01 October 2009

Of Parks and Memories

I've been watching the Ken Burns documentary The National Parks: America's Best Idea on PBS this week. I find myself amazed at the vigor and vitality of those early users of the parks.

Having been to seventeen of the national parks in this country (and four in Canada!) and hiked some of the trails, I cannot imagine climbing mountains or hanging over cliff edges or rafting down rapid-filled rivers without the helpful guidance of the National Park Service.

I remember going to a campfire talk at Yellowstone back in 1987 and learning that, before the handy boardwalks were built around the hot springs, geysers, mud pots and fumaroles, tourists were told to follow buffalo chips. If the buffalo could walk there, then people could walk there. I think the theory was that if the earth's crust, which is thin at Yellowstone, could support a buffalo, then it could certainly handle a human. Can you imagine that?

I have so many fond memories of the parks. I've gotten lost in Rocky Mountain National Park, nearly been run over by a buffalo in Yellowstone, walked on a glacier on the tallest mountain on the continent in Denali, rode in a boat with a drunken captain in Kenai Fjords, and floated down the Snake River in Grand Tetons.

I haven't been to every national park. I probably never will get to them all, but I have loved every one of them. This documentary has gotten me thinking about my childhood, which has made me nostalgic for those lazy, adventurous summer days with long vacations in a van filled with books and toys and music down some of the most scenic roads in the country.

I had so much to be grateful for about those trips - the parks, the scenery and wildlife, the country and my mom. Without realizing it, I had other things to be grateful for, too. Thanks to Ken Burns, I now know how much gratitude I owe John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Stephen Mather and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

I don't really know what this post is about, but I just felt like writing this down. Thanks for reading!

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