You know what the Grand Canyon is? It's a hole in the ground with a gift shop.
It's hot, it's dusty, the sun is too bright, and there are signs everywhere telling you that you will die.
Why anyone would want to visit a place like that is beyond me. My only guess is that everyone who ever went there was talked into it by someone else.
Visiting National Parks
Before we get into what national parks are like to visit, let me say something about these pictures, because when visiting national parks, it's important to carry a camera so you can blend in with the other tourists. The camera I carry has this "effects" button, like an Instagram filter or something. For example, there's this one black and white mode that makes it look like I take all my pictures in the 1930s.
This is useful if you want to see what The Grand Canyon would look like a hundred years ago if it were crawling with time traveling tourists from the future.
Invent some time travel anecdotes in case your camera gets stuck in this mode.
This is a person looking at a map. Looking at maps is a popular activity at national parks. People travel from all over the world to look at maps here.
Looking at maps is such a popular activity, the park just went ahead and installed a large map next to the gift shop. People come from all over the world to see it.
Sometimes they put a map at the top of a mountain. It might take all morning to get there, but when you see the map I think you'll agree it's worth it.
Another popular activity is sitting in cars. Pictured here is a typical vacation spent going to and from Yosemite National Park.
If you think that's bad, look at these poor suckers behind me. It's okay to laugh at them. They should have left earlier.
The thing about traffic is it gives everyone something to complain about, and plenty of time of time to complain about it. It also gives you time to figure out how to take your camera out of its 1930s mode.
National Parks in Other CountriesIf you're willing to forego driving and take an airplane instead, you might learn that other countries also have national parks. Iceland, for example, has an excellent set of maps along what they call "The Ring Road," probably because it's ringed with maps.
I had to use the men's room in Skaftafell National Park where I overheard an old man tell his friend, "I don't need to climb up another hill just to see another waterfall." Now there's someone who knows what he doesn't want.
So what did we do? We left the park, drove down this long, rough, 4x4 road, just so we could climb another hill and see another waterfall.
Hey look. It's Ansel Freaking Adams! Hauled that big tripod all the way up here, did you? Let me get a picture of that with my phone for you. There you go. Done.
Asking people to take your picture is a popular social activity. You know how in Hawaii, "Aloha" means both hello and goodbye, among other expressions of friendship? "Will you take our picture?" is kind of the same thing for national parks.
Everyone with a camera thinks they know the rule of thirds but most of them don't, not really. Not really really. If you want a good picture, hand your phone to whoever has the biggest camera on the observation deck and ask them to frame you in a Fibonacci spiral. If they say, "What?" yank your phone out of their hands and give it to the person with the second biggest camera. Repeat until you're satisfied with the results.
If you're lucky, you might get a good picture of you visiting the park sometime in the 1930s.
But probably not.