Every June, I spend $25. I have been doing it in the State of Minnesota for the last 6 years (since I moved here). For that $25 I have watched eagles soar before my eyes, listened to rivers run wild, met people from all over and watched the seasons change. What did I spend that $25 on - an annual pass to the Minnesota State Parks.
My family and I enjoy being in the parks and exploring. We have gone on hikes, had picnics, and camped. All for $25 annually - and guess what, I can go to the parks as much as I want. Camping is extra... but the memories are free. My daughter knows many birds by the song they sing, or the way they look. She has an appreciation for nature and conserving it for the generations to follow. We have seen trees formed in interesting shapes, paid our respects at Indian Burial Mounds, and been amazed at how water has carved out bluffs.
My daughter likes fly fishing, standing in water and trying to master the cast, and catch a fish. We have yet to be successful, but can't wait for my son to be older to join us. We have stood on the bluffs along the Mississippi and had bald eagles soar past us, close enough that we could only stare in awe at their majestic presence. We have had many discussions over what new trails to explore or conquering the "Five Boot" hikes.
In the future we want to try canoeing or kayaking. Most of the parks have geo-caching where you can borrow GPS units and go find hidden treasures that are left by others. The parks have done a great job of setting up great locations for the treasures that are a challenge and give everyone a sense of accomplishment when there are all found.
At the end of the day, we are all tired, yet relaxed from a day outside. We have gotten great exercise, spent time as a family enjoying nature, learned a few things along the way and marveled at all that being outside has to offer. In today's world of electronics, television, computers and ipods, I treasure those moments where we can explore in the woods. We all enjoy the quiet, the sounds of the wind in the trees, the birds singing and our time together. We have never left a state park wishing we had done something else. $25 well spent...