Do you enjoy visiting America's National Parks? Have you ever thought about visiting all of them? Not just the big ones mind you, but all of the areas administered by the National Park Service. As of this past March, there are now 401 of them.
If you love visiting national parks both big and small, mountains and valleys, deserts and rivers, natural and historic, then you just might already be a member of the National Park Travelers Club. The NPTC originally grew out of a simple internet message board community for people who were inspired by Eastern National's Passport to Your National Parks program to try and visit as many of the areas of the U.S. National Park System as possible. Members would share trip reports with each other on their visits to the national parks, including what to see and do at each park, and especially where to find those Passport cancellation stamps.
It wasn't long before in 2003 a small group of them got together for a meet-up at the Millbrook Village Unit of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and thus the first annual Convention was born. The next year, a larger group gathered at Rocky Mountain National Park, and produced the first charter for a National Park Travelers Club. The rest, as they say, is history.
Among the services the Club provides to its Members are a Master List, a Google Earth-based Master Map, and finally, an online Master Database of all Passport stamp locations, along with ways for Members to keep track of which stamps they have collected. Our message boards are still an active source of trip reports on what to see and do in the parks, and with so many national park enthusiasts around, they are also a great place to ask some questions for trip advice for planning a trip as well.
The Club also offers a number of awards to recognize members for their travels to the national parks. For example, the Club is currently offering a special Civil War 150th Award to Members who visit a national park site on the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War events with which the park is associated, while our "Master Traveler Awards" recognize members for how many Passport stamps they collect in one calendar year. Perhaps our most-prominent awards are our Lifetime Achievement Awards. Among these are our Bronze, Silver, and Gold Lifetime Achievement Awards for having visited at least 100, 200, or 300 national parks during one's lifetime, respectively. The Club's highest honor is the Platinum Lifetime Achievement Award for visiting all the national parks in the United States at that time. The Club has recognized 26 people who have identified to us that they have completed that remarkable achievement!
Even with all the awards, however, meeting each other and sharing our love for the parks is still in the Club's DNA. This year, on the first weekend of June, nearly 40 of our Members gathered together to mark the establishment of the first national park in the "First State" - the aptly named, First State National Monument. The members who came together on this random Saturday morning enjoyed a tour of the historic New Castle Courthouse, where Delaware officially seceded from both England and from Pennsylvania, and afterwards they gathered for lunch and story-sharing at nearby Jessop's Tavern & Colonial Restaurant.
This summer, however, the NPTC Members will be gathering en masse at Shiloh National Military Park for our 11th Annual Convention. A full weekend of events is planned, including Ranger programs at both the Corinth, Mississippi and Shiloh, Tennessee units of the park. Along the way, members will also be gathering at several of the nearby national parks as well, including Ranger programs at the Natchez Trace Parkway, and guided tours of two of the smallest national parks, Tupelo National Battlefield and Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site. A full list of Convention Events can be found here and if you would like to join us, our online registration form is here. In order to view the convention registration information, you need to first sign-up for a free online account with NPTC here. The NPTC Convention is open to the public, and membership in the NPTC is not required. You can learn all about the National Park Travelers Club, and become a member, by visiting our website at www.parkstamps.org.
*Shiloh National Military Park, photo by Brian Bailey