This Passport To Your National Parks post is courtesy of our contributor Mary of Calculated Traveller…Souvenirs, trinkets, T-shirts and tourist trash; how many of these things have you purchased while on vacation for yourself or your family that ultimately ends up in the garbage or the donation pile?
I’m not immune to the allure of the souvenir.
I have magnets and key chains from various cities from around the world as well as a few Starbucks mugs from the “You are here” collection. Each mug has a pictorial graphic on the outside representing a city I’ve visited.
I also have a postage stamp collection. I would visit a post office in whatever country or city I was travelling and buy a few postage stamps for my book.
But the best souvenir that beats all other collections in my possession is a little something I bought at the United States of America National Park Service (NPS) gift shop.
The Passport to your National Parks Stamp Book
Who would have thought that a little 6 x 3 inch, 104-page spiral bound book with blank pages, and a colour coded map/guide to the entire national park system would bring me such joy!
The primary purpose of the stamp book is to record the name, location and date of each visit you make to a site listed in the National Parks park system.
Here’s a video that explains how it works:
I’ve been visiting National Parks for decades, but I’ve only had my Passport to your National Parks book for 13+ years. It cost me less than $10 in 2003, and it still costs less than $10 to buy now. Proceeds support the National Parks.
There is also a children’s version of the book as well as full guides to the various regions in the book.
My first stamp came from Death Valley, California:
and my most recent stamps from Virginia:
Of all the parks I’ve visited, hand’s down the most individual of all is Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Virginia. The only national park dedicated to the performing arts, Wolf Trap is a park with traditional hiking trails but it also has the most gorgeous of outdoor amphitheatres.
The Filene Center Amphitheatre, made of Douglas fir and yellow pine, is a fantastic location to see a show. With state-of-the-art sound and lighting system, sitting 3,800 in-house and 3,200 on the lawn, we came here for a short hike, dinner in the on-site al fresco restaurant and a performance of RiverDance.
Seeing a performance in this wooden outdoor theatre is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. The buzz of the audience around you, the music and dancers on stage, the cool breeze of the summer air and the smell of the wood of the building totally surround you.
Another unique feature is that you are more than welcome to pack a picnic and wine to have while sitting out on the lawn during the performance – this is a park after all!
There are over 400+ potential NPS cancellation stamps available — one for each property in the National Park Service including National Monuments, National Scenic Trails, and National Battlefields, etc. — and my goal is to one day collect them all.
Each time I travel to the USA, I bring along my Passport book because you never know when you’ll stumble upon a park that you didn’t know was there.
Don’t worry; the National Park Service Ranger Station always has little slips of paper available for you to rubber stamp just in case you don’t have your book with you.
Every so often I pull out my little blue book to look at the cancellation marks and their dates to reminisce. The memories of each location resurface from the back of my mind, and I smile….I remember my travel companions, the scenic vistas and views, the hikes, the birds and animals, the smell of the leaves and grass, and the sound of the water.
It doesn’t matter how many times I return to the same National Park, the first thing I do is visit the Ranger Station to get my cancellation stamp; it’s a permanent record of my visit and a reminder for my memory.
Childish? Perhaps, but that’s okay, remembering that I’m a child at heart is the ultimate of souvenirs.
Do you have a Passport to your National Parks book? What’s the most memorable US national park that you’ve explored?
Mary Chong is based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. A travel writer / world cruiser she writes about all things travel on her website Calculated Traveller, follow her latest adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!