Don't Fall for Tourist Trap

I moved a lot growing up. Born in Illinois, I lived there six days, then moved to Maine. A year later came California, then North Carolina, England, Kansas, and Florida where we stayed the phenomenal length of six years. Whenever we'd get ready to move, we examined maps, checked out travel guides, and located National Geographics and whatever info we could get our hands on. After moving in, we'd explore on weekend trips, not wanting to find out after we'd left that we'd missed some interesting feature.

When we lived in Homestead, Florida, we saw all the tourist attractions--the Parrot Jungle, the Coral Castle, and the Monkey Jungle where the humans are caged and the monkeys run wild. It was only 5 miles from the high school, and I got a free pass every year just by paying for at least one of the Yankee visitors we'd invariably have on New Year's Day.

Many of my friends thought hanging out at a backyard tourist lure was totally lame. They would, however, travel hundreds or thousands of miles and visit some other attraction. It's a tourist NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) effect. As long as it was visited while on vacation, then it wasn't lame. Here in Fort Collins, we have Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) in our backyard, yet I know people who have never been there, refusing to waste their time on "standard tourist stuff." Of course, after returning from a week or two off, they always regale with stories and bore with pictures about Disney World or the largest prairie dog in Kansas or elk in Glacier National Park.

However, I've fallen into the same tourism trap. We go to RMNP two or three times a month all year long, yet I still haven't taken full advantage of that magnificent back yard. Last year, we took a week-long trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. At the first campground, Karen saw a sign about the evening campfire talk and wanted to go. She was not bored at all during the talk about taking pictures with Kodak (TM) film so we went to a campfire talk every night that trip, learning about natural history, biology, and geology.

A couple weekends ago, we went up to RMNP for a break-in-the-camper overnight. Karen asked if there was a campfire talk. We've never been to one here. It was about the history of the Park Service which could have been boring but the interpretive ranger (we learned about all the different types) entertained well. LaShelle Lyman teaches high school math and computer science and spends summers in Rocky Mountain, "the best place in the world" she read from a journal of her first year. She showed slides, gave a short ground squirrel puppet show, exited to wake up John, an old Ranger from Yosemite who spoke about a typical work day of the 1920s (LaShelle wearing an outdated uniform and plastic handlebar mustache), and ended by getting everyone to sing America the Beautiful, "except for you folks out there visiting from other countries." Checking out the next day, I noticed some of the children's story times are at 7:30, so we could see those and still get home at 10:00 without camping.

It took a trip away from home for me to appreciate some more of what our backyard national park and international biosphere preserve has to offer. Living here for ten years allowed me to slowly devolve into one of those NIMBYs who only takes advantage of tourist stuff while touring. I'll have to watch that in the future.