My visits to the national parks are woefully lacking. I’ve loved the vistas of Grand Canyon National Park, the beauty of Muir Woods, and the chilling history of Alcatraz Island.
And, being a Floridian, I’ve naturally visited the remote Dry Tortugas National Park down in Key West, Fort Matanzas in St. Augustine, the Everglades, and Big Cypress Swamp.
This year the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary. Forty-four years after the establishment of Yellowstone, President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service on August 25, 1916.
The system includes 411 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House.
Oh, the places we want to visit.
But if you can’t visit as many as you want, armchair visit with Nevada Barr’s novels about National Park Service Ranger Anna Pigeon.
Of course, even Anna, whose work takes her across the country, hasn’t visited all 59 national parks. Barr, pictured below, only has 19 novels about Anna Pigeon, so there are many more to come.
Boar Island, her newest novel, just out this week, is set in Maine’s Acadia National Park, showing the beauty of the area as well as the hard-scrabble life of its lobstermen and -women.
I think that through her novels, readers may have experienced a deeper appreciation of our beautiful parks. I know I have. And she shows not just the parks everyone seems to know about, but some of which we may not have heard.
Destroyer Angel brought me to the Fox River of the Iron Range in northern Minnesota.
The Rope gave us a look at Anna at the beginning of her career and why she decided to become a park ranger and what lead to her complicated persona. In The Rope, Anna is 35 when she arrives by bus from New York City to spend the summer working at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which encompasses more than 1.2 million acres from Lees Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah.
And I didn’t know that the New Orleans Jazz National Heritage Park was part of the parks service until Anna was stationed there in Burn. This 16th novel in her series showed how the urban jungle can be more unforgiving than Mother Nature’s jungles.
Borderline was set against the breathtaking beauty of Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas. In this novel, Barr delivered a suspense-filled plot that explores the hot-button issue of Mexican immigration and the post-9/11 closing of the Texas/Mexican border in the area.
And Flashback showed how unusual a place is the Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys. On this grouping of tiny islands in a natural harbor about 70 miles off Key West, is the historic Fort Jefferson.
While this crumbling fortress is now an exotic tourist site, Fort Jefferson was a prison during the Civil War and housed the Lincoln assassination conspirators, including Dr. Mudd.