Finding the slope of a national park

“Nature Nerd” Stover recounts her national park experiences


Ms. Stover

Stover and her mother stand outside of Denali National Park, located in Alaska. During the trip, the mother and daughter duo got to observe mama bears with their cubs, moose, caribou, and foxes with their pups.

Ms. Stover has been to 32 of the 63 major U.S. national parks, noting that her favorites include Glacier National Park in Montana and Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.

“All national parks are beautiful in their own way,” Ms. Stover said. “From Alaska to Hawaii, there’s so much to see.”

Stover recalls an unforgettable memory on one of her trips.

Stover stands in front of Kilauea Volcanoe in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii. Kilauea was the first active volcanoe Stover visited, noting that that crater “glowed” during the night. Stover also recalls visiting a spot where ancient petroglyphs were carved into the lava rock. (Ms. Stover)

“When I was driving to Yellowstone, we were suddenly stopped in traffic and didn’t know why. Then, we saw bison ride up over a hill and run through traffic out of nowhere. Just like that, we found ourselves in the middle of a stampede,” Stover said.

“All that was going through my mind was, ‘are we going to make it out of this?,’ because I’ve seen all these videos of people’s cars getting trampled and destroyed. This was one thing that would probably never happen again no matter how many more times I visit,” Stover recalls. “It was this incredible feeling, and I was so astounded that I couldn’t get any pictures.”

Stover noted that she takes her pictures with various types of cameras, including a Nikon DSLR, a Nikon Point-and-Shoot, and her iPhone. Stover prefers to use cameras with lenses that give her a variety of zoom levels. “I use a wider angle for big landscapes that has good zoom so I can capture details from a distance,” Stover said.

Although Stover did not develop an affinity for visiting national parks until college, her fondness for roadtrips stems from childhood, when she embarked on roadtrips to visit family.

“I love road trips,” Ms. Stover said. “They’re very relaxing and you get to see a lot on the way.”

When visiting national parks, Stover enjoys hiking and kayaking. If one feels the itch to visit places similar to a national park in Jacksonville, the nature-lover recommends the Jacksonville Arboretum, which features “clear trail systems,” along with Hannah Park and Abbey Park.

Stover overlooks Margarie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. The visit to Glacier Bay was part of a cruise Stover took to Alaska, recalling how vast the landscape was. The glacier-lover was also treated to appearances by otters and seals, some floating on tiny icebergs. (Ms. Stover)

Even the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t slow Stover down. “I still managed to check off a couple of national parks,” Stover said. “Last summer, we went up to Acadia in Maine and visited two parks. After that, we went to New River George in West Virginia.”

To Stover, having a goal in mind before embarking is a crucial aspect of the trip. “Once you’ve decided where you’re going, research the park because sometimes there’s going to be so much to do that you don’t give yourself enough time,” Stover said. The trailblazer also advises that travelers view the National Park website to learn more about precautions and attractions.

Why visit a national park? “Going to a national park is beneficial because it adds a whole new dimension to the way people look at nature and opens your eyes to what other parts of the U.S. look like. It helps you understand that even though we live in the same country, the landscapes are vastly different,” Stover stated.

Stover emphasizes that one does not have to travel overseas for the ideal vacation. “There is a lot to see in the United States, and there’s something for everyone to discover.”