SEQUIM — Over more than seven decades, from 1948-2023, Sequim resident Garland Frankfurth has visited more than 400 National Parks.
Along the way, he’s made stops at what the National Park System calls “units” — including those designated national preserves, historic sites, lake shores, memorials, monuments, parkways, battlefields, scenic trails, recreation areas, seashores and rivers — as well as official National Parks. (See nps.gov/aboutus/national-park-system.htm).
He said he decided to visit them all after going to Yellowstone and seeing the stamps you can collect in the National Park passports.
“I thought, wouldn’t it be something if we actually got 10 of these,” Frankfurth said. “Next thing you know, we’re up to 412 of them.”
Here are his impressions of some parks:
It was a chilly day in 2003, and Frankfurth said he had the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia nearly to himself.
Frankfurth said this park has some historical significance.
“Colonel Robert E. Lee arrested John Brown there,” he said. “John Brown had tried to lead a slave rebellion.”
The armory, which Brown attempted to break into, still stands to this day. Seeing that was a highlight of the trip, Frankfurth said.
The park has two major rivers that sometimes flood the town.
“When they flood, they flood high on the wall,” Frankfurth said.
Around 2006 or 2008, Frankfurth went to Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park. He described it as incredibly beautiful.
“We saw all these spires and their copper red,” Frankfurth said. “They’re just so fantastic.”
Frankfurth’s favorite part of this park was a hike he went on called Wall Street. He said it was a tight cannon with high walls.
“There was one pine tree that was growing right up and went way up,” he said.
The park is named for the horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the edge of the Paumsaugunt Plateau, Frankfurth said.
In 2021, Frankfurth went to Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona. He said what makes it interesting is that there is desert around, but once you get near the park, you are surrounded by forest.
Frankfurth drove up the summit and at the top were huge boulders. He said being able to hike through the boulders was great.
“On top, you can just see forever,” he said.
A highlight for Frankfurth was hiking and being able to meet different people and talk about where they are from.
A volcanic eruption 27 million years ago put down 2,000 feet of pumice and ash, which fused into the rock that is in the park, Frankfurth said.
Frankfurth said when he went to Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park two years ago, flying on a small six-passenger plane to get there was an adventure in itself.
“It was just glorious, flying over the keys,” he said.
The place was originally built as a fort but was instead used as a prison at the end of the Civil War.
Frankfurth said one of the more famous inmates there was Dr. Samuel Mudd.
“Dr. Mudd was actually a person who they felt was part of the Abraham Lincoln conspiracy,” he said.
Frankfurth’s favorite thing was being able to tour the fort and see where people used to be.
“That place is just phenomenal,” Frankfurth said. “It was very fun being in such a historic place.”
Frankfurth said Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is the largest in the U.S. and has peaks taller than Mount Rainier.
“It’s breathtaking,” he said.
A highlight for Frankfurth on that trip was seeing the Kennecott mines. To get there, he said his group had to drive on an old railroad bed, walk across a footbridge then take a van ride.
Once they got to mine, Frankfurth said they wanted to take a tour, which was given by two rangers, a mother and daughter, both from Port Townsend.
In the end
The last park Frankfurth visited was Hanford National Historic Park in 2023.
“On the bus, they gave me the microphone and I announced to the people … that this is my 412nd National Park, and they applauded,” Frankfurth said.
Frankfurth said when he visited the 412nd park, it was exhilarating.
“I try to talk everybody in the world into visiting these national parks,” he said.
In the future, Frankfurth hopes to visit six more national parks in Alaska and two overseas.