs in L.A. and working in Death Valley National Park from 1999-2019. Just a few years of experiencing “leaving the city matrix” is what we thought at the time…hmmm.
A trip to Death Valley National Park, (and all National Parks actually) is like going back in time. Being in a place that looked the same many thousands or millions of years ago (geologically speaking), is quite a unique experience. It nurtures a sense of hope and in turn, a natural feeling of wellness and contentment. My husband and I still “lose layers” when looking at the mountains and sky, literally the shedding of any present stress or concerns. For us city kids, the vast, open desert environment provokes a natural sense of spiritual healing and well-being, visitors in this universe where stress does not belong.
Although not everyone might feel this way about the desert landscape, the beauty of our National Parks is their sheer diversity. From desert skies to canyons and glaciers, mountains, forests or waterfalls, one’s feelings of tranquility and well-being is a personal experience. Whatever that natural environment is for you, be assured, one of our National Parks will provide it. They are thankfully found throughout the country and are treasures to be enjoyed by all, naturally promoting a feeling of serenity, peace and wellness.