Ideas for getting caregivers and seniors outside this National Park Month
We are blessed in Washington state to have not only ample outdoor space to roam around, but 3 beautiful national parks that people come from around the world to visit.
Outdoor spaces became even more of a haven during the pandemic, which is why we need to celebrate them and honor our public lands. July is National Park Month and Recreation Month, which serves as an occasion to highlight perks of our public lands.
Here are some tips and ideas for getting seniors and their caregivers outside and on National Park trails this month and the rest of the summer.
The diversity of Washington's national parks
Here in Washington state, we boast 3 diverse national parks. Each one has its own highlights and beauty.
National parks are great places to take elderly parents on vacation. Visiting a national park is also a chance for their caregiver to get a break from the every day routine.
On the mainland, there’s the North Cascades National Park. High mountain peaks and hundreds of glaciers make for a dramatic landscape. Ross Lake sits at a lower elevation of the park, with trails circumnavigating the lake.
It’s a place where mountain climbers come to summit peaks and backpackers from around the world hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
And, fun fact, there's no entrance fee.
Then there’s Olympic National Park on the peninsula, a lush and diverse landscape. And of course, Mount Rainier National park, with the iconic mountain that appears in most any view in western Washington.
Which national park is for you?
Mountains? There are plenty. From the Cascades to the Olympics, we’re surrounded by mountains in the Seattle area.
Beaches? The question is picking which one. There’s the sound, lakes and several rivers to dip your toes in or hang out by.
Here are some ideas for taking your elderly parent through the national parks:
North Cascades National Park-
You can take a boat up Lake Chelan to Stehekin, which borders the park. There’s even a hotel and restaurant, great for watching the through-hikers set their packs down, pick-up mail from the tiny post office, and eat from a plate.
There’s also a hotel to stay at in Stehekin! And don’t miss the most delicious bakery for miles- the Stehekin Pastry Company, which is a short drive from the tiny town.
You can also drive the North Cascades Scenic Byway, which cuts through the middle of the park. Be sure to stop at the Diablo and Ross Lake Dam overlooks!
Olympic National Park-
If you’re looking for lush rainforest and a classic Pacific Northwest landscape, look no further. This one is my personal favorite for this reason!
You can drive up to Hurricane Ridge and gaze at the miles of high-alpine peaks in almost every direction. Or, drive along the coast and stop at one of the dozens of miles of wild beaches, such as Mora Beach or Kalaloch. You can find more details about these spots here.
Rainier National Park-
We all know Mount Rainier, or Tahoma as it was called for time immemorial, as the towering backdrop in western Washington.
The Stratovolcano is over 500,000 years old, and offers a point of reference anytime you see it in the region. Most of the park has been designated as wilderness.
The Longmire area has a handful of easier hikes with short distances. You can see the National Park Service’s short guide here.
You can also take the White Pass Scenic Byway, which passes by three major mountain peaks and climbs to the drier side in eastern Washington. You can find more about the scenic byway here.
If you’re really ambitious and want to make up for lost time this past year and a half, you could visit all three!
Seniors can buy an America the Beautiful lifetime pass for $80. Buy it HERE.
Get ready for your trip, or travel from home
Get educated on the national park you plan to visit.
What is the Native history? Native tribes like the Puyallup around Tahoma were the original caretakers of these places for centuries and centuries before white settlers even stepped foot on the land.
What flora and fauna can you expect to see? Each park has a unique ecosystem. Black bears might frequent all of our state’s national parks, but only from Olympic National Park can you see ocean wildlife like whales, dolphins and sea otters.
Olympic National Park also serves as a refuge for many species with its old growth forests. Wolverines and bobcats have been documented in the North Cascades. Pika are common there. Scientists are working to restore the Pacific Fisher to their native habitat in Mount Rainier National Park.
The more you can learn with your elder about these natural areas before your park visit, the more you’ll pay attention and pick out things you normally wouldn’t.
And it’s always fun to show off a little nature trivia to whoever you're travelling with.
Other outdoor activities for seniors and their caregivers
Maybe you’re not in the mood for a road trip and don’t want to venture too far away. If you’re looking for ways to stay closer to home, check out our SeaCare blog on senior travel tips.
Summer is glorious, yet short in the PNW, so don’t miss out on the comfortable weather while we have it. Getting outside and absorbing vitamin D makes us all healthier.
Here’s a list of reasons why 2021 will be a better year for us all, with healthy lifestyle trends as one of the top reasons.
Are you a caregiver planning a trip and need some respite care while you’re away? Find out what your options are by calling a SeaCare member today.
Megan Marolf writes about senior topics and outdoor recreation from her home base in Seattle. You can read more about her here.
If you or a loved one you know are looking for additional support during this time and are interested in scheduling a free in-home assessment, please contact SeaCare In-Home Care Services today! A SeaCare family member is standing by. 425-559-4339.