Friday, December 30, 2011

The National Parks Go Local!

AliciaThis past spring, I took a big step. Several big steps, actually.

I embarked on my first solo hiking adventure, giant backpack strapped on and hiking boots in toe, at Yosemite National Park in California.

Not a bad place to go it alone in the great outdoors. The natural features of the park are epic, whether you’re straining your neck staring up at El Capitan, breaking a sweat on Half Dome or exploring the astounding wonder that is the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.


Personally, the visual wonders did not stop there—they continued along every inch of the trails I roamed, every step of the Giant Staircase that took me to Nevada Falls (which was in all its glory following a rainy winter in California), and even the occasional bear sighting.

But of course, this isn’t a travel review. Yosemite is amazing—a fantastic park with a treasured history that is profoundly American. But the food? Well…the food left much to be desired.

I mean it was a bit of a let down after completing a day on the trail, with a lunch of GORP and Clif bars, to come back down—ravenous, mind you—find my way to a cafeteria or food vendor and realize I could choose between pizza and fried chicken. Or, in the mornings, to start my day with a breakfast of oozing egg concoction and stale muffins. Yuck.

More than ever, all my body wanted was some food. Some good food. I wanted a big salad, or maybe a grass-fed beef burger with some quality cheese and not a cheese-like substance. I wanted a southwestern chicken wrap, not cheesy nachos. I made due, of course, but it stuck with me. This was California, after all. The state is not lacking for good food.

So when Yosemite sent me a post-trip survey to reflect on my experience, I left rave reviews. Except for the food. I implored the National Park Service to do what it can to buy from local family farmers and get some good food to the hikers who need nourishment on the trail!

Perhaps they heard me? Recently, the parks went public with their efforts to leverage their impressive purchasing power to bring local, healthy fresh food to visitors. While there’s still a long way to go, the announcement is a critical step in bringing a better park experience to Americans exploring our national treasures. And that’s sweet music to my ears!

I’m already itching for my next trip to a park. I’m thinking Glacier National Park this time. Who’s with me?

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