The Best Hike of the 2,200-Mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Unit #45 / 413 - Appalachian National Scenic Trail It's almost by quirk of fortune that while driving through Maine this became my 45th National Park Service site. - It isn't listed as one of Maine's park sites. - There's no Passport to Your National Parks stamp within 427 miles. - And there's not a NPS Visitor Center for it anywhere in the state. Yet there I found myself, hiking to the summit of Mount Katahdin, completing the last 5.2 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. I'd ended up there as the result of three unrelated, but fortuitous, events: The first happened a few days after launching my 3+ year journey to all the NPS sites. I'd written a blog for the National Parks Conser

The Man Behind the Mold

Unit #44 / 413 - Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site Quick! Think of three famous sculptures or statues! 1. 2. 3. What'd you come up with? I'll share my three: 1. Mount Rushmore 2. Lincoln Memorial 3. The Statue of Liberty Now, tell me who created each of yours. Exactly. How often do we stare at statues, sculptures, and monuments to important people, but have no idea who made them? That's the goal of Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in western New Hampshire: to share about the man behind the mold. Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1848 and immigrating to the U.S. at six months due to the potato famine, Augustus Saint-Gaudens became one of America's most respected sculptors. His most famous wo

Vermont's Spirit of Conservationism

Unit #43 / 413 - Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park Can a house have a spirit? One that transcends families, centuries, and cultures? If it's possible, it exists in Woodstock, Vermont, and it's spirit is conservationism. The foundation of that spirit began with its first owner, George Perkins Marsh, whose family farm the house sits on. After a wave of settlers came to Vermont in the 1800s, following the American Revolution, Marsh's tree-filled state was leveled for profits. With a lack of roots and trunks to stabilize the land, this desolation led to severe erosion and flooding. Marsh took note of the way man changed his native land, then further observed the rape of the e

When The Big House Comes Crumbling Down

Unit #42 / 413 - Saratoga National Historical Park Click here to read the Albany Times Union coverage of my visit with more great pictures! For a long period of history, the sun never set on the British empire. Because basically, their military was unbeatable. If I was comparing this to college football--and I'm going to 'cause it's the fall and I just watched Nebraska play from my iPhone in a Panera Bread parking lot--the British empire would basically be Alabama. Or Florida State. Or pick your dynasty. I'm going to go with Michigan. Why Michigan? Because as a dynastic team, there came a day in September 2007 when the legendary Big Ten school hosted a little known, lower division university

Martin Van Buren: The Ultimate American Dream

Unit #41 / 413 - Martin Van Buren National Historic Site Jay-Z. Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. Who do you think of when you hear "American Dream"? Before these modern iterations, there was one OG, rags-to-riches, innovator who represented American dreamers: Martin Van Buren. Beginning in 1782, this small-town, inn-owner's son began his journey on that fabled path even before the Revolutionary War gave us an America to dream in. Starting from those humble roots in Kinderhook (approx. 20 miles south of Albany), he joined the New York State Senate as a 30-year-old, succeeding to U.S. Senator, New York Governor, and eventually creating the first national political party (the Democratic Party) whic

My 40th Site on its 40th Anniversary

Unit #39 / 413 - Fort Stanwix National Monument For many of us, we go about our daily business never wondering if our country will be overthrown that night. As someone from the former Yugoslavia once told me, "The greatest thing about America is that you know when there's a transfer of power, the teachers will still get paid." Aside from his comment, I hadn't really ever considered that my country would cease to exist as I knew it. That is, until yesterday. Walking along the sharpened tree trunks of the 18th century replica Fort Stanwix National Monument, I imagined how it must have felt for the early colonialists, loyalists, and Native Americans. Any day an opposing power could come into yo

"He's White! How is that Diverse?"

Unit #39 / 413 - Women's Rights National Historical Park "I love you guys but seriously... a young, white, able bodied dude saying he hopes his story can show people of color that the NPS represents their stories too??? Uh... how?!" The National Park Foundation shared a Q&A they did with me before my trip launched, and this was one of the comments left by a reader. In that interview, I spoke primarily about my goals of encouraging "other young and diverse people to visit national parks." That by being nearly half the age of the average visitor and a "regular guy" (not a champion trail runner), I could hopefully show people that no matter who they are, nothing should exclude them participatin

Disney-fying Niagara Falls and Theodore Roosevelt

Unit #38 / 413 - Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site "How do we tell the story of a piece of history that only lasted a moment?" Stanton Hudson, Superintendent/Executive Director of the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural NHS stated early into my visit. "It's a question we grappled with hard, but one we think we've also done quite well solving." Indeed Mr. Hudson had a point. Many national park sites don't have acres of land or thousands of years of geology to assist telling their park's story, so how do they do it when their space it confined to just one house? The answer, it appears, is to make the moment a complete story. Just as Caesar's stabbing does not describe the entire sag

Preserving the Porch Campaign for Future Generations

Unit #37 / 413 - James A. Garfield National Historic Site While much of the National Park Service encompasses vistas and wild nature, as President Obama said during a 2015 site dedication, "Part of what we’re preserving here is also history. It’s also understanding that places that look ordinary are nothing but extraordinary. The places you live are extraordinary, which means you can be extraordinary." No quote is perhaps more fitting than for the James A. Garfield National Historic Site. For on this one-time farm in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, we recognize a boy who grew up loathing farm work and eventually used that family land to campaign for the highest office in our country. Credited as s

Your Turn to Clean the Bathroom, Canada!

Unit #36 / 413 - Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial "If _______ wins this election, I'm moving to Canada!" It's a threat that's made by any part of the political spectrum, during every election since I can remember. But I wonder in what time period that phrase became socially acceptable? Surely at one point in history it would've been blasphemous, perhaps even treason, to present such an assertion. That's because Canada has not always been our "Friendly neighbor to the north." In fact, I would argue that Canada is less like a neighbor, and more like a roommate. Such that it takes a major blow up over when to wash the dishes, or what temperature to set the thermostat, before an

U.S. War History Without the Airbrush

Unit #35 / 413 - River Raisin National Battlefield Park Nazis! Hitler! Genocide! Imagine if your job was marketing an organization whose consumers recalled those words at its mention. Yet that's what the country of Germany has to do for every visitor. Berlin's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe Tagging along one of Berlin's famous free walking tours, I was stunned at the way Germans openly acknowledged the sins of their past. But as the guide explained, "We find it's important to not hide from or deny our past, because then we remember it and can use it to not make the same mistakes again." A half-century after the culprit for those German scare words, the country is now both a leader i

Screw "Escape the Room." Play "Escape the City!"

Unit #34 / 413 - Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore From the time I was old enough to comprehend the idea, until my late-teens, I used to fantasize about one thing: Living in a big city. It didn't have to be on a specific coast, or any country for that matter, this Nebraska kid just wanted to be surrounded by a concrete jungle. Unlike most teenage boys, it wasn't Pamela Anderson on my wall (or Jonathan Taylor Thomas if any gay 13-year-old had the gall back then). I was so obsessed with living in urbanity that my exhilarating poster was a busy street sandwiched between skyscrapers as far as the eye could see. I liked that I didn't know what city it was. Just that I wanted to be there, in that f

You Get Labor Day Because of this National Park

Unit #33 / 413 - Pullman National Monument School just started and you get no break till Thanksgiving. Summer's ending and there's no final bash at the beach. Your friend walks into the office wearing white and you have to exclaim, "Deborah, don't you know you can't wear white after the first Monday in September?" This is what life would be like sans Labor Day. Without that collective date when we say goodbye to summer with [insert your tradition here] and prepare for college football and pumpkin-spiced everything. It'd just be another manic Monday. But thank your lucky underwear we do not live in a world without an official day to recognize our labors, and thank the workers honore
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Professional Speaker - Motivational Speaker - Travel Show Host - Travel TV Host - Gay Speaker - Best College Speaker - Best High School Speaker - Best Corporate Speaker - Travel Expert - Road Trip Expert - Gay Travel - Travel Influencer - Influencer - Travel Show - Best Motivational Speaker