National Parks

I’ve been completely obsessed with the new Ken Burns documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, which has been running on PBS nightly since Sunday. This has been a pretty good week for this obsession, because the only thing I had to miss was going to an open mic on Tuesday, and I’d been to one for something like six weeks in a row so the world was probably glad for the break anyway. Detroit Public Television is running National Parks at 8 p.m. and then repeating it at 10 p.m. and 2:30 a.m., which makes them pretty obsessed with it too. But it’s beautifully shot—ok, they had Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, Denali and Mt. Rainer to work with, how could it not be?—and full of geeky historical detail related in an engaging way. The soundtrack is infectious, and one guitar piece, “Sligo Creek” by Al Petteway, has been a constant earworm for over a month (since they used it in the promo pieces).

The show makes me want to go to a national park, any park, I don’t care. It’s been a long time and I’m overdue. One of the consistent themes is how people like John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Stephen Mather (the first director of the National Park Service) and many others find that the parks heal their spirit and makes them whole. I know what they mean, and I haven’t even been to the big showy western parks yet. Here’s my whole list:

  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota (was a National Monument first time I was there)
  • Badlands National Park, South Dakota
  • Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota (but only briefly)
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee & North Carolina
  • Keweenaw National Historical Park, Michigan (but before designation as such)
  • Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Kentucky/Virginia/Tennessee
  • Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana
  • Mount Rushmore National Monument, South Dakota
  • White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
  • Home Of Franklin D Roosevelt National Historic Site (Hyde Park), New York

Which national parks have YOU been to? Non-USians and their parks NOT excluded.

Didn’t realize FDR’s home would be on the list….

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About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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12 Responses to National Parks

  1. Baltimore-Washington Parkway (Driving)
    Blackstone River Valley National Corridor (Museum of Work and Culture, Woonsocket, RI)
    Cape Cod National Seashore
    Boston National Historical Park (Freedom Trail)
    Essex National Heritage Area (Salem waterfront)
    Salem Maritime National Historic Site
    Quinebaug and Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor (Old Sturbridge Village)
    Capitol Hill Parks (I think)
    Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site
    Lincoln Memorial
    National Mall
    Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site
    George Washington Memorial Parkway (U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial)

    • songdogmi says:

      I left out all the D.C. parks and monuments. D’oh!!

      Baltimore-Washington Parkway is NPS, huh? I didn’t know. Cool. 🙂

      • Yeah, I didn’t know that, either. I’ve driven/ridden on it many times. 🙂

        Also, if you’re ever in New England, I highly recommend a visit to the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket, RI. It’s a fascinating look into North American history/culture. Woonsocket in general is interesting. Up until this generation there were still people living in/from Woonsocket whose only language was French, and even now there are some for whom French was their first language.

        Here’s a local cartoonists’ tribute to Woonsocket:

      • songdogmi says:

        The museum sounds very cool, and so does Woonsocket. I didn’t know there was much of a French presence in southern New England.

        “Drive Slow Your Car”… *giggle*

      • Yep. RI is a culturally rich place. We’ve got a whole bunch of ethnic cultures living here, despite our tiny size.

        The Woonsocket French hail from Québec; they’re from a different group historically and logistically than the more well-known Acadians, and they left home for different reasons (The Acadians basically had their homes burnt out from under them and were ordered to leave by the British). [/history dork]

      • songdogmi says:

        Yay for history dorks!

      • Currently reading: The Acadians: In Search of a Homeland by James Laxer (hence the dorky Acadian trivia).

        Also reading John Adams by David McCullough. Both books highly recommended. 🙂

        *edited because Amazon gives a better review than Chapters*

  2. altivo says:

    Did a round of the big Western parks back in 1973:

    Rocky Mountain National Park (highly recommended)
    Grand Canyon (overdone, but still necessary to see)
    Mesa Verde (absolutely amazing)
    Petrified Forest (bizarre)

    Visited Glacier National Park in 1981 (I think it was) but saw very little due to the usual Pacific Northwest clouds and fog. Likewise with the Cascades on that same trip, though we did see lots of mountain sheep in the fog.

    Somewhere around 1983 hiked Isle Royale from one end to the other with two friends. Now THAT is a little known gem, and I can’t recommend it enough. Go at the very beginning or tail end of the season, not during the busy time. You’ll see more.

    • altivo says:

      Oh, and the National Zoo, which is I guess really part of the Smithsonian but on a par with the parks in my opinion.

    • songdogmi says:

      I was close to Rocky Mountain NP, but we only went to Nederland on that trip.

      Yeah, Grand Canyon is mandatory, even if you’re just the one billionth person going “OMG!!!!!” 🙂

      Isle Royale, that’s a big fault on my part for not going there yet. Sometime in the last thirty years, the Ott Lake Rambler and I should’ve done it. I don’t think he’s been either. Going at the very beginning or very end should avoid most of the bugs, too.

      How much time did you take on your parks tours? I’m wondering if one could do more than two parks in, say, a week without skimping so much as to make it unworthwhile. But I like immersion, see, at least in theory.

      • altivo says:

        Long story. It was in fact a honeymoon trip, and I think we took two weeks for the whole, but it wasn’t all national parks. Went first to her sister’s place in Boulder, and we were there for two or three days. During that time we drove up to Estes and Rocky Mountain National Park (one day) and also did a driving tour of the front range, including up Mount Evans (scariest mountain roads I’ve ever been on, great view on top where you have to walk up the last 300 feet or so.) Learned that the air-cooled VW bug was an advantage in the thin air, where a lot of water-cooled engines overheated.

        Then we went to Mesa Verde for two nights and a day spent touring ruins, including a scary climb up a vertical cliff using handholds and chains, and a crawl through a tunnel in the rock designed as a defense against enemy attackers (you kill them one by one as they emerge.)

        Then the north rim of Grand Canyon (a must see, it’s like a time capsule, or was, that old lodge) for two days, the south rim for two days, during which time we made a side trip to Flagstaff where we met librarian friends who were just on their way home from the ALA convention in Las Vegas.

        Then a brief visit to the Petrified Forest on our way to Albuquerque where we stayed two nights and visited more friends. I would have liked to have seen Carlsbad but it was too far out of our way. After Albuquerque we took Route 66 back through Texas and Oklahoma and went on back to Michigan. Stayed a night in Tulsa, I recall, and I think drove from Tulsa to Lansing in a day, with a time spent circling Springfield trying to find Lincoln’s Tomb but we never found it. ;p

        Back then, there was a special deal on National Parks where you could buy a single pass for the whole summer and it would get you into as many Parks and Monuments as you could “eat”. That was the challenge that encouraged us to make the roundabout.

      • altivo says:

        Actually, I still have a whole album full of photos from that trip. I should scan a stack of them and put them on Facebook or Flickr just for grins. My hair was really, really long then. I remember a shot Jane took of me perched on the rim of the canyon, shooting over my shoulder, and most of what you see is hair.

        PostScriptum: We divorced in 1976, amicably. She’s been bouncing around the country ever since, never in one place more than a couple of years. Last I heard from her, she was in Florida where one of her brothers lives. Been a couple of years though.

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