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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Why I Don’t Like The National Parks

Death Valley National Park's Panamint Range

Death Valley National Park’s Panamint Range

I know it’s hard to believe, but I’ve fallen out of love with the U.S. National Parks. Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon? Yeah, they’re all gorgeous places, but they’re flawed for me in a big way. The same goes for my favorite parks in Big Bend, Teddy Roosevelt, and Death Valley. So what’s the problem? Why the sudden change? Dogs. Yep, dogs. As in woof.

The national parks used to be some of my favorite places on the planet. Their natural and historic beauty are oftentimes second-to-none. And yes, I’ll still say that if you haven’t seen some of them – like standing at the overlook for the Yosemite Valley or the Grand Canyon, hiking through Big Bend or driving through Death Valley – then you really are missing out. But, the thing of it is, I feel like I’m missing out in a different way.

Yosemite National Park from the overlook

Yosemite National Park from the overlook

Since getting my puppy Anna from the shelter in August, I’ve grown rather fond of her. I love taking her out for hikes. Love it. So much so that I’m hoping to make the Colorado Parks and Wildlife folks think twice about selling their annual passes for so little. That’s because they allow pets, just as do most open spaces and national forests. But not with the national parks. No way. No how. Well, sort of…

The NPS’ policy says pets are allowed in parks, but they need to be restrained so much so that it’s not really worthwhile to visit with them.

How so? Well, what’s the point if they can’t go hiking with you? Are they really such a danger to the wildlife or the animals to them? And no, I’m not talking about walking down one of the main drags in Yellowstone with any dog off the leash. I’m talking about out on a trail and the dog goes nuts (no pun intended) on a squirrel or raccoon, as is mentioned as an example in the NPS’s explanation.

So is that what it comes down to for the NPS? Animal harassment? Could Fido really eat said squirrel in one big chomp? So long as they’re not a little lap dog, yeah. You bet. But I seriously doubt it, especially if they’re on a leash as is required in Colorado’s state parks. Most any squirrel is faster than a dog anyway. I know. I’ve watched Anna try to catch them, bunnies, and birds. She fails miserably, but has fun thinking she’s the toughest beastie in the ‘hood.

But it’s not just a dog directly harassing an animal. The NPS is also worried about dogs peeing on the ground. Or taking a dump and the owner not picking it up. In a way I get that, since nature is quite fragile. But, to once again use the Yellowstone example, I’m not talking about a dog walking out among the geysers or pools in Wyoming. Some places they should be restricted, for both their safety and the necessity of preservation. But the damage any puppy could inflict by peeing on something – particularly a standard dirt trail – is oftentimes far less than what we do as humans. Just think of the damage done to the Morning Glory Pool, sticking with Yellowstone once again, if you need an example.

Yellowstone's Morning Glory Pool

Yellowstone’s Morning Glory Pool

So what does it come down to for me as a dog owner? The fact that I can’t take her somewhere without being equally harassed. And so, in the end, that means I take my money elsewhere. Right now it’s to the Colorado State Parks. But many times I won’t have to take my money anywhere, since it won’t cost me a darn thing to get in. Most open spaces and national forests are free, after all, and oftentimes equally as beautiful as a national park. So why not go there instead to begin with? That’s the million dollar question, so to speak, and the big reason – all because of Anna the Puppy – why I’ve fallen out of love with the U.S. National Parks.

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