Beverly and Dr. Scott Williamson, National Park Explorers
In 2005, Beverly and Scott became Kansans after more than two decades of professional activity and community service in North Texas. The couple has two adult children.
In Texas, Beverly worked as a registered dietitian and founded a program providing services for families with at-risk infants. She established successful fundraisers for the community food bank, led the Wichita Falls Texas Junior League and coached her son’s soccer team.
Scott, a family physician, used his training in child development to direct clinics for children with disabilities. Dr. Williamson initiated a hospital humor cart and founded the hospital’s wound care center. For nearly a decade, he was co-medical director of the nationally known Hotter’N Hell 100 bicycle ride, and he published research on the causes of exertional muscle cramps.
Lifelong lovers of nature, Beverly and Scott founded and operated River Bend Nature Center in 1991 in Wichita Falls, Texas to offer outdoor education for school children and “edu-tainment” for all ages. Beverly served as director of the center while Scott served at her beck and call until their move to Kansas.
After moving to Kansas, Beverly opened two businesses, Cartridge Depot and DocInk. Cartridge Depot Kansas City provides supplies and maintenance services for printers, fax machines, postage meters, and multifunction printing machines. DocInk offers printer repair services.
Dr. Williamson practices family medicine at Arbor Creek Family Care in Olathe, Kansas and gardens. He offers stories and thoughts on an erratic basis at DoctorWilliamsonWrites.com
On a quest to see as many national parks as possible, Beverly and Scott Williamson visited two of America’s lesser known national parks last summer, Isle Royale in Michigan, and Voyageurs, in Minnesota.
We were curious to learn more about the Williamson’s travel passion and have them share their experiences at two of the nation’s least-visited national parks.
The Jones: What inspires you to travel?
The Williamsons: We are inspired to travel by the awe-inspiring variety and beauty of the natural world; by curiosity about how people live and work in different places; by the connection we feel when we see or touch places our forefathers have seen and touched. (Or it could be the desire to get to a cooler place during a very hot summer.)
Have you always enjoyed travel? What contributed to your love of travel?
The Williamsons: We’ve always wanted to travel, but were not able to do so. (Wasn’t it John Lennon who said “life is what happens while you are making other plans?”)
Scott: I suspect the joys of the classic summer family vacations we took when I was a kid made travel seem like something very special.
Beverly: I did not travel much as a child, so when I did travel it was so exciting.
The Williamsons: The next one! Or, if you are going to twist our arms, we love Southern Colorado. It is less crowded and so varied — and we grew up there. Scott, a history loving kid who won’t grow up, has a real soft spot for Williamsburg, Virginia and Disney World.
What destination surprised you the most, either good or bad?
The Williamsons: The Badlands and the Black Hills of South Dakota. We dismissed it as nothing more than Mount Rushmore. We were so wrong. Hiking the Badlands was like a trip to the moon. Beautiful drives, wildlife, an historic old fish hatchery in Spearfish, there was something interesting around every curve in that part of the country.
Bad? Other than that trip to see championship fiddlers play in a small Oklahoma town only to find the fiddlers didn’t show and the natives were not friendly, I can’t think of anything. (“Bad” trips often make the best memories.)
Why do you think travel is important?
Scott: Lots of reasons, but I’ll give you two:
1) There is no substitute for being there.
I knew all about Henry David Thoreau and his classic “Walden Pond,” but until I saw Walden Pond I didn’t know that in his old age, Bronson Alcott, Thoreau’s friend (and father of Louisa May Alcott, author of “Little Women”), took a reporter down to the pond and placed a rock where he recalled Thoreau’s cabin once stood. Since then, hundreds of visitors from presidents to authors have added their own rocks, an homage to Thoreau, to a pile you would have to see to believe. Yes, we left a rock, and I’m sure it must be right next to Mark Twain’s. There is simply no substitute for actually being at Walden Pond for feeling connected to so much that is American.
2) Differences disappear.
By meeting people in new places and seeing new places through their eyes, we stop seeing differences. Their problems and challenges become real to us and the world is no longer limited or impersonal.
You visited some remote national parks. Why do you like national parks? Do you have a favorite?
The Williamsons: National parks have been set aside as representatives of truly special, truly American places. Each is so different, but all of them can steal your breath and touch your soul. Wilderness defined the American character and the national parks reconnect us to that wilderness which made us as a people.
As for favorites, that’s like asking which of your children do you love best. Zion comes up more often than most in our conversations and the scenic drive from there to Bryce Canyon, unforgettable.
Is there anything that you wish you would have known before your visit to Isle Royale or any other national park?
The Williamsons: It’s hard to believe anyone would come to these incredibly beautiful parks without a camera, but with lots of water and sky everywhere, you will regret it if you don’t have a polarizing lens. Without one, the sky and water looks white in your photos.
- We didn’t realize before we went that Isle Royale, an island in Lake Superior, has been declared wilderness by federal law. This means that once you leave the lodge or a designated campground, there are only minimal alterations in the park to accommodate humans. The park service prohibits anything more than minimal trail development. The only evidence of the trail may be a cairn (a stack of rocks) that means you aren’t lost. No fires are permitted outside the camps.
- Fortunately, we did know about the mosquitoes and flies, so we pre-treated our clothing with permethrin and used repellents. We had no problems, but some folks were not so lucky.
- We wish we had known more about the boat trip to the island. The weather can be capricious and the ride rough. Seasickness pills are not a bad idea. The sun is also a problem since the trip takes 7 hours if you are going to the island’s lodge from Grand Portage. You can’t retrieve your hat or sunscreen once it is stowed on the boat.
- Take some snacks. The lodge grill and restaurant are expensive ($12 for a meager sack lunch. The sack lunch cookie could have been useful to chuck at wolves if the need had arisen, but it did not and we found no other purpose for it.)
- The park information said to be prepared for any weather and that’s true, but good hiking boots, well-broken in, a couple of sturdy hiking sticks and lots of socks are a necessity.
- As for Voyageurs, it is all about the water. Bring a boat, rent a boat or sign on for the ranger boat tour (It’s a terrific tour. The rangers are great. They even provide binoculars.)
From your travels, do you have a practice or insight that makes your travel experiences more enjoyable?
- Research your destination. It is no fun to find yourself in the desert needing a raincoat because you chose the one week a year it typically rains.
- Pick a time when the park is less crowded if you have that luxury. Our tour boat at Voyageurs included only six passengers and that meant lots of quality interaction with the guide.
- Don’t get too busy getting from here to there. Take time to look around. The national parks are drop dead gorgeous and too many visitors are too busy racing to the next thing to enjoy the moment and the view. Sometimes the journey is just as rewarding as the destination.
- For crying out loud, take a camera. Learn how to use it. Use it. Take a journal. Write down the day’s adventures. You may never be there again.