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If you can’t visit a national park this summer as planned, here’s a charming alternative

UPDATED: Sun., May 31, 2020

By Timothy R. Smith Special to the Washington Post

Every year, I try to visit a new national park. When I was hired two months ago to be a park ranger in Montana, my plan was to visit North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park – which would have been my 28th – on the drive west. But then the coronavirus happened, and that park, like much of the rest of life, was shuttered.

Instead, I was pleasantly diverted by a charming little book, “This Is a Book for People Who Love the National Parks” by Matt Garczynski.

Nearly every national park receives a two- or three-paragraph portrait and a quaint illustration by Brainstorm, a design studio founded by artists Briana Feola and Jason Snyder. (Only White Sands, which became our 62nd national park in December, is absent.)

I flipped to Theodore Roosevelt’s entry, which has two bison grazing on verdant grasslands. “The seasons seem to bring a mood change to the landscape,” Garczynski writes, “with the brown prairie grasses turning a lush green in early summer.”

There are interesting nuggets: Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias, the largest national park, has a single glacier that covers more area than the state of Rhode Island. Ninety-five percent of Biscayne National Park in Florida is underwater, with colorful reefs abounding. The Channel Islands are often called California’s Galapagos, Garczynski notes. “This volcanic archipelago is home to nearly 150 plant and animal species found nowhere else on earth.”

My favorite feature of the book was a jaunty U.S. map of the parks, with perky little doodles of Half Dome in Yosemite, Bass Harbor Head lighthouse in Acadia and the redwoods in California. It’s just the kind of map to stimulate the imagination, and this is just the sort of book to start planning that national park road trip. Life will become normal again, friend. And those parks will be there waiting for you.

Smith is a park ranger in Montana.

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