I was recently made aware of Christina by Alan Spears of the NPCA. Christina, a mother of 3, decided to pack up the family and hit the road in their RV, visiting national parks and various RV campsites along their journey across the country. Christina reached out to Alan regarding her travels and how it took her by surprise, the lack of diversity in our parks. She wanted to express her concerns to the NPS as well as other park advocates. In no way has this dimmed her travels, but it bothered her enough that she wanted to make others aware of it.
Christina, why did you feel the need to reach out to the NPS concerning your observations around diversity in the parks you’ve visited? What was their response to your call?
I reached out to the National Park Service about their lack of diversity because I noticed the disparity and was sure others noticed it as well. I wanted to reach out to the source itself… the people who are actually in charge of promoting diversity and responsible for raising awareness about the parks so I reached out to each regional director head. My initial call of concern was received with welcome. Everyone has been nothing but helpful. They have all explained that they too have noticed this lack of diversity in the park system (both internal and external) and have made every effort to connect me with people such as yourself who are working to make a difference in that area. They have guided me and directed me and offered me guidance as far as how best to move forward with raising the issue of diversity in the national parks.
Of all the explorations you could have taken on with your kids, why an RV adventure?
My children and I are avid RVers to begin with. We camp regularly and last year we even took a two-month journey north into Canada, so when my job gave me 18 months off to finish writing my dissertation doing it across the country in our RV was a no brainer for us. Since we went north the last time we decided this time to head west. My kids had never been on the west coast and was excited to make the journey. We decided to take Interstate I-10 across with a plan to hit as many national parks along the way (we are collecting stamps in our National Park service passport book).
How has the experience been for you and the kids?
This road trip has been truly amazing for both me and my children. The places we have seen, the people we have met, the cultures we have experienced have been life changing. My kid are getting a hands-on, active, and involved education they could not get in the classroom and I am learning right along with them. Of course, we have our moments. Traveling with a 13yr old, 10yr old, and 6yr old in a 200 square feet there are bound to be bought of bickering but overall the experience has been amazing.
How many national parks had you visited before this trip and what was your take away from your visits?
We are very big fans of the National Park system and had been to 43 sites within the National Park system prior to this road trip. All of these parks were on the east coast so we have been extremely pleased to earn passport stamps from the southwest and west coast regions. Each and every site was a learning experience for us all. We really love the Jr Ranger program that we make sure to participate in wherever it is offered. We have loved walking/ hiking along the trails and scenic byways within the NPS. We are constantly amazed at how well preserved and well protected the sites are.
How familiar were you with our national parks, prior to your RV trip?
Prior to this trip we were quite familiar with the NPS. Growing up near the Great Smokey mountains I learned early on the value and benefit of these protected lands. We actually planned much of this road trip around which National Parks we would be able to see along the way.
Of all the parks you’ve visited, which has been your favorite and why?
I asked my children this as well so this answer is from all of us.
Christina: Kings Canyon to see the giant sequoias. I had never seen anything so mighty in all of my life. Those giant trees were truly amazing. The drive up the mountain to this park was treacherous, especially in an RV, but was so worth it. That park certainly put things in perspective for me regarding how small and insignificant things that I think are huge really are. Now I know huge and it was amazing.
Joshua (13): My favorite park was the White Sands dunes because it was interactive and the sledding down the dunes was really fun. Also Carlsbad Caverns were really fun and required a lot of physical strength to get through.
Averie (10): I liked the Sequoia National Park because of how big the trees were and how the pretty the snow was and how the mountains looked in the background.
Nathaniel (6): The sand dunes was so epic because you could sled all the way down, find a path to run back up and sled down again. It was the most fun in the world.
What message would you like to share with others who may be hesitating to do what you are doing?
The landscape of this country that we live in is absolutely amazing. We often think international travel is the key to being “cultured” and “well traveled” but starting at home… in your own back yard is actually the key to a well traveled person. What better place to start than the national parks that offer some of the most amazing, unique experiences. We have natural wonders of the world right here in our own parks and people of color do not seem to be taking advantage of this. I feel a large portion of the community is missing out on some truly amazing experiences. I urge everyone… plead with everyone to get out and experience this countries landscape. From mountains, to deserts, to forests, to caverns, and canyons. From historic places and the homes of historic people the National Park Service truly has some amazing things to offer.
What has the reaction been by strangers and family alike, to your adventure?
So far we have had a unanimously positive response when people learn what we are doing. Many express how they wish they could do something similar or are planning to do just that. The percentage is roughly equal between the positive reactions of people of color to non-people of color yet I notice a huge disparity in the National Parks, the RV parks, and the outdoors in general. I’m hoping to contribute to group of voices that are urging more people of color to get out and experience what their national parks have to offer. And not knowing how or where to start is no excuse. I’ve offered many times and I’ll offer again to be a hiking buddy, camping buddy, park tourist buddy as well as offer any advice and guidance (within the scope of my experiences) on where to start when exploring the national parks and the great outdoors.