2016 – The Year of the National Park Service

As most of you know by now, I am a total national park nerd! Having grown up in Philadelphia, I got to experience first hand the important role national parks play in the life and culture of a city. Frequent stops at Independence Hall, The Ben Franklin House and Valley Forge were part of my childhood, and I loved every minute of it. Each visit was a new learning experience, and I ate it up. That love has turned into a life long goal of visiting every nationally recognized unit in the park service system. I am about a third of the way done. However, considering how quickly parks are being added to the system, I may be back down to a quarter of them visited. What a wonderful problem!

As you can imagine, 2016 is a special year in my world. It is the centennial celebration of out national park system. All year long, parks around the country will be hosting special events in honor of this incredible milestone. REI has partnered with the Park Service on a fabulous campaign called #FindYourPark, which encouraged people to get out to the parks and discover their favorite. Since I have many parks to visit, I decided to set out in search of my favorite. How many parks can I experience during this incredible year? The checklist is set and plans have been made. If nothing else, it will be quite the adventure!

Welcome to Golden Spike National Historic Site! In the Utah Valley, Golden Spike is about a 90-minute drive outside of Salt Lake City. It is well worth the drive, I assure you. Here marks the spot of the famous golden spike, the last spike that completed the first transcontinental railroad. It is a moment that changed not only our country, but the world. You may be asking yourself “how did this railroad change the world?” Since trains was now running across the country, the difference in the time of day and the positioning of the sun became incredibly important. Thus, time zones were developed. It was a revolutionary idea that quickly caught on and was soon adopted by the rest of the world. So yes, this spot had an incredible impact on the world.

IMG_5876This board marks the spot!

My biggest disappointment on the trip was that I forgot my good camera. So please enjoy my attempt at pulling off some better looking photos with my point and shoot.

Several years ago, the park was gifted two replica trains. They are exact models of the two trains that were present the day the two sections of railroad came together. The originals were immediately put back into service after the festivities. As the train system evolved, changes were made to the trains to keep them in service. By the time they went into retirement in the early 1900s, the trains barely resembled their former selves, and they were not saved.

Luckily for us, the two replica trains run and function as if they were from the 1860s. So each day during the spring and summer, you can watch the trains be moved out of their hangar and down the tracks. Since it was still the winter, we were given a tour of the train hangar by one of the park rangers. It was awesome to see the trains up close as well as the work it takes to keep them running.

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If you ever find yourself in the Salt Lake City area, I highly recommend a visit to Golden Spike Historic Site. It is well worth the drive. Who knows… maybe this will be your park!

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