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A Valentine's Day shout-out to the National Parks

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Do you have single friends who dread Valentine's Day and just want to get away? Send them off to the national parks! Are you single? Dating? Married? Mending a broken heart? No matter who you are, join the movement to explore the parks! This Valentine's Day is the perfect day to head outside and fall in love with nature (and/or your significant other) all over again.

While everybody else around town is going out to fancy restaurants, receiving a dozen roses and opening an overpriced box of chocolates, you could be enjoying a romantic natural evening among trees and rocks. Whether you have an actual date or not, a national park is the perfect venue for this day of love. It is also a cheap alternative to expensive meals and hairdos, and it is a way to show your support for the National Park System.

Here is what you must do to ensure an enjoyable visit to the parks (by the way, you can do this each and every time you go to the parks):

Step 1: Pack a bottle of champagne and a bag of Dove chocolates in your car

Step 2: Prepare avocado and lox sandwiches, preferably on sesame bagels, to have for dinner or lunch on the following day.

Step 3: On your way to the park, stop on the side of the road and pick a bouquet of flowers (make sure you do this well outside of the park as it is badly reprimanded to do so within park boundaries).

Step 4: Hand the flowers to your significant other or to your friend or to the park entrance ranger.

Step 5: Once inside the park, step outside of your vehicle, start walking in whatever direction you would like and open your senses to the sights, sounds and scents of nature.

This Valentine's Day, 2014, happens to fall on an especially convenient weekend. First of all, February 14 is a Friday, setting the mood for the rest of the weekend. The forecast n the southwest United States is calling for mostly sunny skies, which could easily be turned into the most amazing sunset memories in your repertoire, and for comfortable temperatures. Of course, the higher you go, the cooler it gets, so dress appropriately. Second of all, a full moon is expected to appear on February 15, meaning moonlit walks between the trees and rocks are calling your name. Third of all, national parks are awesome!

When you visit a park during this Valentine's Day weekend, remember to smile to yourself as you watch the sky change color, the rocks glow, the trees glisten and the birds flap their wings. Think of how fortunate you are to be in this beautiful environment and absorb your moments of appreciation. Before leaving, remember to stop at the gift shop to pick up a t-shirt or mug from the Valentine's Day series, on which is aptly written, "I heart the national parks." And give the clerk the rest of your chocolate. They deserve to be loved too.

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