Little Blue Books

By Abby Ponder, senior at Western Kentucky University and marketing intern at Eastern National

Your eyes dart around the store, taking everything in at once. Sunlight is streaming through the windows overhead, and the Visitors Center is bustling with frenzied movements and excited chatter.

Despite the crowds, and the booming voice over the building’s loudspeaker announcing departing tours, you feel grounded in place from your position in the park store.

Across the room, you can see a family of four gathered together, flipping through a children’s book on monarch butterflies with happy giggles and whispered laughter. On the other side of the room, near where you’re standing, there is an older man thumbing through a thick tome about the region’s geography. In the space in between, a school group is rushing between the various displays. Some are wearing Junior Ranger hats and clenching Junior Ranger certificates, and others are sharing stories and tokens with their friends.

You, meanwhile, are waiting for your friend to finish chatting with the sales associate.

You are tired as you wind through the shelves of books and rows of pins and magnets. You spent the previous day hiking through a number of trails before taking to the river in a kayak. Your arms are sore and muscles ache that you never knew existed, but you are still thriving on the adrenaline of the experience.

See, you want to get out more. You want to see the world and everything in it.

Ever since you were a child, the National Park Service has fascinated you. It is an organization dedicated to preserving history and conserving the environment. Furthermore, though, the national parks allow you to step through history and outside your comfort zone to see more of the country—of the world—than you ever envisioned.

Aching arms are more than worth it for this experience.

Your friend is still deep in conversation with the sales associate, so you glance at the cabinet next to you. Inside is a cupboard full of little blue books with a rainbow of colors along the sides: “Passport to Your National Parks,” the book’s cover reads in shining gold print.

You pick up the display copy, flipping through pages lined with organized splatters of ink stains. Looking closer, you realize the ink stains are actually stamps—and there are a lot of them. You glance up as you see one of the sales associates moving closer to you with your friend in tow. Both are smiling.

“I see you found the cancellation station,” the sales associate says, gesturing towards the cabinet with the little blue books. “Have you stamped your Passport today?”

You shake your head.

“Are you familiar with them?” the man continues, picking up the discarded display copy.

Again, you shake your head.

Your friend beams at you, rummaging in her bag. A few moments pass as you and the sales associate watch her dig through the bag’s contents before she finally pulls out her own little blue book. It is a little rough around the edges, a water stain on the cover, but it is largely intact.

Updated Passport

“They’re the coolest things,” she says.

This is your first time branching out to the national parks, but this certainly isn’t her first. She has always been an explorer at heart: ready to take on the world at a moment’s notice with a grin splitting her cheeks the entire time.

“Do you go to a lot of national parks?” the sales associate asks.

“No, not really,” you say. You pause for a moment. “I’d like to go to more of them, though.”

Your friend smiles encouragingly at you.

“Then this is perfect,” the associate says. “See, you can take the Passport everywhere you go. It’s this tiny little book, I know, but it contains so much more.”

Turning the book over in his hands and flipping to a page lined with bright images and circular ink stains, he says, “All national parks in the United States have the Passport. So, at each park you visit, you can find the cancellation station. Sometimes it’ll be folks like me, the ones working behind the counter, who will stamp it for you. Other times, like here, you’ll do it yourself. Regardless, at each park you go to, you’ll gather your own token, your own memory, of the time you spent there.”

Your friend is nodding along enthusiastically, “Yeah, and you really can take them anywhere because they’re so small. It’s the perfect way to collect things without having to find a home for the collection afterwards.”

“But what if you forget the book at home?” you ask. You’re forgetful sometimes, whether you’d like to admit it or not.

“You can always just stamp a piece of paper and staple it in later,” the sales associate says. “You never have to worry about a store selling out of them either.”

You nod, reaching for one of the books. It is wrapped in plastic, protected from the elements. It’s an appealing offer, you can’t deny that, but what if—

“I don’t go to enough national parks.”

The sales associate smiles kindly at you.

“That’s okay, too,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how many parks you go to or how fast you get to them—just that you go. There’s no right or wrong way to do it.”

He glances to the other side of the store, noticing the family of four beginning to make their way to the checkout counter. With a final smile, he leaves you to make your decision at your own pace. You glance at your friend as she flips through her own ink-stained pages, and you know that you don’t need time to decide.

A few moments later, receipt in hand, you make your way back over to the stamping station. As you turn to the correct page, following the tabs along the side, you come to the first page of your region.

With a satisfied smile, you lower the stamp onto the ink-pad before positioning it above the pristine white page for the first of many more stamps to come.

For more information about the Passport to Your National Parks®, be sure to visit our online store at


Millennials: What they Really Think of National Parks

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PREFACE: At E20150806_090329astern National’s (EN) headquarters office, we were fortunate to have an extremely bright, energetic individual as an intern this past summer. Jess C. interned in our Creative Department, which encompasses our Production, eCommerce, and Marketing teams. Her contributions to our department, including her work on special projects and initiatives and her upbeat attitude, made an indelible impression on us.

To support the National Park Service’s efforts to encourage interest and visitation of national parks by people of the millennial generation, we were very interested in her impressions of national parks. So, we sent her on a field trip to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, located in Elverson, PA, and asked her to write about her experience. What do Millennials think about national parks? Read on to find out:

-Andie S., Social Media & Marketing Specialist

For the last month of my senior year of high school, I interned at the Eastern National Headquarters in the Creative Department. It was really interesting to me to see how my interests, such as photography, can be applied in the real world. Lucky for me, I was offered a summer job to continue the work I had done in May. I’ve really enjoyed my time here, especially the “field trip” I took to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.

Prior to my visit, I researched the park out of curiosity: I had never heard of Hopewell Furnace before. To my surprise, I learned that it was only an hour from our Headquarters office, and that it was an important iron plantation during America’s early industrial period. Honestly, I’ve never been one for history (strange, I know, for someone who works for a company so closely related to national parks), but from the pictures 20150805_113557I saw, Hopewell Furnace seemed very scenic.

And scenic it was. Just on the drive there, I saw cows and sheep, lakes and farms. Already I was put in a good mood: I’ve always loved going on drives, and I was excited for my visit. When I arrived at the park, the first thing I noticed was the apple orchard. I saw tiny, organic apples growing on gorgeous green trees lined up along the hill. I parked, and proceeded to the visitor center. It was small, but the museum had a lot of information about what life was like during the time Hopewell Furnace was in operation. I watched a short video about the long, hot process of creating charcoal, after which I thought that it was nice to be living in the 21st century.

After touring the museum, I toured the rest of the park. The park ranger in the visitor center told me about a live demonstration of how the workers created the iron molds, but I stopped to check out some of the farm animals first– horses, chickens, and sheep. I was giddily taking pictures and talking to the animals as if they were children, and they wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. Regardless, I pet a sheep, and it was awesome.

I rushed over to the building where the demonstration was taking place, and arrived just in time to hear about how the workers created the molds for 20150805_110542the ovens. We learned about the workers’ treatment, pay, and lifestyle. Then the group moved to sit on different benches and we learned how the huge furnace operated. It was amazing to hear about the precision in the whole process, considering at the time, people didn’t even understand the science behind it. After the program concluded, I checked out the giant water wheel that fueled the furnace, too.

I went on to tour the rest of the grounds, and I walked up and down a path that led to a few houses that the families would have lived in. I stopped in at a charming little shop that sold items made from iron and wool from right there in the park.

Heading back towards the visitor center, I came upon a giant, black pile of earth; I’d walked in on one of the two yearly charcoal-making demonstrations. It was really interesting to see what I had seen in the video in the visitor center happening in real life. I was impressed with the volunteers doing the demonstration, considering I personally would never choose to do that long and arduous process even for fun.20150805_120756

Finally, I made my way back to the visitor center and watched a 15 minute video about what life was like at Hopewell Furnace. It was a great way to wrap up my visit.

In all, Hopewell Furnace was beautiful. Putting aside the fact that it wasn’t 95 degrees for the first time in weeks, I was happy to be there because I hadn’t realized what a beautiful place it was. I took pictures of everything I saw and the places I explored: I’m incredibly interested in photography and regretted leaving my camera at home. Even still, the pictures I took with my phone helped me connect to the park. There were so many buildings to explore, and with each site came a little plaque or a button to press and hear audio for information about where we were. I learned how the women cleaned and cooked, how men would make horseshoes for the working horses, how the families would stay in two room houses, and how the iron was made. The visit was so interesting, and like I said, I’m not even interested in history.

IMG_0110I think that when my generation thinks of national parks, Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon comes to mind. We don’t think to look up more local national parks when making plans with friends, not to mention we’re a generation of quick information and social media, so slowing down for a second and, say, having a picnic in a national park, doesn’t cross our minds. But – at least in my experience – we’re also a very visual generation. We take pictures of everything – ourselves, each other, nature, cities, and everything in between. Had I known about Hopewell Furnace before working at Eastern National, I would have definitely convinced my friends to visit.

My friends and I are always looking for fun excuses to get together and go places, but we usually look towards Philadelphia because, conveniently, there’s a train station just down my street. But, also conveniently, we live a half hour from Valley Forge National Historical Park and an hour from Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. The same could be true for teenagers across the United States, considering there are more than 40IMG_01320 national park sites. If only for a summer afternoon, a visit with friends or family to a national park is a great way to get outside, be together, and learn a little something, too.

My visit to Hopewell Furnace was incredibly fun. I always love visiting beautiful places, and to learn about one so close-by was a treat. Next time I’m near another national park, I definitely plan to visit and take pictures, especially if it’s a more nature-oriented park. And that, I think, is a good moral to take away from my visit. National parks are no doubt centered on the historic importance of the site or monument or park. But even a person like me who originally has no interest in the historical aspect of the place can enjoy their time, inadvertently learn about the park, and enjoy what they’ve learned. There’s something for everyone when it comes to national parks, and I think everyone – including my generation – should embrace that.

To learn more about America’s national parks, or to find a park near you, visit the National Park Service’s website. #FindYourPark


Passport Picks for Fall

Fall is a great time to experience America’s national parks! Cooler temperatures, beautiful Fall foliage, and a variety of programs and events are great reasons to grab your Passport book and experience the parks! We’ve put together this short list of events happening in parks across the system- check the National Park Service website to find events at parks near you.

Enjoy the last fee-free day of the year on November 11th. Many parks will hold special events honoring America’s veterans. Details here.


Star Party at Mojave N PRES

1. Experience Springfield Armory NHS and all other 14 Massachusetts national parks at “The Big E,” the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA, from 9/12-28. Details here.
2. If you’re a rock climber, you’ll love the Idaho Mountain Festival, 9/25-28, at City of Rocks National Reserve. Contests, live music, and giveaways will be sure to excite visitors. Details here.
3. Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act at Mojave National Preserve on 11/1. Mojave Fest 2014 will feature special programs, Native American crafts and ceremonial dancing, and a star party. Details here.

MABI Foliage

Fall foliage at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP

1. Behold the glory of New England’s Fall foliage at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP on 10/4, 11, and 13, for a special three-hour walking tour. Details here.
2. Calling all amateur paleontologists! Don’t miss National Fossil Day on 10/15 at Agate Fossil Beds NM. A special Junior Ranger badge will be available, and visitors can explore the park’s historic excavation sites and trace fossils. Details here.
3. Celebrate Sleeping Bear Dunes NL’s 44th anniversary by attending a Star Party on 10/21. Other dates are available as well. Details here.

1. Enjoy authentic Hispanic food, festive music, traditional dances, arts and crafts, and a children’s carnival at La Fiesta En El Parque, on 10/4 at Jimmy Carter NHS. Details here.
2. San Francisco Maritime NHP will hold a series of sea music concerts, on 9/20, 10/25, and 11/15, aboard the historic ship Baclutha at Hyde Street Pier. Visitors will experience the driving rhythms of chanteys and the beauty of seafaring ballads, for the 26th consecutive year. Details here.
3. Experience Brazilian Jazz at Saint Paul’s Church NHS on 11/6, with the sounds of The Janet Grice Trio. Details here.

1. A unique educational experience awaits students during Home School Day at Valley Forge NHP on 10/8. Rangers and volunteers will bring history to life through interactive learning stations and hands-on activities. Details here.
2. Kids will have an opportunity to learn to make Native American coiled pottery at Ocmulgee NM during a special children’s craft program on 10/25 and 26. Details here.
3. White Sands NM is offering a special program entitled Crafty Kids, on multiple days, 11/26-30. Rangers will share surprising facts about the creepy crawlers, amazing adapters, and out-of-this-world geology of White Sands while guiding kids through a take-home craft project. Details here.


Apple orchards at Hopewell Furnace NHS.

1. Experience chocolate as you never have at Cumberland Gap NHP on 10/11-12. Learn how it’s made and share its evolution. Sponsored by Mars Chocolate North America and American Heritage Chocolate. Details here.
2. Step back in time, and learn the time-honored tradition of preserving harvest time apples by making cider during a special event at Harpers Ferry NHP on 10/18-19. Details here.
3. Pick your own pesticide-free, organic apples at Hopewell Furnace NHS from their historic apple orchard, many of which are heirloom varieties. Early September through October. Contact the park for details: (610) 582-8773.

1. Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? Take a Ghost Walk with costumed rangers at Cuyahoga Valley NP on 10/11, on the rolling unpaved Lake Trail. Details here.
2. Pumpkin Sunday will be held at Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS on 10/19. The event will include hay rides, a hay maze, cider making, and much more. Details here.
3. Halloween Tales, spooky story-telling programs, will be held at Minute Man NHP on 10/25. A special, less-scary lantern walk will be available for younger children. Details here.


Battle Anniversary Encampment at Saratoga NHP

1. History comes alive at Saratoga NHP on 9/20-21, at the park’s Battle Anniversary Encampment. See what life was like in a Continental Army camp through special programs and demonstrations. Details here.
2. Commemorate the 234th anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain on 10/4-5 at FestiFall at Kings Mountain NMP and Cowpens NB. A special wreath-laying ceremony, musket and rifle demonstrations, and a dramatic presentation are planned. Details here.
3. Did you know? More than 5,000 African Americans served in the Continental Army. Attend this special program on 11/1 at Morristown NHP to learn about their valuable contributions. Details here.


Former NPS Chief Historian Ed Bearss

1. Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Creek with a variety of events, including cannon demonstrations, living history programs, and reenactments. Details here.
2. Living History Weekend at Andersonville NHS on 10/25-26 will afford visitors the opportunity to experience what life was like for prisoners at the infamous prison camp, through special programs, artillery demonstrations, and costumed interpreters. Details here.
3. Join former National Park Service Chief Historian Ed Bearss at Richmond NBP on 11/23 for a special presentation on the Petersburg Siege. A book signing will take place afterwards. Details here.

Passport To Your National Parks®: Enhancing Park Experiences Since 1986


National Park Week is a great opportunity to get started with the Passport To Your National Parks® program. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned national park traveler, there is something for everyone in the parks. As Eastern National’s Social Media and Marketing Specialist, I thought I would share my own personal experience and tell the story of how the Passport program and the parks have had a positive impact on my life.

I first learned about the Passport To Your National Parks® program in 2002, when I started working for Eastern National at Independence National Historical Park. I spent the beginning of my first day watching an orientation video and filling out assorted new-hire forms. My boss was kind enough to take me out to lunch, and when I returned to the store, I decided to take a good look at some of the products that I would be selling. As a ten-year retail veteran, I was enthusiastic about working for a retail company that donated its profits to support educational and interpretive programs in national parks.

As I perused the items on the shelves, certain themes were evident: the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and the Liberty Bell. It was appropriate, considering that the store was located across the street from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. As I made my way through the aisles, around massive stockpiles of replica Liberty Bells, books about Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, and souvenir t-shirts, I came across a small black display fixture and stacks of little blue books.

Cancellation StationI picked up the sample book, with the dark blue cover and gold writing that read “Passport To Your National Parks®.” I paged through it and skimmed some of the pages, which had maps and information about national parks. There were blank spaces in the book as well, which were labeled, “Official Cancellations.”

“What’s a cancellation?” I wondered. I turned back to the beginning of the book and read the first few pages, which explained the Passport program and the meaning of a cancellation. It also showed an example. I looked down at the fixture and inside a small cubby, there was a rubber stamp and an ink pad. I picked it up and examined it, and within a few seconds, it all made sense. It was then that I realized the importance of the Passport program and what it brought to those who collect cancellations and visit national parks.

Twelve years and 100 parks later, my Passport book has traveled the country with me, and has seemingly become an extension of my body when I visit a park. It has shared my ups and downs in parks, like the exuberant feeling I had when I visited the National Mall and Memorial Parks and was able to stamp my book with all the cancellations that were available. On the other hand, recalling my visit to Petrified Forest National Park, and the disappointment that I felt when I realized that I had inadvertently left my Passport in my other backpack. I had to settle for the cancellation stamped on a park brochure.

For me, the Passport program was something that I would have never even known about, had it not been through my experience working for a cooperating association. Before then, I had visited a few local parks, such as Valley Forge National Historical Park and Independence National Historical Park, and had gone on the obligatory eighth grade field trip to Washington, DC. But I never realized all that the national parks had to offer until I learned about the Passport program and started collecting cancellations. It has brought me to places I had never even imagined and has allowed me to learn so much about America– its history, its wonder, and its legacy. Here is a story about a national park experience that I hold near and dear to my heart:

“Who the heck is George Rogers Clark?” I asked myself as I steered the rental car down a seemingly endless highway in rural Indiana. I was being sent to George Rogers Clark National Historical Park by Eastern National in a business capacity to visit the site and to meet with the park’s superintendent. Vincennes, Indiana, was the epitome of small-town America, and was exactly what I had envisioned when I arrived. As I pulled up to the Visitor Center, it looked like any other one I had ever visited. I expected to see a few exhibits and interpretive programs, and figured I would be in and out of there in a few hours.

A smiling, enthusiastic park ranger greeted me as I entered the Visitor Center, and happily welcomed me to the park. I introduced myself and she led me to the park’s offices to meet with the Chief of Interpretation. I completed my business within two hours, and then met with the park’s superintendent.

We talked for awhile about the park, and he expressed his gratitude for the support that Eastern National had given the park since 1967, the year that the association had taken over bookstore operations.

65145641-155D-4519-3EB66591BA1D5C49-large“Would you like to see the memorial?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said. He led me out of the building and down a path. As we rounded the corner, a huge neoclassical granite behemoth of a memorial, as majestic as the Jefferson Memorial, stood before me. “How had I missed that?” I asked myself. It was surrounded by construction fencing, and scores of workers milled around the memorial while the sound of heavy machinery and rock dust filled the air.

The superintendent explained that years of drainage issues had caused considerable damage to the memorial, and that the steps were also being repaired. As I followed him up the steps and inside the memorial, he gave me a short interpretive presentation about the architecture of the memorial, the materials from which it was built, and the artisans who created the mural and statue in the interior of the memorial. At that moment, it occurred to me that the memorial was not just about George Rogers Clark, whom I had learned was a Revolutionary War hero. It was about the triumph of gaining independence from Great Britain, the pride of the local people, and the heart of America. It was enough for me to fall in love with the park, and I felt privileged to have had the opportunity to visit it. That cancellation holds a special place in my heart.

passport1498Each cancellation in my Passport book has a great memory or story associated with it, and countless others have similar stories to tell about extraordinary experiences they have had when they visit the parks. The Passport To Your National Parks® book enhances those experiences and encourages its owner to visit more parks. As I have learned more and more about America’s national parks, my park bucket list has grown astronomically, and with each park that I cross off my list, my desire and motivation to keep crossing more parks off the list becomes even stronger.

What are your favorite national park stories? We would love to hear them– please list them in the comments below.