Thursday is the National Park Service centennial, and we will be joining rangers in a day of art activities and other festivities at Crescent Lake.
My daughter Saskia and I arrived here Wednesday night as the sun was setting on the day, on our yearlong adventure, and on the first century of NPS operations.
Saskia quickly found children to play with as we walked across Rialto Beach. As they flung pebbles into the crashing waves and scampered away from sea foam, I wondered what sort of national parks system they will inherit. What new parks will there be? Will Glacier have to change its name? Will the Spruce Tree House at Mesa Verde eventually reopen?
As the sun slid closer to the sea, visitors gathered along the beach. A man was fishing. Several couples held each other and stared at the waves. some for an hour or longer. Children climbed on the enormous trees of driftwood piled east of the beach. All eyes turned to the sun as the sky lit up gold.
Saskia snuggled with me as the air started to cool and I told her the sun was going away. She quietly started singing "You Are My Sunshine," finishing with a crescendo on "Please don't take my sunshine away."
We both cried a little bit on the walk back to the car. I was sad because I couldn't take the moment with me. Saskia said she didn't know why she was sad; she just had strong feelings.
The moment is over, but I hope this experience still is there for Saskia when she is my age. I hope that back in Acadia the first place in the country to see sunrise Thursday's dawn looks as good as Wednesday's dusk. I hope that public will remains to ensure these beautiful places are safe from harm and accessible for enjoyment.
That's not as inevitable as the tide or the sunset.
Previous national park trip reports
12 Months of National Parks: A mother-daughter tour
12 Months of National Parks No. 1, Acadia: Small children love nature, but on their own level
12 Months of National Parks No. 2, Capitol Reef: 'People shouldn't be here'
12 Months of National Parks No. 3, Arches: Are national park rules too strict?
12 Months of National Parks No. 4, Canyonlands: The best fun may require a child's eyes
12 Months of National Parks No. 5, Biscayne: A threatened park claws its way forward
12 Months of National Parks No. 6, Everglades: Please don't spank the gator
12 Months of National Parks No. 7, Bryce Canyon: The $10 lifetime senior pass needs to end
12 Months of National Parks No. 8, Death Valley: The poetry of survival
12 Months of National Parks No. 9, Wind Cave: Drama unfolds in a quiet corner of the prairie
12 Months of National Parks: Bonus stop in Badlands
12 Months of National Parks: The error of rushing history in Boston Historic Park
12 Months of National Parks No. 10, Mesa Verde: A detour from the plan leads to floral delights
12 Months of National Parks No. 11, Great Basin: Miles of adventure fit in one little ring