Parks and Points Fall 2017 Essay Contest is Open


Our annual fall essay contest invites nonfiction submissions of up to 1,500 words in the form of autobiographical essay, reportage, profile, memoir, or narrative nonfiction. We seek essays that express a moment of significance — personal transformation, awakening, adventure, exploration, reward, accomplishment, revelation — that is inspired by or set within a park space or public land. Essays need not be about a U.S. national park—national forests, municipal and state parks, BLM lands, beaches, lakeshores, campgrounds, designated woodlands—and more—are great subjects. Also note that the writer does not need to be the subject of the essay. First, second and third place entries will be published on Parks and Points, as will the names of finalists. All entries are considered for publication. 

Winners will be selected by contest judge Melissa Faliveno, Senior Editor of Poets & Writers magazine.

To read last year's winning essays, click here.

To enter this year's contest, click here.

The submission deadline is November 1, 2017, 11:59 p.m. E.D.T.  


We have chosen prizes that we hope will support your impulse to travel:

  • 1st Place  $250 Southwest Airlines gift card
  • 2nd Place $150 Marriott gift card
  • 3rd Place  $50 AirBnB gift card
  • Honorable Mention awardees will receive a copy of the book Crown Jewel Wilderness, The Making of North Cascades National Park, by Lauren Danner 


  • Winners will be announced by November 30, 2017 and published on Parks and Points shortly thereafter.
  • Submissions of original and previously unpublished work should be no more than 1,500 words. Facebook and blog posts are considered “published” writing.
  • Upon publication all rights to written work will revert to the author.  
  • A $3 submission fee is required to enter. Multiple entries are permitted, but each requires a separate entry.

One Way Car Rentals are Back!


Like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano Mission, the rental cars must return to Florida for the winter. To help out this yearly migration, Hertz is once again offering one of the greatest travel deals in the USA, the $5 a day one way car rental.

A one way car rentals usually runs around $80-$150 a day, so this is a great deal if you're interested in road-tripping from one of select cities on the east coast down to select cities in Florida, for a fraction of what this journey usually costs. This is a phenomenal opportunity to drive the 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway and to see Shenandoah National Park during peak fall foliage season, without doubling back to your starting point, as the Parkway ends less than a 7 hour drive from both the Jacksonville and Tallahassee airports.

Florida airports in which you will have to drop off the car:

Miami International Airport (MIA) - Miami, FL
Tallahassee International Airport (TLH) - Tallahassee, FL
Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) - Jacksonville, FL
Lauderdale International Airport (FLL) – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Ft. Myers Southwest International Airport (RSW) – Ft. Myers, FL
Orlando International Airport (MCO) – Orlando, FL
Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) – West Palm Beach, FL
Sarasota Bradenton Airport (SRQ) – Sarasota, FL
Tampa International Airport (TPA) – Tampa, FL

Dates for Pick Up and Pickup Locations:

09/04/2017 – 12/10/2017

Albany International Airport (ALB) – Albany, NY
Syracuse Hancock Airport (SYR) – Syracuse, NY
Yeager Airport (CRW) – Charleston, WV
Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) – Buffalo, NY
Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC) – Rochester, NY

10/10/2017 – 12/10/2017

Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) - Washington DC
Islip MacArthur Airport (ISP) – Islip, NY
Portland International Jetport(PWM) - Portland, ME
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) – Philadelphia, PA
T F Green Airport (PVD) – Providence, RI
Norfolk Airport Counter (ORF) – Norfolk, VA
Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) – Baltimore, MD
Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) – Boston, MA
Bradley International Airport (BDL) – Hartford, CT
Burlington Airport (BTV) – Burlington, VT
Dulles International Airport (IAD) – Dulles, VA
New York City JFK Airport (JFK) – New York City, NY
New York City LaGuardia Airport (LGA) – New York City, NY
Newark International Airport (EWR) – Newark, NJ
Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) – Pittsburgh, PA
Richmond International Airport (RIC) – Richmond, VA
Westchester County Airport (HPN) – White Plains, NY
Blacksburg Regional Airport (ROA) - Roanoke, VA

10/23/2017 – 12/10/2017
Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) – Raleigh, NC
Douglas International Airport - (CLT) Charlotte, NC

Official Hertz page is here

"Back to School" Shopping Portal Bonuses


Four of the major airline shopping portals are running what has become a yearly “back to school” promotion. It’s a great time to get some easy bonus miles, by shopping now for items that you’ve planned to purchase for fall. Use these four portals for your everyday online shopping. If you’re interested in learning more about shopping portals, take a look at our quick guide here. We use them as a way to get extra miles buying things we’d otherwise purchase.

Here’s a quick run what’s available on the portals, with most of the deals good until August 18th, except for Delta's bonus which ends on August 3. See below for the details on each airline's offering.





You could end up with 8,000 bonus miles if you maxed out the promos, these are on top of the miles you are already earning through the portal and also on top of the miles from your credit card. It's a triple dip!

Banner image, Weir Farm National Historic Site, by Derek Wright.

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!