A Fee Free Easter Celebration in Prince William Forest National Park!

May 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm 4 comments

A couple of years ago, Ryan and I made an accidental discovery– The U.S. National Park Service does about a half dozen “Fee Free Weekends” a year. Score! The Fee Free Weekends are usually to celebrate national holidays like Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, etc. They do this every year and you can even check the schedule to see the Fee Free dates in the coming year.

This past November, I had forgotten a Fee Free Weekend was coming up for Veteran’s Day, so I was quite happy when Twitter reminded me.

Seems like an innocuous tweet, right? Who could complain about free access to National Parks? Free hiking! Free camping! Free picnicking! Free views! Free fresh air!

Well, a lot of people apparently! I was dumbfounded to read all the replies to the National Park Service’s tweet. It was full of vitriol and bitterness and snide remarks. People didn’t realize “Fee Free Weekends” was an established thing, planned well in advance. In the absence of that knowledge, they assumed it was a motivated event, a bribe. They thought the Fee Free Weekend was an attempt to make up for the government shutdown in October, the one that forced the National Parks (and the National Monuments, most famously the National World War II Memorial) to close.

Hate for Fee Free Weekends
A snippet of the replies to Fee Free Weekend

All the negative-vibes didn’t stop the Sommas from having an awesome Fee Free Day at Prince William Forest National Park!

We thought about going to a playground instead of a hike...but it turns out we got the best of both worlds.  Sagan found this leaf-covered slope to be very slide-like.  :) Fee Free Weekend at National Parks.  You don't have to tell the Sommas twice.  :)

Fee Free Weekends Aren’t Sinister… They’re Fun!

So forward ahead to April. I was excited to recall another Fee Free Weekend was approaching. April 19th and April 20th were Fee Free to celebrate the beginning of National Park Week! This Fee Free Weekend was a lot less controversial on Twitter… but I realized it may pose a conflict in my family. Easter was April 20th. How could we do Easter AND take advantage of the Fee Free Weekend at the same time?

Well here’s a lesson for you. It never hurts to ask. I thought my mother would be vested in having Easter at the house. I thought she would have no interest in a picnic. But I asked anyway.

“What if… what if we did an Easter Picnic at Prince William Forest National Park instead?”

I found myself as surprised as I was about all those bitter tweets to the National Park Service. My mother LOVED the idea! Not only did she love the idea, she TACKLED the idea. She invited people, got all the paper plates and supplies organized, bought TONS of food for the event and handmade 40 hamburger patties the way my Dad used to make them– with delicious Lipton Onion Soup mix. I was just the idea person. My mother made the event happen.

And it was a great event! Everyone who joined us brought a potluck dish. In addition to our grilled meats, we had homemade taco dip, Watergate salad, broccoli salad (my contribution), homemade hummus, potato salad, stuffed olives. To celebrate Easter we had dyed Easter eggs. To celebrate National Park Weeks, we had s’mores! We had two visiting German high schoolers with us. They instagrammed their very first s’mores.

Easter 2014 - Burgers
Gone But Not Forgotten– Hamburgers the Way My Dad Made Them

Easter 2014 - Vicky Looks at Sagan
Me and My First-Born Son

Easter 2014 - Carl and Sagan Play Soccer

Easter 2014 - Ryan

Easter 2014 - Grandma Holds Smiling Dyson
Grandma and Dyson

Easter 2014 - Hannah and Milla Prepare to Eat S'mores
Instagramming S’mores

Best of all, when I was a child, Easter was a time to play with your cousins. Our kids are still young, but Sagan and Dyson are already getting to to visit with their cousin Lincoln– outside. In the beautiful, beautiful outside.

Easter 2014 - Lincoln Smiles at Dyson
Cousins Dyson and Lincoln

This is probably my most memorable Easter since I was a child and got baby ducks. It’s hard to top baby ducks. But Fee Free National Parks… that can come pretty darn close. : )

1990 - ducks @ grandparents' house  (by Vicky) - Louise, Vicky, Jordan, Adam - laying, kneeling - 445767648_5c4384954a_o
Flashback to an Easter Past. I’m Second from the Left.

P.S. The next Fee-Free Day — August 25th for the National Park Service’s Birthday. : )

Entry filed under: Easter, Prince William Forest National Park, Uncategorized.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. narami  |  May 5, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    What a lovely easter day!! Love the pics of the babies playing, it looks like they really enjoyed the outing. I would love a post of tips on how to handle babies for this kind of outdoor trip from you, I get terrified just thinking about it! πŸ™‚

    • 2. tgaw  |  May 5, 2014 at 6:27 pm

      An old co-worker snagged me on Facebook a few months ago to help answer baby/toddler hiking questions for a friend of his. Maybe I can find my reply and adapt that to a post! : )

      • 3. narami  |  May 5, 2014 at 7:57 pm

        New parents afraid of spending long periods of time in the grand outdoors, as myself, will thank you for it! I’ll be looking forward to that read.

  • 4. Britt  |  May 5, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    We had such a great time! Also a very memorable Easter for all of the Neighs! πŸ™‚


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