October 19, 2012

What National Forests Can Do For You

In addition to the National Parks, the United States of America has other recreational areas including National Forests. Continuing the observance of Earth Science Week, looking at National Forests will hopefully inspire people to experience them. Like with the National Parks Services, the U.S. Forest Services are important and treasured by all who enjoy their lands. All who experience a National Forest know the joy and entertainment they provide from hiking to camping to birding and gathering wood. And just about every state has at least one National Forest or Grassland (see the U.S. Forest Service Website for more information.).

What I love most about National Forests is the flora and fauna. I have spent hours taking pictures, drawing, and writing about the Natural World provided to me by the National Forests. Because they are less traveled than National Parks, a visitor can find serious quiet and peace in the National Forests that she can’t really experience in the National Parks.

I guess this is because National Parks are more well-known. I mean, most people cannot name even one National Forest or Grassland while, on the other hand, I would venture to say that almost all Americans can name at least one National Park. The fact that National Forests are the roads less traveled definitely make them appealing.

One does not experience the hustle and bustle of the National Parks when visiting a National Forest. And let’s be honest; a few of our beloved National Parks have definitely grown more commercialized. I’m not criticizing that, per se. I get it. Because they see so many visitors a year, some of the National Parks had to really reinvent themselves to handle all of the travelers. Of course, some of the mystique and nuance is lost when a National Park becomes more like a “National Theme Park.” I’ll still enjoy even the more populated National Parks over Disney World any day, though.

This development has not yet reached National Forests, and I hope that they are never affected in this way. A National Forest visitor might find herself lost in the Nature because it’s so vast. These protected lands allow people to get in touch with their inner wanderer. People can visit a National Forest, set up camp, and forage for edible plants and mushrooms. In many forests, people may find entire meals in the forests. No trip to Wal-Mart. No need to elbow their way through aisles of people. No need to decided between brands. Nature provides it all, and we can experience that in National Forests.

For those interested in hiking and fishing and backpacking, National Forests are the places to do this. Certainly, National Parks have all of these activities, but many others appreciate these (see above). Fewer individuals take advantage of the National Forests, so these activities become even more isolated and challenging and introspective. Just about any hiker can set out in a National Forests and almost never meet up with another human.

National Forests also provide protected lands for the fauna of America. From little, itty-bitty rodents to big bears and cats, National Forests have just about all of them. We can become a part of Nature in all its facets when we experience the National Forests. So, once you finish your National Parks tour, start checking out the National Forests. They provide an experience and perspective that few other recreational areas can.

Image Credit: Galyna Andrushko / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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