Full disclosure: I did not conjure up that name but it is just perfect…”America’s Best Idea” is not democracy, public schools or even Starbucks. America’s absolute Best Idea is its National Park system! As far back as 140 years ago people in this country knew what we have here is absolutely gorgeous, unique, and at risk for misuse. So, the smart folks with vision made sure the government put aside many of the more distinctive and irreplaceable pieces of land and here in 2012 we have 58 National Parks. They are AWESOME. If you don’t know about them yet or are not convinced, herewith is a sample:
Everglades N.P.: These days, we live in houses or apartments that string along main streets with strip malls and more strip malls and parking lots. About the only thing one sees along the way are squirrels. Not so in the Everglades. Walking on boardwalks built safely above the swamps, one observes the alligators peacefully gliding, barely surfacing the water. They seem not to have a care in the world. In fact, they seem to have all the time in the world. Blue Herons rise up out of the sawgrass; they are busy maintaining their nests and finding food. The Everglades does not shout “here I am!!” rather it sits quietly, patiently waiting for you to come around and take notice.
Arches N.P: Okay, I picked this one next because it is a completely different example. Arches is all about sculpture, made by Mother Nature. The stark contrast between the bright sun, the almost-barren landscape and the red rock formations just demands your attention. It is total eye candy and it gets even better – you can climb on it! You can wedge yourself in narrow holes straddling the rocks on the left and the right, squeeze through, jump down, over, and under. Rock is the star here and there is good reason for it.
Yellowstone N.P: This one is my son’s favorite. I think it is because he loves the bears – both black bears and grizzly bears. For me, it is definitely the buffalo, they harken back to another time. You might think I am referring to the era when the west was the Wild West and a cowboy couldn’t walk ten feet without tripping over a buffalo; but for me they seem even older – like prehistoric animals. Standing in their presence is like standing staring through a time portal jumping back through history. Add to that the geysers spewing steam that smells like sulfur and I expect a dinosaur to emerge from the mist at any second. This would certainly happen if this was a movie!
Denali N.P: Yes, there is that huge mountain in the distance (20,320 ft) – that is, if it is one of those rare days and it is not too cloudy and you can actually see it. But the thing that grabs me about this national park in Alaska is the sheer expanse of the thing. When you are there, you are out in the middle of nowhere – no street signs, no gift shops, no conveniently located public restrooms. And to top it off, you are driven through the park in a beat up old school bus where you sit very quietly as you observe big scary huge large grizzly bears hanging out and rolling around and doing whatever it is grizzlies do. Here in Denali, you are on their home turf so you better just sit quietly if you want to get to watch.
Rocky Mountain N.P.: I saved my very favorite for last. Simply put, this park has a soul. Yes, there are many species of animals to be found that will capture your attention and hearts – elk, wolves, bears, etc. But for me, it is the mountains that speak. They are there, with their arms outstretched, forever watching the human race come and go. Witnesses to our history, the mountains somehow take note. The mountains seem simultaneously to protect us and keep us in check. Standing in their presence is absolutely a divine experience not to be duplicated anywhere else.
This is just a taste of what America’s national parks have to offer. They are gifts set aside from our predecessors that are waiting for you to discover. Yes, truly America’s Best Idea.
Thanks for reading.