During the course of our 12-month â€˜Find Your Adventureâ€™ series celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, weâ€™ve had the pleasure of meeting a number of park rangers whoâ€™ve offered us all kinds of good advice.
So we thought it only fair we should share the wealth. With that in mind, here are a half-dozen tips from Ranger Scott Gediman of Yosemite National Park and Ranger Marker Marshall from Grand Canyon National Park that we thought might be of value on your next national park adventure:
Donâ€™t Feed The Wildlife
From raccoons to ravens, remember thereâ€™s always some critter out there looking for a free lunch. Resist the temptation to give them one of your Cheez Doodles, however. Not only is it bad for the animalâ€™s health, it could be bad for yours as well (even cute little ground squirrels have been known to draw blood). Itâ€™s also illegal.
Do Your Homework
Spend some time researching your destination before you leave home. Look up the natural history of the area, find out about local flora and fauna, and scout hiking trails and other activities. Not only will it help you get excited about the trip, youâ€™ll also be better informed once you get there.
Donâ€™t Be Rigid
Parks are wild places and therefore inherently unpredictable. So if something doesnâ€™t go exactly as planned, be flexible and roll with it. And always remember, itâ€™s the unexpected events in life that always make the best stories!
Do Stop At The Visitor Center
This should be your first stop at any national park, as the knowledgeable folks behind the counter can set you up with maps and hiking guides, plus info on road/trail conditions, ranger programs, wildlife sightings and more.
Donâ€™t Forget The Forecast
Checking the forecast for the national park youâ€™re headed to is one of those smart ideas many of us often overlook. Just because the Grand Canyon is in Arizona, for example, doesnâ€™t mean you should show up wearing shorts in January.
Do Plan Ahead
Even if you plan to visit in the off-season (generally September through May), it pays to make your reservations as far in advance as possible to avoid being shut out. And for first-come, first-served campgrounds, plan on arriving in the morning to snag that elusive spot as soon as it opens up.