So in the midst of all of our Paris planning (we leave tomorrow!), we've also had to make a few decisions about at least one of other trips this year. Traditionally, we get the hell out of DC for Fourth of July because Tourists! Ew! and we head off and celebrate America in another way--we visit a national park. Last year's trip was awesome, and we decided to do another trip out west. Actually, we usually choose a park to go to on January 1st, but this year we didn't make a decision until a few weeks ago, for various reasons. I was really pulling for Rocky Mountain NP, and I thought it was a done deal, but then Yellowstone reared its head, and it was decided we would go there. Unfortunately, we were not the only ones who had that idea, and all the campsites for the Fourth were taken. So we decided on another California park--Lassen Volcanic.
Even though I've been to this park before, I'm still really excited about going back. If you've never seen a volcanic area (I guess I've seen four volcanic parks now), its definitely very striking. If the eruption is recent (like in the last 100 years), a lot of the trees are gone, and the land seems barren. But then you notice all the plants that flourish in that kind of environment.
Oh, but here's the sucky thing...they've raised the price of the National Parks Pass from $50 to $80 and they've given it a dumb name: the America the Beautiful pass. Granted, it now provides access to all other federal recreation areas (seashores, forests) that may charge a fee, but really, how many of those areas charge a fee? The price may be prohibitive, since we'll have to visit parks at least 8 times in a year, and honestly, I'm not sure if we can do that. They may have just shot themselves in the foot because I'm sure there's a lot of other folks like us that want to support the parks but don't want to be overcharged. Maybe we'll get it, just to be supportive, but I'm not so sure.