I spent a good amount of time inside yesterday working on my computer, catching up on all sorts of stuff that needed attention. It was a gorgeous day, and I kept looking out the window wishing I could go outside. By late afternoon, I was done with what I needed to do and headed out for some much-needed fresh air. I decided it would be nice to take a hike around Theodore Roosevelt Island, a small national park situated in the middle of the Potomac River between Virginia and DC.
The park was filled with people taking advantage of the gorgeous weather, and I saw several kayakers in the Potomac surrounding the little island. On the way to the park, I saw several bikers and runners on the path that runs alongside the George Washington Parkway, which is also part of the national parks system (it's actually pretty gorgeous as far as parkways go, with lots of nice stops off of it).
While I was enjoying the park setting, I recalled that a couple of days earlier, I heard a story on the radio about how attendance in the U.S.'s national parks has dropped dramatically in the past couple few years. Today I found a National Park Services report dated March 17, 2007 indicating that the decline was not even across the entire country -- DC, Alaska and the Southeast have actually shown an increase in number of visitors, while other areas of the country showed a decline of around 1 million visitors in the past couple of years.
They aren't sure why this is the case, but one of their theories is that people just don't have the time for long vacations. This could definitely be a contributing factor. According to an annual survey by Expedia, not only do Americans earn fewer vacation days than any other developed nation, we also leave more days unused, leaving us the most vacation-deprived.
Our national parks are an incredible resource, and I highly recommend visiting them. Being outdoors has so many benefits for the body, mind and spirit. Even if you don't have a lot of vacation time, you can likely find a national park near you that you can visit in just one day or afternoon. You can find a part near you by searching the National Park Services' website.