by Eric A Thomas
With the COVID-19 restrictions lifting, people want to get out – and there’s no better way to enjoy than the great outdoors. There are 63 national parks coast-to-coast, and they range from free to approximately $35 per vehicle, so they’re a relatively inexpensive form of outdoor entertainment. Lately, it seems, lots of people are flocking to our parks.
What made a Jacksonville native and a transplant to Arizona sought after by the producers of “Today?” It was her knowledge and love for the great national parks. On June 15, the “Today” show did a segment about the overcrowding of our national parks.
“The producers of the ‘Today’ show sent me a message on our Instagram page … They were preparing a segment on the crowding occurring in some of the national parks recently and they saw a reel I had posted on this topic,” Alissa Hembrough Nickerson states. Nickerson’s page on Instagram is called NationalParkBFF. She was just one of a couple of people they utilized on the segment.
When we moved to Arizona three years ago, I saw that hiking was almost a prerequisite for living in the West … As I explored the local national parks, I realized how diverse the landscapes can be,” she comments. The Jacksonville transplant developed an interest in the national park system.
Since moving and tapping into her exploratory nature, Nickerson made it a mission of hers to explore as many national parks as she can. “I have visited most of the Southwest national parks, but I have a long-term goal of visiting all 63 parks,” adds Nickerson.
Her favorite part of visiting these places is the opportunities they offer for recreation. Spending time outdoors and being active are two of Nickerson’s favorite things. The new landscapes she comes across in her journeys are a plus. “Our national parks offer something for everyone,” she says. The national park system exists to preserve our lands and resources for the recreation, enjoyment and education of the people.
Her Instagram page was created with a friend, Alicia McMurry, to share photos, tips and itineraries with others. “We launched our page in February 2021 from the kitchen table of a rental AirBnB near Zion National Park. Our hope is to expand our page in the future,” concludes Nickerson. She encourages anyone who is considering visiting a national park to just do it. Visiting the parks is a great way to enjoy the beauty around us and explore new parts of the country.
A 2009 graduate of Jacksonville High School, Nickerson went on to receive her undergraduate degree in 2013 and her Doctorate of Audiology in 2017 both from the U of I in Champaign-Urbana. After living briefly in Glen Ellyn, where she worked as a clinical audiologist, she and her spouse, Brandon, relocated to Phoenix in 2018, where she is a pediatric clinical audiologist. She is the daughter of Kathleen Bergschneider Hembrough and Steve Hembrough of Jacksonville, and the sister of Erin Eoff of Jacksonville and Ashley Hembrough of Covington, Louisiana.