March 21, 2019


It is necessary now and then for a man to go away by himself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask of himself, ‘Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?’” - Carl Sandburg

Here I am.  Atlantic Beach, North Carolina – a place I have never heard of, nor even knew existed until today.  I can see the Atlantic Ocean rolling into the shore from my fourth-floor hotel window. The breeze is strong, breaking up the blanket of clouds that have filled the sky all day - just in time to catch a pink glow from the setting sun.  As with most places on this trip, I am a stranger here. An interloper. A passerby. A tourist. A solitary personification of patient observation. Absorbing information. Chasing curiosity. Taking only photographs and leaving only footprints.  

I have visited 20 parks in the last 10 days.  Most of them were revisits of parks that were closed when I came through this area the first time – during the government shutdown.  I had my doubts, as did others, that I would be able to complete my goal of visiting all 418 parks in one year, having lost a solid three weeks during the shutdown.  My doubts are now assuaged. I am now back on schedule, so to speak. My ratio of days to parks is actually a bit ahead of where it should be right now. I can now afford to slow my pace a little, and I plan to do just that.  

The last few weeks has mostly been a tour of the history of the United States, but not sequential or chronological.  Instead it is a history all jumbled and fragmented like memories or dreams. Three-thousand-year-old Native American mounds.  Jimmy Carter’s boyhood farm. Forts and battlefields and monuments from the American Revolutionary war to the Civil War to the Spanish American War to World War II.  The arrival of the first Europeans. The rise and fall of plantations and slavery. The drafting of the Constitution. The fight for Civil Rights. Each day brings a new history lesson, a new era, new connections painting a detailed portrait of these United States.  I feel like a time traveler hopscotching around to the most important moments in our collective history. Actually, it feels more like I am ‘unstuck in time,’ as Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim experienced. No discernable order, but each stop informs a new puzzle piece to a greater whole.  It is a 418-piece puzzle, and I have only fitted about 100 pieces so far. I know where I have been and what I have seen so far. I don’t know where exactly I am going, what the finished puzzle looks like; but therein lies the beauty in this extraordinary journey.

Parks visited since March 11th:

Jimmy Carter National Historic Site

Andersonville National Historic Site

Ocmulgee National Monument

De Soto National Memorial

Canaveral National Seashore

Fort Matanzas National Monument

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Fort Caroline National Memorial

Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Fort Frederica National Monument

Fort Pulaski National Monument

Ninety Six National Historic Site

Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

Cowpens National Battlefield

Kings Mountain National Military Park

Congaree National Park

Fort Sumter National Monument

Charles Picnkney National Historic Site

Moores Creek National Battlefield

Andy Magee