Greetings from Shenandoah National Park!
As a summer intern in Washington D.C. working with NPCA, I got several opportunities to drive down to Shenandoah and experience my first eastern park (I'm a native West Coast-er) in many different ways. I drove along Skyline Drive with other NPCA interns as a storm brewed over the hills. I hiked solo up to Mary's Rock to ogle the panoramic view of the Shenandoah Valley. I went backpacking with friends at Mathew's Arm, leading to lots of muscle pain, laughter, and a night in the woods I'll never forget. But my most memorable Shenandoah experience this summer was talking to park staff, advocates, and experts as part of my internship project about the challenges Shenandoah faces from a warming climate. From them, I learned about creatures I didn't get a chance to see for myself, but still call the park home, and what warmer temperatures could mean for them. The Shenandoah salamander, for instance, can be found in a 2 square mile area of the park, and nowhere else on Earth. Because it can live only at high elevations, it will have nowhere to go if its native streams become too warm for it to survive there. The brook trout, the only trout species native to Virginia and a keystone species for the ecosystem, is also threatened by warming waters. As the capstone for my internship, I wrote about what this fish means to both the park and the neighboring communities. That story is now featured on the NPCA blog: https://www.npca.org/articles/1611-do-brook-trout-have-a-future-in-shenandoah ... I am grateful to NPCA for giving me the chance to get to know Shenandoah National Park so well and from so many different angles. I hope that in doing my small part to raise awareness about some of the unique challenges facing the park as a result of our actions, I can help ensure that the park and all its wildlife will survive and thrive for future generations to enjoy.
P.S. I support the parks because… National parks represent America's heritage. They also offer so many opportunities to us today, from hiking and camping to wildlife watching and simply being in wilderness, that we couldn't get on the same level any other way. The national parks materially improve our quality of life as Americans and our connection to the land we call America.