Travel

Why Everyone Should Drive Cross Country At Least Once

November 6th 2017

By:
Willie Burnley Jr.

The beauty and diversity of the United States is unlike any other place in the world, but it’s almost impossible to fully appreciate it while reclining in your La-Z-Boy.

Luckily, national parks and monuments across the country welcome hundreds of millions of visitors every year to allow the tale of America unfold before them like a map.

And that can only mean one thing for those of us who haven’t experienced America’s natural beauty first hand— it’s time for a road trip.

From the West to the East, here some of the places you can go.

In the West, the land tells a story of an immense natural beauty and the indigenous people that called it home.

Some of the most ancient parts of this story still exist, such as Arizona’s Montezuma Castle National Monument—buildings shaped in cliff walls by the Sinagua people over half a millenia ago. Relatively close by is the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, a collection of buildings created by the ancient Sonoran Desert people over 650 years ago.

Roughly 1,400 miles to the north sits Washington state’s placid Silver Lake and the smoky view of an active volcano at the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. As you make your way from the south to northwest, you’ll experience the multitude of national parks and monuments housed in the great state of California.

In doing so, you’ll have a chance to explore lava beds, a forest of majestic Sequoias, and fantastical rock formations.

Another must-see spot is the geyser-filled Yellowstone National Park, which is situated in parts of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Established in 1872, Yellowstone became the first national park in the country and is seen by many to be the first in the world. Nearby stand the nearly 1,000 ft tall Devils Tower, Little Bighorn Battlefield where a band of indigenous tribes beat the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry, and the world’s third largest cave.

 

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On the east coast, the saga of struggle and progress is still alive in buildings almost indistinguishable from any other. Amidst the hustle and bustle of New York City, the Stonewall National Monument pays heed to the LGBTQ people that have fought and still fight for their freedom. In the same borough, the African Burial Ground commemorates the loss of both free and enslaved Africans whose graves were forgotten, covered, and uncovered in time.

Hundreds of miles to the south, in the nation’s capital, the fight for women’s suffrage is honored in what became the house of the National Woman’s Party.

Why these spaces need to be preserved

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What these monuments and parks reflect is the best of who we are and the beauty that the earth offers us, whether it’s through records of resisting African enslavement, through civil rights, labor strikes, or just some radically cool rock formations. But to maintain the best of ourselves and our planet requires vigilance and care.

That the current administration is considering using the Grand Canyon National Park as a uranium mine illustrates that, without opposition, the national beauty we wish to pass to the next generation may be irreparably marred. This combined with new challenges brought on by climate change, which the National Park Service has documented, make it increasingly difficult to ensure the preservation of animal and plant life in our national parks. However, we must remain invested in the maintenance of our planet and parks. Because that, too, is the best of who we are.