Friday, January 11th
Here I am, at the end of the first leg of my year-long adventure. The government shutdown has persisted for the entirety of my trip so far. I have mostly been lucky to still see the parks I came to see. There are some exceptions. Although I could take in much of Christianstead National Historic Site, I did not venture to the other two parks on St. Croix, and I could not get park stamps for any of the three parks. I will have to plan another quick trip to St. Croix to check these parks off my list. De Soto National Historic Site was also closed, so no park stamp there either. Most of the open parks I have been to so far have been staffed by volunteers from local organizations – or local organizations have been paying for some Park Rangers to stay on the job. So many places rely on the tourism dollars that the Parks generate. Many of the locals I have talked too are already feeling the financial impact from the decline in park visitors. The situation is untenable.
Although I have enjoyed the islands very much, I am ready to be back in the States – back to my truck and all of my gear. I’m ready to move on; to see what I came to see – to see as much as I can, anyway. Government shutdown be damned. It will end sooner or later, but I feel certain there will be more disappointment before then.
Until now, my trip has been rigidly scheduled. Now the path forward is mine to choose. I am not sure where I will head to next. I had a vague plan, but all plans seem futile now. I am unmoored and floating free. I feel unbound by gravity – a curious sensation that has visited me now and then for the past year or more. So, I embrace the feeling and enter the void, armed with curiosity, instinct, and self-reliance.
Parks visited since January 1st:
Dry Tortugas National Park
Biscayne National Park
Everglades National Park
Big Cypress National Preserve
De Soto National Historic Site (closed)
San Juan National Historic Site (closed the day after my visit)
Christianstead National Historic Site (closed)
Virgin Islands National Park
Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument