105 Candles

August 25, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

105 years ago yesterday the National Park Service was born - though parks such as Yellowstone predated the agency's creation by many decades.  

Perhaps the more significant milestone is March 1, 1872, since it was the establishment of Yellowstone on that date as protected public land "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people" that got the ball rolling, so to speak.    Grand Prismatic SpringGrand Prismatic SpringThe only way to really appreciate Grand Prismatic Spring is from the air. From this perspective, not only is its otherworldy appearance apparent, but also its size (note the man on the walkway...though only a speck from the sky, he casts a long shadow). Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

We're going to need a bigger birthday cake.

I was a relative late-comer in terms of my first exposure to the national parks: it's ironic that I spend so much time in them now. There weren't any near where I grew up in suburban Chicago and my family didn't travel much when I was a kid. 

What about Indiana Dunes, you say? When I was hiking its rugged trails it hadn't yet achieved NP status. Actually that didn't happen until about five minutes ago. (I exaggerate - but only a little. It was designated in 2019.) 

Park #1 was Volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii my senior year of college. Not a bad place to start. Now I live in the shadow of Yellowstone and Grand Teton and within reasonable driving range of nine other national parks: an embarrassment of riches. 

Do I have a favorite? Yes, although there's something wonderful about every one I've visited. How about you? 

The parks are being loved maybe a little too much this year (that's an understatement - they're jammed), but this is unsurprising. Nature soothes and nurtures. After the last 18 months, who doesn't need some of that? Deep down, we instinctively crave the natural world. Most of us, that is.

There are people who wander through these beautiful places, looking but not seeing. Some don't even look. Their eyes are glued to their screens as they desperately try to access the internet. Or they're chattering away on their phones. Or they're bored. Really? That said, every time I see kids obviously enjoying the experience, I'm happy. No devices in sight, they're in the moment and delighted by "the show."

There is hope.

Our national parks truly are jewels. We are fortunate to have them. When you do visit, treat the land - and the animals who live there - with respect. Leave no trace. 

And by all means, enjoy. 

“There is a delight in the hardy life of the open. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness - that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm. The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Above the BendAbove the BendAutumn color marches down the hillside to the Snake River shoreline below. Meanwhile, up above, clouds dance around Mount Moran's peak. (Oxbow Bend - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)


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