One Step at a Time: Moving On at Joshua Tree National Park

Click here to read Melissa Grego's essay about rock-climbing at Joshua Tree National Park—she gains new perspective during a time of personal and professional turmoil. Melissa writes, "At Joshua Tree, I experienced pain and fear and still reached places I didn’t know existed. I just needed to keep looking at things from different angles and recognize that I was not alone."

A Monumental Day of Blogging

In light of the Executive Branch of the government directing the new Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, to review recent monument designations, we’ve been reflecting on the essential value of national monuments within the National Parks Service, We prefer Parks & Points be apolitical, focusing on the beauty and importance of public lands — wonder and passion is what inspired us to start Parks & Points, and we celebrate public lands within the content we publish. But the present moment begs us to reflect more deliberately and pointedly, because these monuments are irreplaceable and essential. Losing them would be a misstep for our culture. The value we as a society place on learning from history, and on cultural understanding, feels to be in jeopardy.

Walnut Canyon National Monument, photo by Amy Beth Wright.

Walnut Canyon National Monument, photo by Amy Beth Wright.

On a recent road trip to Arizona and New Mexico, we visited seven different national monuments and one national park. The monuments were comparably breathtaking to any celebrated national park, though less crowded. In our few hours at El Malpais National Monument in New Mexico, we explored caves (we hoped to see a bat, though was not to be this time), lava fields, and trails — we photographed colorful spring wildflowers and enjoyed the land that “We the People” own and can enjoy. At Sunset Crater we marveled at the still dark and ashy terrain stained by volcanic eruptions centuries ago, and at Walnut Canyon we were struck silent by a six-hundred foot gape in the earth that nestles cave dwellings of the early Sinagua people. In fact, the one national park we visited on our recent trip, Petrified Forest, started out as a national monument. The monument designation is an important and critical step to securing land and preserving it for public enrichment and enjoyment — it has on more than one occasion been the point of entry to the NPS system, followed by a national park designation in more than one instance, including Acadia and Zion National Parks among many others. And we’d challenge anyone to find a national park that isn’t loved by visitors. Consider this — the Statue of Liberty is a national monument.

Cave open for exploration at El Malpais National Monument, photo by Derek Wright.

Cave open for exploration at El Malpais National Monument, photo by Derek Wright.

The national monuments that are currently up for review may not see the same number of visitors as some of their more famous cousins within the National Parks Service system, however these lands are vital to our history as a nation and sense of purpose as a culture. We’ve come to place in our history where our public lands are valued for different reasons by different parties. “Protected” is no longer an absolute. And now, as a culture, as a society, we need to decide whether to maintain our public lands for recreation, exploration, learning, and science or whether to cede them to private interests for resource harvesting and unregulated use. We hope you will join Parks & Points in urging Secretary Zinke to keep the designations as they are — the value of our public lands is too great to be in the hands of the few.

You can visit for more information, and to register your reflections on the importance of these sites. The federal comment period runs through July 10 and we do hope you’ll take some time to make your voice heard.

El Morro National Monument, photo by Derek Wright.

El Morro National Monument, photo by Derek Wright.

A Bittersweet End to April and National Poetry Month

Today we woke up and realized that we weren't publishing a poem, which left a bit of a hole after such an enriching month of reading and sharing poetry daily. Our April poetry series inspired us to consider anew the significance of public lands and moving landscapes from coast to canyon, and deepened our appreciation of public, natural space in a varied, surprising way each day. 

Do scroll through the series, inspired by National Poetry Month, and read the poems you may have missed — the whole collection is available by clicking here and the poems will remain on Parks & Points, within the Writing Contests and Submissions portion of our website. We will be thinking more so about ways to include poetry on Parks & Points before next April - a year is too long to wait!

Please note that our fall nonfiction contest will open in June, and we will be accepting submissions until October 1! Write about those spring and summer adventures! We cannot wait to read, and this year our contest judge is Melissa Faliveno, senior editor of Poets & Writers magazine. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the contest and for more insights into parks and points of interest! 

Parks & Points & Poetry

In April, we are celebrating the awe we so often feel in nature, on public lands, through a month-long poetry series to coincide with National Poetry Month. Click here to read along throughout the month; we will share the poems, featuring work by twenty-four poets whose work celebrates parks and other public lands.

Our series is edited by Celeste Hackenberg, and features poems by:

  • Phillip Bannowsky
  • Karen Berry
  • Joe Betz
  • Gary Bloom
  • Jeff Burt
  • Gabriella Brand
  • Ann DeVilbiss
  • Iris Jamahl Dunkle
  • Andy Fogle
  • J.M. Green
  • Mary Christine Kane
  • Richard Kempa
  • Joshua Lefkowitz
  • Jennifer Moore
  • Julie Moore
  • Kevin Oberlin
  • Kristin Rajan
  • Thom Schramm
  • Marjorie Thomsen
  • Kerry Trautman
  • Brendan Walsh
  • BJ Ward
  • Kory Wells
  • Tom Zimmerman

We wish to acknowledge our finalists:

  • KB Ballentine “Comfort of Solitude”
  • George Campbell, “I Walked All Day Upstream”
  • Jan Chronister, “Door County”
  • Anne E. Johnson “Dead and Alive in Turkey Run”
  • Jennifer Lagier “Moonstone Morning”
  • Leah Mueller “Glacier”
  • Ken Pobo “Climbing a Tithonia”
  • Lara Poulton, “Going to the Sun”
  • Alexandra Renwick “particles of your mud still flush my veins”
  • Elizabeth Spragins “Eventide”
  • Mary Ellen Talley “Whistler Campground at Jasper National Park” and “Lake Melakwa, 1973”
  • Paul Thiel, “Split Rock”
  • Tyson West, “Solstice Skateboarders Around the Salmon Fountain” 

Parks & Points Celebrates Its First Anniversary


Today we are marking the first anniversary of Parks & Points. The website grew from our love of national parks, smart travel strategies, and a desire to share our passions with others. Over the course of the last year, we’ve made many new friends (especially with our Twitter pals each Wednesday night during #ParkChat) and had many opportunities to meet new friends in person. In our first year we have traveled to National Parks Service sites in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

Along the way, we have met fellow travelers and shared our passion for exploring natural and historical wonders.  We have found folks who share this passion at hotels, campgrounds, visitor centers, trails and of course, waterfalls! We’ve added National Wildlife Refuges to our itineraries, and hope to feature these with even more frequency as we progress, along with city and state parks. We’re also proud to present and develop an annual fall essay contest and a spring poetry series, which is ongoing right now, during National Poetry Month. Both projects have introduced us to some amazing guest writers and their creative work about public lands.

We look forward to continuing this adventure with all of you. We are excited to grow the site along with your readership, and we look forward to presenting our thoughts and strategies for visiting our amazing shared public lands with an eye to saving money.

Parks & Points wouldn’t be the same without our friends and families. We are grateful for their solidarity as we carry it forward into year two!