More Than Just A Campaign
I don’t remember when or where I first found the #findyourpark tag, but the first picture I posted on Instagram with it was in July 2015–in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park–the most visited National Park. It is truly my favorite hashtag. I love using it, but I really love finding reasons to use it–hiking in national and state parks. I’ve even tagged other people’s pictures with it.

I do remember that my interest in national parks piqued after watching all 16 hours of Ken Burns’ documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” in the cold, boring 2016 winter. I decided to visit and hike as many national parks as I could. My first endeavor–Joshua Tree.

The hashtag is a campaign by the National Park Service to celebrate its centennial anniversary this year. Did you know that Yosemite might have been the idea for the institution of National Parks but Yellowstone was the first? The Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited place in the National Park System.Here’s some more data for you: Most Visited Places in the ServiceInteractive Map of Visistor Use Statistics; and America’s Best Idea.

But what the hashtag has truly done for me is force me to find different ways and places of being outside. Since my awareness of the campaign, I’ve visited Gorges State Park (NC); Fort Macon State Park (NC); Great Smoky Mountain National Park; Eno River State Park (NC); various national momuments and memorials (DC); Cherokee National Forest (NC); and Grayson Highlands State Park (VA). Moreover, I have planned a trip to drive half way across the country this summer to visit four National Parks including the Badlands, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Rocky Mountain; at least two state parks, and countless national forests, recreation areas, and monuments.

The #FindYourPark campaign hasn’t only created awareness for me (and my unsuspecting Insta followees) about national parks, it’s literally expanded my horizons.

PS: The National Park Foundation (along with OARS and Southwest) are giving away a Yellowstone and Grand Teton Adventure. You can enter once every 24 hours until May 11, 2016.