Teacher Journeys through the National Parks

By J1 Reporter Matilda Lang

Most students forget that teachers have a life outside of school. Whether you panic and sprint down a different aisle when you spot a teacher at Target or maybe you stop them to say hi, it is a surprise to say the least. One of the teachers you will definitely not be running into (unless you are at one of the more than 60 national parks) is Mr. Nick Miller.

Mr. Miller, a chemistry and physics teacher, takes summer vacations to an entirely whole new level. He and his wife have an ambitious goal to travel to as many national parks as possible, as well as national monuments. According to Mr. Miller, “The National Park Service (NPS) that manages national parks also manages national monuments, but there are many other designations as well.”

 When asked how many he has traveled to, he smiled, laughed and said, “to be honest I have lost track, I think somewhere in the teens for sure and somewhere in the forties for national monuments.” He said it is definitely getting harder to visit all the NPS sites when more and more are being added to the list of qualified parks and monuments. 

Mr. Miller’s wife does all the planning for these adventures. They are both teachers and look forward to hitting the road and relaxing from a hectic school year. These trips can take a few weeks, even up to a month at a time for them to finish exploring all that the NPS sites have to offer in a summer. A lot of research goes into planning these trips; even tiny details like getting an oil change, packing their hiking gear and road trip snacks all need to be remembered. 

Miller has come to discover all the tricks and trades that accompany all things NPS. He definitely has advice he would give to those first starting out exploring the parks. “It is important to research the park you are visiting. Some require some sort of day pass that can be sold out quickly. It varies from park to park. Some passes need to be booked out as early as six months ahead, while others only need two weeks,” Miller said. The booking ensures that the park does not become overpopulated, so all the visitors can enjoy their NPS site experience. 

The Miller couple has also shifted their camping choice. They started out by pitching a tent and now pump up an air mattress that fits in their car instead. Miller also pointed out that being inside their vehicle ensures bear safety, especially with their food. It is still crucial to keep food in bear boxes due to bears being able to locate the food source within their car. This is one of the tricks they have learned since they have started their NPS site journey. Miller stresses the importance of the safety that is needed to have a fun and safe visit. He suggests to listen to the rangers and make sure to put some time into researching all desired activities. 

Science teacher Mr. Nick Miller’s National Park and national monument bulletin board

The Millers trek across the country visiting NPS sites, began about six years ago. They enjoy researching their destinations and have learned so much about what to bring and what not to bring, and are able to learn first hand about so many beautiful places. 

At each park they enjoy collecting junior ranger certifications when they complete a variety of qualification activities. They get to travel together and get to know even more about nature and its many wonders that are found in the national parks. 

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