Well, it might be long . . . but maybe not so lonesome. Not on this Labor Day Weekend, you can be sure. Nevertheless, here we are—back on a familiar stretch of highway. A road we’ve taken many times before. When leaving Indiana heading to parts out west and you’re interested in covering miles . . . well, there’s a limited number of interstates to choose from. It all adds up to the same-old sights, the same-old stops, the same-old scenario. Just sit back, settle in, set the cruise control and start the audio tape. That’s the way we do it . . . and it isn’t such a bad drive after all. Let the scenery roll by!
And while we’re adding up those miles gone by, this trip (perhaps more so than others that have come before) deserves a little introduction, I believe. Call it a Prologue of sorts. A few words to set the stage. How this particular trip came about.
It all started with a sacrifice.
Then throw in a commemorative event.
Include some bucket list destinations.
And tie it altogether with some of the most outstanding photo opportunities our country has to offer.
First, the sacrifice . . . foregoing Chris’ 17th consecutive year of the Hilly Hundred Biking Event.
Ah, the challenge . . . the excitement and exertion . . . the bonding of biking brothers. It will be sorely missed. Can it wait for another year?
Then, there’s our National Parks’ Commemorative Year—a century in the making. An event that CAN’T be postponed for another year.
And . . . my Bucket List of places—with plenty of destinations left to choose from. What’s most appropriate this time around—how many national parks are still on the list? (Too many for any one trip). These will surely make a good start . . .
Our National Parks—places we might find ourselves taking for granted. Places that epitomize the grandeur and history of our country . . . just out there over the horizon. Some farther, some nearer, all places of beauty and great significance, they are ours for the exploring—all we require is the means to reach them. But it wasn’t always so. Without the inspiration and motivation of a few determined people, without the efforts of our federal government at a certain specific time in our country’s history, these places could be off-limits to us today. Before the United States tried it, no nation had set aside its exceptional places for every citizen to enjoy rather than locking the lands up in private estates. In this commemorative year, it is surely something to give pause and reflect on. In many respects—this one not the least of all—we are an extremely fortunate nation.
On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law a congressional act deeding more than two million acres of Wyoming Territory as “a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” This Act gave birth to an idea as well as to our country’s first national park—Yellowstone. Thus, the seeds of a vision were planted, and boy, did it ever germinate into something incredibly grand!
Scroll ahead forty-four years to 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Congressional Act that created the National Park Service and defined its mission: “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Its annual budget was set at $8,100.
One hundred years later, Americans can enjoy 59 national parks, 150 national monuments and nearly 300 other national seashores and lakeshores, scenic rivers, trails and parkways, historic battlefields and parks, preserves, and memorials. Quite the tally for the first 100 years. Last year alone over 300 million people visited these national parks. Its budget for this commemorative year is $3.4 billion.
Since their inception, the parks have been popular destinations, but in the most recent years this popularity has soared. Not just because these are places of outstanding scenery, but maybe also because as our world becomes more technologically oriented, we are seeking places to rediscover or reconnect with the natural world . . . the raw landscape that humans once called their “home”. If there is a spirituality to the natural world, then the national parks are surely its meccas. And people from all over the world are making pilgrimages to these places set apart.
National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst. ~ Wallace Stegner, 1983 American historian, writer, environmentalist
In this year of the 100th anniversary, planning a sort of national park tour seemed pretty appropriate for us Airstream Travelers. To tally the number we could accrue, I turned my attention towards the West. While all of our states offer designated NPS sites, it should come as no surprise that the majority of national parks lie west of the Mississippi. After all, the expansive and majestic American West can still be described as largely wild and relatively undisturbed when compared to the East.
That is pretty much how this trip came about. We waited out a hot and miserable Midwest summer, anxious to be back on the road again. It feels really good . . . we’re fresh and eager and filled with anticipation.
And so, this early blog finds us merrily on our way. Goodbye heat and humidity—hello Wyoming and Utah! Clear blue skies and star-studded nights, here we come. We can’t wait.
Airstream Travelers pulling out,
Melinda and Chris
Postscript—Just in time for the NPS anniversary year, a new IMAX 3D documentary film narrated by Robert Redford has been released. Featuring impressive scenery from many of our most memorable national parks, it could easily spark a craving to experience these parks firsthand, or at least elicit a vicarious thrill of being there from the comfort of a theater seat. More info as well as behind-the-scenes shooting at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iqF2Tk_1WA