Find Your Joy in Our National Parks

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Sunset in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

What’s the ultimate road trip?

For me, it was something I called a Spirit Quest.

It was fall 2015, and I had just been laid off from a soul-sucking job at Microsoft. I definitely needed a lift to my spirits. So I hit the road in the West with a carload of camping gear, two bikes and my hiking boots. My only plan was to “experience joy and beauty.”

My Spirit Quest found unlimited joy and beauty in our National Parks. As I think back on that trip, it’s hard to pick out a highlight.

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Continental Divide bike ride in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Was it Crater Lake National Park, where I did my favorite bicycle ride ever one gorgeous day? Or perhaps it was the day I rode in Arches National Park and then did two incredible hikes to immerse myself in the mind-blowing rock formations? And what about all the rides and hikes at Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mountain, Teton and Yellowstone National Parks?

It was a fantastic trip.

I’ve been thinking about my Spirit Quest as the National Parks celebrate their 100th birthday on Aug. 25. The parks are our national treasure, not just because of their beauty, but how they make us feel.

On top of it all, the National Parks are an amazing bargain. An America the Beautiful Pass costs just $80 for an entire year, giving you access to the most beautiful places in our country.

If you’re 62, a Senior Pass gives you unlimited access for just $10 — for the rest of your life.

You may complain about the federal government, but tell me what agency delivers more at such a bargain?

I’m not the only one who knows the secret of a National Parks road trip. As my Spirit Quest went on, I met so many people doing just what I was doing. Most were retired, doing trips on the cheap by camping, and spending days really exploring these stunning places. In our individual quests, there was an immediate connection.

So happy birthday, National Parks. Whenever I need a lift to my spirits, I think of you.

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