National Parks

Not an airplane, but a Pendleton-themed AirStream

Airstream Pendleton

It’s not an airplane – but this new, limited Airstream trailer is a pretty swanky way to travel – and a good way to support the country’s National Parks during their 100th anniversary year.

Airstream, the company that makes that iconic “silver bullet” travel trailer, has partnered up with Oregon-grown Pendleton Woolen Mills, creators of iconic blankets and western wear, to make a Limited Edition 2016 Pendleton National Park Foundation Airstream Travel Trailer.

It’s a good match. In 1916, Pendleton made its first National Park Blanket -in Glacier Stripe – and that was the same year the National Park Service was born. Pendleton now features ten parks in its blanket collection.

Airstream produced 100 special-edition trailers that include park-inspired Pendleton decor and accessories, including a queen size bed with Pendleton bedding.

Want one? The Pendleton Airstream lists for $114,600. Airstream will donate $1,000 to the National Park Foundation for each of the special edition Pendleton travel trailers sold. The National Park Foundation will use the donated funds to support priority preservation projects at Grand Canyon and Glacier National Parks.

All I can say is …. road trip!

pendleton airstram

Is that a national park in your bathroom?

TwinOil_finalLineup_061912

You may now have Grand Canyon National Park in your bathroom, Denali National Park in the kitchen and American Samoa National Park in your den.

Not the parks themselves, of course, but their scent.

In honor of National Park Week (April 20-28) the Air Wick fragrance product company and the non-profit National Park Foundation (NPF) have rolled out a new set of National Park Collection candles, oils, automatic sprays and reed diffusers with scents said to be inspired by “the unique flora and fauna” of six of the country’s national parks.

“There are over 400 national parks in America to discover and explore, each unique in its own right,” said an NPF spokesperson. The parks featured in the new collection “engage consumers and offer a variety of seasonal scents.”

Those parks are: Grand Canyon National Park, Hawaii’s Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, Virgin Islands National Park, the National Park of American Samoa (the only national park south of the equator), Denali National Park in Alaska and Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida and Mississippi.

While the NPF receives some of the proceeds from sales of the national park-scented products, at first whiff the partnership strikes some as a bit odd.

“With many kids content to not even go outdoors, much less experience the parks, do we need new efforts to replace real park experiences with idealized commercial substitutes for fresh air?” Kurt Repanshek wrote in National Parks Traveler magazine when the initial licensing agreement was made.

But the National Park Foundation hopes the air freshener line increases awareness of the national parks and “inspires families to experience the parks first-hand.” And Air Wick’s perfumers are confident they’ve created fragrances that evoke these iconic destinations.

Fragrance experts walked the parks, studied how visitors use and view the national parks and, using “headspace” technology, took air samples from the parks to capture the scent molecules at specific locations.

“We can capture a scent anywhere; a flower in the jungle canopy or the air sweeping over the alpine meadows of Yellowstone,” said Richard Koontz, home fragrance manager for Reckitt Benckiser, which produces Air Wick.

“Those ‘olfactive bits’ can be put on a map and reconstructed by a good perfumer,” global scent expert Roger Schmid told NBC News, “And if the work is well done you can recreate a scented trail that corresponds to the geography of a park.”

Koontz said Air Wick’s fragrance experts created “aromascapes” of the parks by using a mixture of scents.

“For Grand Canyon National Park, we worked from a headspace of an actual cactus flower, so we could be sure the final creation was authentic and true. The perfumer added a touch of citrus to make it sparkle, like dew on the cactus flower, cool marine notes to evoke the rapids in the Colorado River, muguet [Lily of the Valley] and a touch of white peach – just for beauty and harmony.”

Tropical plumeria and sweet honeysuckle were used in the aromascape of Virgin Islands National Park and coconut and island palms were used to evoke American Samoa National Park.

“These air fresheners are usually not that expensive, so the rendition could be difficult,” said Schmid, “But what is certain is that scent is linked to memory and can make you travel.”

If you’d like to experience – and smell – a national park in person, National Park Week runs through April 28 and a wide variety of special events such as birding tours, living history encampments, talks and walks are scheduled at parks throughout the country.

From Monday through Friday, April 22 to 26, every national park is offering free admission.

(My story about air fresheners that smell like National Parks first appeared on NBCNews.com.)

National Parks: Offbeat, unusual – and free

Some people have enough money to go everywhere they want. The rest of us enter our names in sweepstakes and contests in hopes that one day we’ll be the lucky dog whose name is picked.

In honor of National Park Service’s fee-free weekend  – today and tomorrow, August 14 -15, 2010, here’s a contest you can enter to win a trip to one of ten National Park ‘units’ around the country.

Statue of Liberty NPS

Courtesy NPS - Dennis Mulligan

The folks at Bausch+Lomb are hosting the “Inspiration in your Eyes” contest.  To win a trip to one of ten ‘inspirational’ places in the Continental United States (the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Great Smokey Mountains National Park, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, Glacier National Park, Waimea Canyon, the Columbia River Gorge, Colorado’s Garden of the Gods, or Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park) write up – in 1,500 characters or less – a story about a place you find inspirational and send along a photo.  Details on the Inspiration in your Eyes contest here. Deadline: 9/30/10.

Giant Sequoia - Sequoia National Park

Giant Sequoia at Sequoia National Park - NPS, photo by Alexandria Picavet

And for a little inspiration while you’re thinking about what to write about, take a look at my recent article for msnbc.com:  National Parks: Offbeat, unusual – and free.

The story includes notes about the country’s smallest and largest national parks: Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas and /Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, in Alaska; the park that’s home to some of the largest living things: record-setting Giant Sequoia Trees in Sequoia National Park, CA; and the battiest national park: Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, which is home to up to a million Mexican free-tailed bats.

Leave the airport, visit a park

Does a bear sh#t in the woods? Depends on which woods.

Glacier National Park visitors 1960

My Well Mannered Traveler column on msnbc.com this is week is all about What’s OK, what’s not in national and state parks. Even some well-seasoned travelers don’t know the ins and outs. But if you don’t check out the rules before you head off into the woods you can end up in a heap of trouble.

Wendy Peck of Winnipeg, Manitoba found that out at the beginning of her two-month park-centric visit to the United States. She had her heart set on poking around the national parks in Arizona and Utah, hiking and camping with Amie, her black lab.

“That plan quickly fell apart,” says Peck, who discovered that most every national park in the United States prohibits dogs on back-country trails. “We were usually restricted to asphalt views. It was very disappointing.”

But Peck figured out that many national parks have state parks just down the road that usually offer much of the same landscapes and more pet-friendly policies.  “I found that by switching my focus to state parks, that I actually had a better time. Far fewer people, much more freedom, and some pretty cool sights that most others just don’t see. “

Peck’s vacation was saved, but rules about what is — or is not — allowed in state and national parks have ended up ruining or mangling trips for many other travelers.

Want to avoid those surprises?  Here’s some advice from park officials and outdoor enthusiasts.

Bugs and bunnies, shorelines and cemeteries

Figuring out what is – or is not – a National Park Service property can be confusing. National Park Service properties around the country encompass 392 areas, or “units” with 80 million acres of land and more than a dozen different, and often confusing, designations.

Those “units” include 58 traditional national parks, such as Yosemite, Yellowstone and Bryce Canyon, but also about 150 historic sites and battlefields, as well as national monuments and memorials, national historical parks, national seashores, national parkways and national recreation areas, including man-made lakes such as Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam.

“Yes, we know we have some identity issues out there,” says David Barna, chief of public affairs for the National Park Service, “But you can divide the areas we manage into two piles: half of them preserve natural resources — bugs and bunnies — the other half preserves cultural resources, which represent the history of America.”

They may all be managed by the same agency, but the same rules don’t apply in each location. “There are places where a dog needs to be on a leash,” Barna says, “and places where that rule doesn’t apply.” Likewise, while personal watercraft (i.e. Jet Skis) are not allowed in the 58 national parks, those vehicles are allowed on recreational lakes and at some offshore national seashore areas managed by the park service. “It depends on what classification the areas fall under,” add Barna.

And then there are the seemingly site-specific rules. “For example, all boats entering Lake Powell [which stretches from Arizona to Utah] must be certified to be free of zebra mussels prior to launching. And in Maine’s Acadia National Park, visitors can’t bring firewood from home due to the threat of invasive insects,” says Dan Wulfman of Tracks & Trails, a company that organizes national park driving vacations.

How to navigate park rules

Kurt Repanshek of National Parks Traveler urges park visitors to study the National Park Service website long before leaving home. “Each park unit has its own website, but the content varies greatly. So don’t rely on that alone. If you don’t see information about the specific activity you’re interested in, make a phone call.”

And if you find the national park rules too restricting, don’t despair. It may just mean that a state park is a better match for you and your vacation style. “State parks,” says Shannon Andrea of the National Parks Conservation Association, “have less national significance and almost always allow for some form of active recreation such as bike riding, swimming, hiking, fishing, camping or horseback riding as part of their mission.”

Or maybe a visit to a National Forest is what you need. Myrna Johnson, a Boston-based outdoor enthusiast and urban open space professional, says National Forests “tend to be a little less traveled than National Parks and offer great backcountry opportunities for those who are looking for a slightly more rugged experience.”

Pay to play

National Park Service visitor pass

Whether you set out for a national or a state park, don’t forget to bring along your wallet. Of the 392 National Park Service properties, 130 currently charge some sort of entrance and/or amenities use fee. So consider investing in an $80 annual America the Beautiful Pass. There are some restrictions, but the pass covers a full year of entrance fees for a carload of up to four adults at National Park Service sites and at sites managed by agencies such as the USDA Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management. (U.S. citizens and permanent residents ages 62 or over can get a lifetime pass good for that same carload for just $10.) The America the Beautiful Pass won’t cover entry fees at state parks, but y states offer their own annual passes, which can be an equally good deal.

And it’s always a good idea to call ahead. National Parks have not experienced budget cuts this year, but many state parks have. So make sure the park you want to visit will be open when you show up at the gate.

(Photos courtesy National Park Service Historic Photograph Collection.)