Tuesday, September 29, 2009

America's Best Idea

This week I'm watching the Ken Burns series National Parks: America's Best Idea. Like all of his projects, it's great. It's got the standard Burns hallmarks: good music featuring folk musicians, lots of archival photos and old motion picture clips, famous people reading the words of people in the story, and absolutely gorgeous cinematography. It's something I hope everyone is watching.

I never visited a national park until 1972, the year my then-wife and I moved to Denver. We took a long day trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is northwest of Boulder. Up until that year, I'd lived almost all my life in New England, which only has one national park, Acadia on the coast of Maine, and my parents never vacationed in Maine. I did finally get to go to Acadia in the early '80s when I was with a young woman whose family had a cottage on a pond near Waterville, which was about a couple of hours' drive from Acadia. Both parks were very beautiful. In between, in '76 and again in '78 I visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. The '78 also included a drive through Shenandoah National Park along the Skyline Drive.

Between 1995 and 1998 I took several trips out to California and saw Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Sequoia and Redwood National Parks.

During my 9,000-mile drive around the eastern two-thirds of the country in September '98 I saw several parks. I visited Badlands National Park in South Dakota, Yellowstone in Wyoming and Montana, Grand Teton in Wyoming, Arches in Utah, Mesa Verde in Colorado, and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, then drove through Great Smoky Mountains about a week or so later.

Oregon only has one national park, Crater Lake, which I visited in 2001. Mount Rainier in Washington is closer, but I didn't get up there until this summer as part of a day trip that included seeing Mount St. Helens from the east side's Windy Ridge.

All of the parks have been well worth seeing, and I wish I'd spent more time in some of them. If there's a break in the weather, which is starting its shift into winter, I'd like to go directly up to Mount Rainier and spend more than just a few hours. That first trip was shorter than I would've liked since it took more time than I'd thought to get to Windy Ridge and then north up to the highway to Mount Rainier.

In the course of my travels, I've also visited a number of national monuments (Mount St. Helens is one) and Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras National Seashores.

No comments: