I have been watching a documentary this week on the Public Broadcasting System titled, “The National Parks; America’s Best Idea.” I hope you’ve been watching it with me as it is a tremendous program. Seeing the beautiful pictures and listening to the narration of this program really helped me to understand the origin of the parks and gain an appreciation for nature. It also reminded me of my own trip into the wild of a national park and how it effected me.
I’ve never traveled much until recently. I have documented the trips, of which I’ve been a part, right here in this column. The first long trip I ever took included Yellowstone National Park and it was fantastic. I’d never paid attention to our Nation’s network of parks until then and this was similar to being introduced to football at the Super Bowl. I was awestruck by this majestic wilderness.
We are fortunate to enjoy a park system like the on that exists in our nation. In most countries, the most beautiful land has been owned for decades by a royal family or the rich. In the United States, our most breathtaking sites are owned by the people, just what the world might expect from a democracy.
I think that beauty in nature reflects what we wish were, or perhaps it is a mirror of who we are truly. I am quite afraid of heights, however when we traveled the mountains leading into Yellowstone, I really manned up. I looked down the valleys from which we had recently climbed and felt full inside, and even a little less afraid. Our friend, Teresa, just about had to hold my hand to get me to do it, but I found courage inside me out there in the wild.
Historically, men and women both have gone into the wild to prove themselves. I don’t think people do that much today, they would rather prove themselves virtually in a video game or prove themselves deceitful in a world that more and more rewards cunning than character. I think if more people made themselves vulnerable by walking, climbing and working outdoors, they could find the good in themselves once covered by the skills of our modern world.
“The National Parks; America’s Best Idea” made it first run this week. However, I see it is being replayed on our satellite dish into next week so check your local listings. PBS typically runs documentaries like these a couple of times then offers them for sale on digital disk. The documentary covers naturalists like John Muir and has a good section on Theodore Roosevelt and the life he lead that inspired him to use the Antiquities Act to put meat on the bones of the national park system. The sights and sounds of the show will move you, maybe into a better place inside yourself or even better-into the wild.