October 1, 2019


“You must do the things you think you cannot do.”  -Eleanor Roosevelt

Here I am, perched in a Midtown Manhattan hotel room, in the shadow of the Empire State Building.  It is quiet and calm in here. Peaceful and serene. Outside, at 32nd and Broadway, the city is a cacophony of sound.  This is the noisiest place I have ever been. A city alive, never sleeping.  A city of canyons. Urban canyons of concrete, glass, and steel - but reminiscent, in form, of granite and sandstone canyons I have seen earlier this year.  Standing beneath the Empire State Building looking up to its spire, I am reminded that the Painted Wall of the Black Canyon is twice as tall. Nature has a way of humbling all our mortal efforts.  I was so anxious to drive into the city. I have been here a couple of times before, but I have never driven here. I dwelt on it for days before. I was worried about traffic, about getting lost, about all of the pedestrians and bicyclists.  I was worried about navigating my truck through all of that and into an underground parking garage. Considering all of the new experiences I have had this year; it is funny to me that I would get so worked up about this. Finally, the day came.  I set my GPS and headed into the city. It was easy – well, easy enough. I had no problems. I got to the hotel and laughed at myself for wasting so much mental energy about it. Fear of the unknown can be a powerful force. Doing those things that you fear, or think you cannot do, is what makes us grow.  Even when we think we have overcome our fears and insecurities, they still find a way to creep back into our thoughts sometimes. We are mysterious creatures, to be sure.  

In the last ten days I have visited twenty park units.  Mostly, I have been visiting historical sites of some well-known Americans.  J. Alden Weir, American Impressionist Painter. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, President and First Lady.  Frederick Vanderbilt, Railroad Industrialist. Thomas Edison, Inventor. Theodore Roosevelt, President. The Statue of Liberty, sculpture (she is French, but immigrated to the U.S. in 1886).  So often we think of the National Park system in terms of the magnificent landscape parks like Yosemite or Grand Canyon – places we go to on a family vacation. The reality is, most of the sites administered by the National Park Service are of a historical nature.  They are a collection of our important places, events, and people. People who built this country – with their ideas, their muscle, and their conviction. They guided our industry, our liberties, the conservation of our lands and resources. They moved our culture, and our minds.  As with every other Historic Site I have visited, dedicated to an important American, I am reminded how important these people were. How different our country would be now, had they not existed. We all have that greatness inside us – the power to overcome, and to achieve those things believed to be unachievable.  

When I started this trip, I didn’t know if it could be done.  Or, I didn’t know if I could do it – if I could actually visit all 418+1 National Park sites in one year.  I knew I was tenacious enough to give it a real effort, to not rest until I met my goal. I knew that regardless of whether or not I hit all those parks, I needed some time to myself and I needed a challenge that I could focus all of my attention on.  I was running away, and running into the future all at the same time. The goal of visiting all of the parks was really just the cover story. The real goal was to heal myself. The pain of a divorce, and the effort to uncouple a debilitating codependency were overwhelming.  It was time for serious militant self-care, and I dove in with all of the fortitude I could muster. There were times when I thought that it could not be done. Times when the past rises up again to overshadow the future. But I have re-learned my inherent resilience. I have learned that I have great power inside, we all do.  We can heal ourselves. We can achieve our goals and more. We are mysterious creatures, and we can do those things we think we cannot do.  

Parks visited since September 21st:

Weir Farm National Historic Site

Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site

Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site

Vanderbilt National Historic Site

Steamtown National Historic Site

Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Middle Delaware National Scenic River

Morristown National Historical Park

Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park

Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Saint Paul’s Church National Historic Site

Sagamore Hill National Historic Site

Fire Island National Seashore

Federal Hall National Memorial

Castle Clinton National Monument

Statue of Liberty National Monument

Stonewall National Monument

African Burial Ground National Monument

Governors Island National Monument

Andy Magee