The Greatest American Invention

Barker-Ewing, Environment, Hiking & Climbing, National Parks

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Families are important. Vacations are important. Our National Parks are important. And taking our families on vacations to National Parks might be the most important thing we do. As a culture, Americans enjoy a “love/hate” relationship with our jobs. We value hard work and industry to the point that we as individuals feel diminished when we step away from gainful employment. For some, there is a perceived threat that our value as an employee drops when we take a break and a co-worker does not. It’s a dilemma – but there is scientific evidence that taking time off to recharge and rest helps us approach our work with energy, efficiency and creativity.

And it’s not just vacations we need. We also can help recover from the demands of work by spending time outdoors, preferably in a natural setting. Over the last few years, studies have shown that something as simple as a walk in the woods can improve memory and performance. Time spent in forest settings improves mental and physical energy, relieves stress and reduces inflammation. When woodland walkers return to work, they feel better, perform better, and even exhibit calm during their commutes.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park have long been sought out by people needing to get away from the workaday, and recharge with a little adventure. We welcome over three million visitors to our little corner of paradise each summer – which speaks volumes about the need to soothe our souls in wild places. I’m lucky to live and work in this wild and scenic landscape – but it’s still work- so after a season on the Snake River, even I need to recharge my batteries! And just like you, I seek that recovery in nature.

I just returned from a fantastic hiking vacation with my family to Zion and Bryce National Parks. Believe it or not, even though I live a stone’s throw from Yellowstone and work in Grand Teton, I gravitate towards National Parks for my leisure time, too. The National Park system is the greatest American invention – and recently, I’ve been making it a point to let my elected representatives know just how much the Park system means to me and my family. How many National Parks have you visited? Which one are you planning on visiting next? And no matter which Park you end up in, remember to send a post card to your congressman when you get there!

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