Yes! I am one of those reignited Americans.
After watching Ken Burns’ deeply resonating and extremely patriotic documentary on the history of America’s National Parks, “America’s Best Idea”, I have renewed passion for our National Treasures. Through tears and laughter and constant gratitude, I watched this indepth historical journey. I reflected on my own experiences with our National Parks and imagined those to come. As a child I grew up with memories of a very few, yet significant family camping trips. My grandparents were more equipped than us to do such a thing; their old family movies include reels and reels of family camping and fishing trips on lakes and campgrounds along the Pacific Coast. When I became a mother, I exposed my own children to the beautiful Colorado Rocky naturescapes and the Pacific Coastal wonders as much as I could. An innate feeling that nature is healing and necessary has always been a part of me. Perhaps my early park experiences helped to shape this idea.
After my children were grown, I made it a point to visit some of the National Parks I had never been able to visit before. The first time to Yosemite was an absolute epiphany.
I had traveled the world prior and frequently met other international travelers that asked me about Yosemite. Apologetically, I confessed I had never been. One year, at the last minute on an unexpected free weekend, I decided to find out what all of the fuss was about. I also decided not to buy into Yosemite’s 6-month reservation calendar because my life could not accomodate long range plans like this. And as was my nature (a quality I hope to never lose), I just packed up a sleeping bag, some food, a flashlight, my journal, a knife and headed for the Yosemite Valley.
When I first entered the park, after gasping at the spectacular views, I found myself at the base of Half Dome, observing a mountain climber, along with about 50 other tourists. At this moment, still without a campsite for the night, I met a woman from New Zealand who was then living in Sedona. She, like me had also left for her Yosemite adventure without reservations. We buddied up and found a campsite right at dusk. This woman had come all the way to Yosemite to see a bear! She told me she had dreamt of coming to Yosemite to see a bear her entire life. I told her not to wish for that because it could mean trouble, though secretly, like all Yosemite or Yellowstone tourists, I wished to see a bear too!
While we were preparing the site for our dinner in the pitch black of the full-to-capacity campground, I suddenly heard this woman talking to someone. When I looked up, I saw her running through the campground with her flashlight after a young, adolescent sized black bear! As she ran after it, she was calling out for it to come to her like someone would call a dog. The bear must of thought this woman was as crazy as she was and it most assuredly escaped her madness with success. After he got away, we laughed at the story that we both knew would become a part of our individual Yosemite history. My other memories of Yosemite during that first visit were more introspective than the drama of a bear sighting so I will not recount them. There are just some things to keep to yourself. This Spring, I introduced the magic of Yosemite to my husband as well. It is a thrill to relive your own first time as you watch the eyes of a person seeing the Yosemite Valley for their first time. Yosemite was a birthday present with timeless value.
Most recently this past week, for the first time in years, I went camping at a small lake near Lake Tahoe with my daughter and my grandson. We camped for the better part of five days right next to the tranquil lakefront where we fished from our raft. We hiked to the top of a mountain where we saw a bald eagle protecting it’s young in a treetop nest; we roasted marshmallows; we gazed at the magnificent Milky Way Galaxy in awe of how miniscule our moments really are on this planet in the scheme of the life of the universe; we listened to nothing, to the stillness, to the birds and the chipmunks playing chase with our dog. We reveled in the gifts that nature offers us without asking anything in return, other than to protect it. We did this without cell phones or internet and we survived! Yes, after watching Ken Burns’ fabulous documentary following this most recent camping trip, I have a renewed commitment to ensure I do not deprive myself of these gifts of scenery and solitude I am so blessed to have-like every other American! Our state and national parks are ours only because of the tireless dedication of the many individuals that fought to preserve them during the last century. They fought to protect and maintain their beauty for us to enjoy.
Each park has it’s heroes and most importantly, the President of the era, who also understood the need to protect our National Treasures. I feel newly blessed to be able to live in the United States and to have the freedom to visit these glorious monuments of nature whenever I choose. I promise to always do my best to explore another park I haven’t seen, and to continue to share these parks with others who haven’t experienced the euphoria they offer.
We owe it to our children and grandchildren to share these blessings, whether we enjoyed them as children or not. In a down economy, or during a period of unemployment, what better gift to give our families than the peace, tranquility, and awesome magnificence that transcends momentary challenges. What better, economical gifts are there than those gifts that our natural world offers to us. Create your own stories, share these parks with your own children, Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. No matter what is going on in the planet, we still have our National Parks! Thank you Ken Burns for reminding us how absolutely blessed we all are as Americans, how reverent we owe ourselves to be for these gifts, and how those with persistence and vision beyond the moment have given us these timeless legacies. I wish every single American could watch this documentary from beginning to end. It is some of our most important national history to be learned and preserved. http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks/
THANK YOU KEN BURNS! THIS DOCUMENTARY ON THE HISTORY OF OUR NATIONAL PARKS WAS YOUR BEST IDEA!