Six more days until our National Parks’ 100th birthday! What awesome places to visit, for anyone, but especially for writers and illustrators. There are ideas at every turn, every look.
Here is Stu Patterfoot visiting Jewel Cave National Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota. There are about 1,000 acres of land on the surface with woods, rocks, and animals, with hundreds of miles of tunnels and passages below the ground. You really don’t know the term “pitch black” until you are deep in a cave and the lights are (intentionally) turned off. Even when experienced, it’s difficult to describe.
Eight more days until our National Parks 100th birthday. Here are some photos of Stu Patterfoot in beautiful Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming. (Need a different, inspirational setting for your WIP? Visit a National Park!)
One fall, my husband was at a conference in nearby Jackson (which used to be called Jackson Hole until the millionaires in the area decided they didn’t like that historical reference). I’d taken the day off for a photo shoot. Before I’d left the motel, my husband ran through the checklist: driver’s license? wallet? keys? cell phone? Yes, yes, yes, yes, plus jacket and water and snacks for the day. See? I was prepared.
I was just inside this park’s boundary, with the edge of Jackson about three miles behind me when I stepped out of the van to snap my first photo of the day. (See the unedited version below with me holding Stu by the sign.) It was early morning. Very little traffic. And nothing here except a sign, about ten parking spots, and a gorgeous view. What I hadn’t counted on was the wild wind whipping through the valley. The open door banged my elbow. The van door shut. I thought nothing more about it because I was on a photo shoot, not until I went to get back in the vehicle. The wind and my elbow had collaborated to lock the door. Because it was a frosty morning, I’d had all the windows up. I was prepared for the day. What I hadn’t been prepared for was all my valuables just out of reach, but within sight on the passage seat along a very lonely, hardly-anyone-stopped-here, side lot. I could have walked to Jackson, but I was counting on my faith in humanity (and someone to stop help a maiden in distress). Plus, there was my open purse.
45 minutes later, someone stopped. They didn’t speak English. 20 minutes after that someone else stopped and lent me their cell phone so I could call AAA. An hour after that, a man came and in two minutes he got me back into my van and I was off for the rest of day taking photos.
Grand Tetons – a stunning place year round, but in the fall…oh, my, the fall is gorgeous. Just remember to take your keys with you when you stop at lonely wayside lots.
In celebration of our national park’s 100th birthday, here is Stu Patterfoot at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.
Bison and wild horses roam the park. It was here in a parking lot, where I overheard a man asking a park ranger if he could put his granddaughter on the back of one of the bison walking though the lot so he could take a picture. I was very impressed by the young ranger’s calm no and explanation why not. Me, on the other hand, standing behind the grandpa, had popped open my eyes at his comment and dropped my jaw to the pavement. It would have taken me he’d asked that question, it would have taken me several minutes to respond. But then grandpa complained that the animals weren’t fenced in and why did they let them roam around if they were so dangerous? Well, they are fenced in, only the fences are miles and miles long. So: No sitting on the bison! Really. Don’t even get close. (In the photo below, Stu was only this close because he was inside a van. See the side mirror over his shoulder? Yeah. Don’t get close to wild animals. People are gored every year.)
Inside the park, it’s not just the animals, nor the human history of the area, but also the land itself. Just when you (I) think you’ve (I’ve) seen about every rock formation in the world (across these wide and varied United States), along comes an interesting sight. Take a gander at the size of this perfectly round naturally formed “pebble”.
In celebration of our national parks 100th birthday this month, here is Stu at the historic Cumberland Gap (National Historical Park).
This is a natural break in the Appalachian Mountain Range giving early American frontiersmen (and women, and bunnies), a Wilderness Road to “the West” (i.e., Kentucky and beyond). It is located near the conjunction of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.
(Also, naturally, American Native Indians lived in the area long before the white man showed up in history, and were familiar with the gap’s secret.)
Cumberland Gap also played a part in the US Civil War, but alluded any battles.
Today you can hike the old Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap, but the wide and long tunnel for cars makes the journey far shorter.
As a writer, merely sitting in locations where I know much history took place is inspirational. Where are your inspirational spots?
In honor of our US National Park’s 100th birthday later this month, here are some shots of Stu Patterfoot visiting Wind Cave National Park in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. This was the first cave in the world to be named a national park. (Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt.) The park is nearly 34,000 acres on the surface with plenty of wildlife, but below ground it includes one of the world’s largest cave system. It is famous for the calcite boxwork formation which is quite rare and stunning.
Visit our national parks this month.
P.S. Towards the end of August, all national parks will be free for four days!!!!
Here is Stu Patterfoot along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a National Parkway maintained by the US Parks Service. The road passes through several states. These were taken in North Carolina.
When I was a child, my father drove us home for a bit on this road. It is windy, hilly, and the speed limit is 35-45 mph. My father could hardly wait to find a way to exit it, curing the entire time because he couldn’t go fast. Decades later, my husband and I visited the Parkway. We savored every moment on the windy, hilly, gorgeously scenic road and did not want the journey to end. Stu Patterfoot liked it, too.
In celebration of our National Parks Birthday later this month, here is Stu Patterfoot in Rocky Mountains National Park in Colorado.
The park is enormous, and two photos can hardly capture the millions of places to stop for photogenic moments. Rocky Mountains National Park is an awesome landscape for fantasy stories, especially when you hike back into the wilderness (on trails) to when you can see or hear no sign of human life except for yourself (and companions).
Oh, and summertime is the best recommended time to visit, as some roads may be closed in the snowtime.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE!
I took Stu Patterfoot to visit Yellowstone National Park. This was the first US National Park, signed by an Act by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. The park is mostly within the state of Wyoming, but also covers parts of Idaho and Montana.
It displays many geothermal features, like Hot Springs and Old Faithful Geyser, which Stu is sitting in front of. Besides the unique land features, there is also an abundance of wildlife.
This park, particularly is near and dear to me because long ago, between college semesters, I spent a summer in the park. I was a cabin maid at Mammoth Hot Springs. This was my first time seeing mountains up close, and took me nearly two weeks before I no longer felt like I was walking inside a picture. The entire summer was one wild adventure. Back then, there were a few times at work when my maid-partner and I waited inside a cleaned cabin to allow a bear or bear family to wander on past us before we deemed it safe enough to dash to the next cabin to clean.
Although I haven’t added geothermal features to any of my stories (yet), nor bison or many of the hundreds of unique experiences or near-misses I experienced that summer working in Yellowstone, all my adventures are stored with many of them sneaking into my characters’ adventures. I strongly encourage you all to get out and experience nature, over and over again. The National Park Service has over 400 “units” to explore. (https://www.nps.gov/index.htm) This is our country.
I’ll now return you to your regularly scheduled author writing posts. Keep on writing.
Here is Stu Patterfoot visiting Devils Tower National Monument in the Black Hills of Wyoming. You can see this unique rock formation rising dramatically from the prairie for miles as you approach it, growing larger and larger and larger.
Climbers have tackled this formation for a couple hundred years. Although during the month of June, most climbers honor the Native Indians and do not climb these 30 days for related Indian ceremonies and prayers. Stu didn’t get much past the crumbled base.
Using US National Parks for writer inspirations for settings has existed before there were even National Parks. Devils Tower was used as a backdrop for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” but visiting it after seeing the movie was a bit disappointing in that respect. Spoiler alert: FYI, you oldsters or old movie buffs, there are no aliens from other planets on the grounds. But I can’t guarantee the same if you look up.
Writing settings. What a glorious way to experience settings, and then be able to write about them, than by visiting our varied US National Parks.
Here is Stu the Rabbit in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The scenery is stunning with foggy (and clear) wooded mountains for as far as the eye can see, sprinkled with waterfalls and other vistas.
One thing to mind, if going here in the summer time, is that it can be crowded – crowded with both people and with mosquitoes. While in your car, it can be bumper to bumper through the park. While out hiking a trail, you could be covered with the bitty insects if you don’t keep moving and swishing your bandana about your head. But it is all truly worth it. I imagine anytime but summer is less crowded, except for the gorgeous fall.
Wherever you live, get out there and experience our National Parks. Be sure to take detailed notes of the landscape – the sights, the smells, the sounds, the feel – for possible settings in your own stories.
Keep on writing.