I stepped off the plane and on to a South Pacific Island. Yet, I haven’t even left the United States. I am still ‘technically” in the United States. I had landed at the Pago Pago International Airport on the island of Tutuila in American Samoa. American Samoa is an unincorporated unorganized territory of the United States. Basically, the islands are owned by the US but operate under local rule and customs. The U.S. Federal Government has limited involvement in American Samoa politics and American Samoans are U.S. Nationals but not citizens. I have traveled to this far flung island chain south of the equator and halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii to spend four days exploring the National Park of American Samoa.
Giant Coastal Redwoods rise up around me. I stand in awe that less than 30 minutes ago I was standing among the skyscrapers of San Francisco. A short drive across the Golden Gate Bridge is a wilderness oasis near one of the US’s largest cities in the most populous state. These coastal redwoods aren’t a hidden. They stand proudly in the Muir Woods National Monument.
Every Thursday, I will be posting a photo from my travels and a spotlight on the location. Today’s Spotlight Thursday is from my very first solo road trip across the United States. As part of that road trip, I made several stops along the way. One of my favorite stops was a two-day visit to Grand Tetons National Park. Grand Tetons National Park is 10 short miles south of Yellowstone National Park. Unlike Yellowstone which became a national park on March 1, 1872, it took another 57 years for Grand Tetons to become a national park. Grand Tetons protects the Teton Range and part of the Jackson Hole valley.
I am a national park junkie in every sense of the word. I have been to 41 National Parks and over 150 of the other National Park units. My love of the national park system came at an early age. I was to my first national park before I was a year old. It is no secret that I love our national parks. I am forever thankful for the efforts of early environmentalists. Their tireless work saved many of these magnificent places from destruction. The U.S. National Park system is often called ‘America’s Best Idea.’ I firmly believe this statement. Over the last couple of years, I have realized out park system is under attack.
My quest to visit all 59 National Parks has taken many twists and turns. I didn’t know I was going to get a chance to visit the Virgin Islands National Park in St. John this year. I had a last minute opportunity to go so I jumped on the chance and took a flight over to St. Thomas then the ferry to St. John. The Virgin Islands National Park takes up the majority of St. John. This has limited the number of hotels and tourists on the island.