TWO YEARS SHY OF A CENTURY: Any person or place or landmark or animal or event or special, treasured item that reaches its 98th year should just be automatically feted in all corners, even by those who aren't necessarily close acquaintances. We'll call 98 years the better part of a century -- we're not too off in that, we hope -- and we'd also call it deserving of a huge whoop-di-doo. Consider that parties can taper off a bit, around the 97th, 98th, and 99th birthdays, if only because the 100th is just ahead and everyone is sort of storing up for the mondo blowout. But, honestly? Anything that requires almost five packs of candles -- twenty to a pack -- deserves the streamers and balloons and songs. Wellll... with one major exception: the national parks. Nope, we don't want to see neon purple streamers and tinsel dangling between two Joshua Trees, but we do love seeing those delightful fee-free days that roll through the calendar every few months. Monday, Aug. 25 happens to be one, and, as you might be able to guess, it's a big, big 98th birthday.
NOPE... not of Yosemite or Channel Islands or Lassen Volcanic -- as physical places they're a few eons older than 98 -- but of the National Park Service itself. The parks that usually charge are going fee-free for the day (and "(o)nly 133 of our country's 401 national parks usually charge an entrance fee," says the site) so that's pretty dang festive indeed. Also? It's still summertime, yessirree, which means that park calendars are lush with lively ranger talks, walks and a few special to-dos in honor of the 98 candles on the proverbial NPS cake. Ready to bid the traditional summer season adieu, ahead of Labor Day, with some trees, canyon, ocean, and sky? Oh, and by warbling "Happy Birthday" in the middle of a huge meadow? Okay. You've got the when, the where, and the fact that you're saving money.