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It's A Gray Area: 'Oh, beautiful, for spacious skies'

November 27, 2010|By James P. Gray

This Thanksgiving weekend I celebrate our national parks and other gems administered for us by the U.S. National Park Service. One thing that I want to do before my life ends is visit all the national parks. So far, I have visited 26 of those 58 parks These parks have been especially set aside for a reason, and each one I have visited makes that reason unequivocally clear. And if you are at least 62 years old, like I am, and have purchased a Senior Pass, that could be the financial deal of your life!

But let me ask a question that probably only a few of you will be able to answer. Which national park is closest to us here in Orange County? No, it is not Death Valley, Yosemite, Sequoia, or Kings Canyon. It is the Channel Islands National Park. This is a wonderful place to explore on a sea kayak, with lots of sea caves and a few tunnels, and a place where bird and sea life are in abundance. Commercial boats can take you there from both Oxnard and Ventura harbors, and I strongly recommend a visit.

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As you probably know, the first of our country's national parks was Yellowstone. It was founded by an act of Congress in 1872, and the park was officially set aside as a "pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people in order to protect for all time this outstanding natural area."

If you get the chance, stay at the Old Faithful Inn, which was completed in 1904 and is probably the world's largest log cabin. When you take a tour of the Inn, be sure to see the room where Teddy Roosevelt stayed on one of his visits. It is one of the few rooms where you can view the eruption of Old Faithful from one of the inn's windows.

The National Park Service today administers 393 individual locations covering more than 83 million acres in the United States, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These include national parks, battlefields, historical parks, cemeteries, monuments, heritage areas, preserves, sites, trails, parkways, seashores, and recreational areas. Information about each site can be found online in the 131-page 2009-2011 National Parks Index.

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