Okay, I confess it’s an addiction, but as far as I know no one has ever gotten hurt in my pursuit of a fix. I will admit, however, that I may have encouraged an occasional roadtrip driver to flirt with the speed limit a time or two in order to reach a National Parks visitor center before their always-too-early closing time. And yes, I have been known to beg a park ranger to let us in to grab a cancellation stamp after the doors have been locked and barred. And I am guilty of trying to cram more National Park visits than humanly possible into a single day or extended road trip in order to collect as many stamps as possible.
I know, I know . . . .
I fully understand backroad trips are singular adventures that should unfold as you go, and of course National Parks are meant to be explored and savored. But yes, my compulsion has made me guilty of breaking these travel commandments for the thrill of a fresh rubber stamp.
I’m working on it . . . .
So what are these potentially-addictive National Parks Passports and stamps?
The Passport to Your National Parks program is run by Eastern National, the same non-profit organization that operates bookstores in over 150 National Park visitor centers. The program was launched in 1986 to encourage visitation to all of America’s national parks and to allow visitors to keep a permanent visual record of their National Park visits. Here’s how it works:
I had been familiar with National Parks Passport cancellation stamps for years, and I had even collected them on journal pages and National Park Unigrids (the official NP brochures) in my travels over the years. But according to my earliest stamp (not including the older ones I glued in), I bought my passport at Kings Mountain National Military Park in South Carolina, while on a National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History teacher workshop day trip on August 5, 2009. How can I be so precise in my recollections? It is because nothing has better recorded and proved my visits to these uniquely American sites than a National Park Passport.
So how do you get one of these legendary National Parks Passports?
Passports are available for purchase at Eastern National bookstores located in the visitor centers of National Parks across the country. For a mere $8.95 you can pick up a passport and proceed to the stamping station to collect your first stamp(s). You can also buy them online here, but then you will have to pay shipping & handling charges, and you will have to wait to collect your first stamp(s). In addition to the basic passport, there are a couple of variations. The Kids’ Companion ($5.95) and the Explorer’s Edition ($49.95) (my next purchase) are readily available in bookstores and online. There are also a couple of collectible versions. Jerry’s passport is the 25th Anniversary edition (which is probably available now only on eBay) and there is also a Civil War Handbook ($10.95), both of which were issued in 2011. As a Civil War buff, I especially enjoy collecting cancellations in this beautiful supplement.
I am sure you will agree that stamp cancellations collected in a National Parks Passport are the cheapest and most memorable souvenirs available anywhere. Although he does not share my manic obsession with collecting rubber stamps, even Jerry understands and enjoys having a record of his National Park visits. Ask him about the time I could not find my Passport and thought we had accidentally thrown it away at a gas station. He had to turn the car around and drive back to the RaceTrac in Jasper, Georgia, and watch me unashamedly plunder a garbage can in front of God and everybody. How’s that for an addiction-induced behavior?
If you would like to meet almost 7,000 National Parks Passport stampers who are even more obsessively addicted to this pursuit than I am, check out the National Park Travelers Club for the inside scoop on rare cancellations, master lists and maps, and even national conventions! Be sure to let us know when you get your National Parks Passport and tell us how collecting stamps became an obsession for you, too . . . .