As the years went by, I gathered my stamps along the way. If my passport was not with me, I stamped a piece of paper and carefully tucked it away until it could be added. Looking through my passport, I can see that I had often left it home in the drawer.
In the beginning, I did not realize that the ink used for the stamp designated the region. Light blue for the Mid-Atlantic Region, red for the Nations Capital Region, then six additional colors and regions. So a few of mine are out of place. Mesa Verde is in the green Western Region instead of the gold Rocky Mountain Region. And green Redwoods is in the dark blue Pacific Northwest and Alaska Regions. When they were the only stamps on the page I really did not notice. Now, surrounded by the properly placed and colored stamps, they look very out of place.
My North Atlantic Region has a single stamp, Salem Maritime National Historic Site. The Mid-Atlantic has just two. The Nations Capital is completely blank. My last visit there was almost forty years ago, a decade before the National Park Service thought of the passport idea. My poor Rocky Mountain Region sits empty due to my mis-stamped Mesa Verde.
Being a native Floridian, my largest concentration of stamps is from the Southeast Region. It is hard to believe that I spent my thirty-plus year career working on the Space Shuttle on the Merritt island National Wildlife Refige and never added a Canaveral National Seashore until 2013. I can not recall the number of time I visited the Castillo de San Marcos as a child, and later as an adult with Scouting groups. Somehow I still do not have its stamp in my passport. My oldest Florida stamp is Dry Tortugas National Park, miles from the mainland. 2015 was a good year for my passport and I, with 18 new stamps.
Next year, for the 100th anniversary of the National Parks, I will be out there with millions of my fellow citizens and stamp collectors. If you happen to see me standing at the counter in a National Park, National Historic Site, National Seashore, or any of the other lands under the National Park Service, look for me with my passport in hand at the Visitor Center. Come up and say “hi,” and we’ll compare our stamps.