Now that summer is officially here, the National Park Foundation is opening up its Summer Scrapbook and they’re asking us to help them fill it. The NPF is inviting the public to share their favorite photos, videos and travel tips from America’s national parks and in exchange, they’re giving us a chance to win one of two trips to two of the country’s most iconic national parks.
The contest is a simple one. All you need to do is visit the Summer Scrapbook page and share your photos in one of several categories that includes such subjects as sunrise/sunset, wildlife, history and culture and more. There is also a category for short videos and one for posting helpful tips for visiting the parks. You can enter as many as ten items between now and Sept. 8 with each entry increasing your chance to win. On Sept. 10, the Park Foundation will announce ten finalist in each category and the general public will be asked to vote for their favorites. Voting closes on Sept. 30 and everyone who casts a vote will be automatically entered to win a trip through the Grand Canyon by train.
The person who wins the overall popular vote for the best photo, video or travel tip will also win a trip to Yosemite National Park, one of the most spectacular destinations in the entire U.S. park system. Meanwhile, the individual winners of each of the categories will also receive a National Park Explorer Pack that includes outdoor gear from L.L. Bean and Marmot, as well as gifts from the National Park Foundation and several of the parks themselves.
So, if you’ve got some great park photos in your collection, add them to the Scrapbook and see if you can’t win a trip to make even more great national park memories.
The 23rd annual Grand Canyon Star Party begins today and will run through Saturday, June 15. The annual event, which draws amateur astronomers from across the country, is a celebration of the incredible night skies that can be found above the national park. For each of the next eight evenings, many of those astronomers will be camped out on both the North and South Rims helping other visitors to take notice of amazing display overhead.
Because of its remote location, the Grand Canyon is one of the best places in the U.S. to observe the night sky. The clean air and very dark skies make it possible to see far more stars, planets, galaxies and other celestial bodies than are typically visible in other parts of the country. Each night of the Star Party will feature organized astronomy programs and telescope viewings that will give those in attendance the opportunity to view such sights as Saturn and its iconic rings, enormous star clusters, mysterious nebulae and so much more. Venus and Mercury will also be on display, but visitors who want to catch a glimpse of those planets will need to observe them during the day, or very shortly after sunset.Events on the South Rim are being organized by the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and include nightly green laser constellation tours, slide shows and at least one telescope. On the North Rim, an array of telescopes will be set up on a porch at the lodge each evening courtesy of the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix. A bulletin board outside the visitor center will list any additional programs, such as slideshows and lectures, for each of the nights.
The Grand Canyon Star Party is completely free although a $25 park entry fee (good for seven days) is required. Visitors are encouraged to bring a flashlight but organizers of the event request that they be red flashlights in order to cut down on the amount of light pollution.
The videos are obviously aimed at small children but if you’re a fan of the national parks you’ll probably still find them enjoyable as well. They offer a nice glimpse inside the two featured parks while also providing some good information about the natural world around us. So, gather up the kids, crowd around the computer and load up the clips. Who knows, you might even learn something while watching them too!
In March of last year, Nature Valley launched their Trail View website, giving deskbound outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to take a virtual hike through three of the most popular national parks in the U.S. The website employed technology similar to Google’s Street View to give us the opportunity to explore more than 300 miles of trails in the Grand Canyon, Great Smokey Mountains and Yellowstone. Now, just in time to celebrate National Park Week, the site is adding yet another spectacular park to the mix.
Nature Valley has announced that starting today an additional 50+ miles of trail located inside Sequoia National Park will be available to virtual explorers. Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sequoia is of course best known for the trees from which it derives its name. The Giant Sequoias are known to grow to heights in excess of 200 feet, putting them amongst the largest living organisms on our planet. With the addition of the park to the Nature Valley Trail View site, you can now take a stroll amongst those magnificent trees directly from your favorite web browser.
Adding another park to the website isn’t the only upgrade to Trail View today. The site is also becoming more mobile friendly in an effort to accommodate smartphones and tablets as well. That will include the ability to download .pdf files with information about the parks and specific trails too. This could become a handy resource for travelers headed out to one of these destinations who might need a little help finding your way around.Nature Valley’s commitment to the national parks doesn’t end there, however. Over the past few years, the company has been a tireless advocate for the parks. Through its annual Preserve the Parks campaign they’ve managed to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to the National Parks Conservation Association. With another $500,000 donation this year, the four-year total will exceed $1.8 million. This is in addition to some fantastic park restoration projects that conducted with volunteers who are eager to help protect their favorite parks as well.
As a fan of the national parks, I truly appreciate the efforts that Nature Valley has put forth to help preserve some of our most amazing landscapes. Their work is helping to ensure future generations will have the opportunity to enjoy these places as well. And with their Trail View website, they allow me to take a virtual escape now and again, which certainly comes in handy when I’ve spending far too much time indoors.
Have you always dreamed of hiking the Grand Canyon but just can’t get past all of the walking that would entail? Then you’ll be pleased to learn that the latest update to Google Maps brings Street View technology to the national park, allowing us to take a virtual tour of its trails without ever leaving home.
Back in October we told you how Google planned to capture images from the trail by using their new high-tech Trekker camera system. The device is worn like a backpack and automatically snaps photos while some lucky Google employee wanders the landscape. Yesterday, the company announced that it has now incorporated the images and data that were collected on that October excursion, bringing more than 75 miles of Grand Canyon trails directly to your browser.
Amongst the more well known routes that are now included on Google Maps are both Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail, both of which provide superb views in their real and virtual states. You can even explore nearby Meteor Crater or wander along the banks of the Colorado River, the force responsible for carving the Canyon over many millions of years.
Now we at Gadling would never advocate using Street View as a substitute for actually visiting any destination, let alone one as amazing as the Grand Canyon. But we do think that this makes an excellent tool for someone who wants to explore the site before they go so they have an idea of what to expect when they get there. It also serves as a great reminder of just how amazing travel can be on those days when you are stuck at your desk for hours on end. The next time that happens, just open your browser, hop over to Google Maps and spend a little time hiking the Canyon. It’s not as good as the real thing, but it sure beats the work you’ll be avoiding.