Wednesday, July 28, 2010

National Parks

We have been going through a bit of a national park obsession lately. There is a documentary that was aired on PBS which of course I never saw called "National Parks, America's Best Idea". You can buy the six dvd set at the parks for like $100 so of course I've been stalking out netflix to see if they might carry it. Imagine my delight when I finally saw it come up on my recommendations. It is now available for instant play which is even better, so if you are interested in seeing this (as I highly recommend), watch it before it goes away. I know that their instant play choices change quite frequently;).

There is so much to the history of national parks that I never knew about and it is quite fascinating.  I'll admit I had never given it deep thought before but now I can really appreciate the concept. People like John Muir and other truly democratic politicians saw the national parks as a way for all Americans regardless of class or income to enjoy pristine and untouched pieces of raw land as it was since the beginning of time. Now that is something I can appreciate. Of course this didn't truly happen until the automobile was invented because only the wealthy could travel by train. There are all sorts of interesting people talked about in the documentary from politicians to wealthy philanthropists to eccentric bohemian sorts. Their stories are rather endearing and shows over time the potential of humanity to do great things. I am truly inspired by all of it...and I still have three parts left to watch, haha.

Of course watching the documentary made me reflect on our own experiences and of course regrets at not being able to see many of these parks as I had anticipated this summer. Believe me, if we were a family of unlimited resources we would just go ahead and do it...but some sort of prudence in our already crazy spontaneous kind of living is necessary.

I have also convinced myself after the handful we have been through that the age of the children, Willow in particular, has really kept us from enjoying the parks to the fullest as they were intended. If we were childless or maybe even with just Ellery, we would be camping in the middle of the wilderness like John Muir and spending several days exploring the backcountry. You see, my only issue with the national parks is that unlike the sweeping views from the documentaries, much of the natural beauty is drowned out by lots of other people. It is sort of like a small scale Disney World experience. So if you are smart and up for a challenge you go ahead and take the least common trails in the parks away from all of the other tourists. However, our only issue with that is that those trails are not very 3 year old friendly. I am torn between hearing Ellery complaining about why we can't take the trail that ascends to the peak of a mountain (which even he doesn't realize is out of his capability) and Willow crying that walking a .5 mile loop over rocky, slightly hilly terrain is too hard and she wants to go home and watch a princess movie. We outfitted them both with excellent shoes but at least for her, that hasn't helped much. So I am trying to make myself feel better about the fact that at their present age we can't experience the parks to their fullest beauty without being inundated with other loud people who also have limitations to taking the trail less traveled so to speak.

I will say this though. I am delighted that we are in a rather close proximity to many of the parks right now. I do believe that Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, and some others are easily half day trips from where we are now. So these could easily serve as mini vacations, or heck, as we decided to do yesterday, quick day trips! Since it had been awhile and we are moving into a house in less than a week, we decided to take a car trip over to Great Sand Dunes NP. We had yet to see any of Colorado anyway and it was only a two hours drive. It wasn't my favorite park, except to look at, lol. Walking through the sand was really brutal. Ellery wanted to climb to the top of the dunes of course but Willow was done and crying after the first hill. We enjoyed one of the more shaded woodsy trails until it started to rain and Riki complained about his camera so we had to hurry back and finish one of the most difficult junior ranger booklets Ellery has had to date. At least we got our bellies full of more untainted nature, higher mountain peaks in the clouds, and Riki got some gorgeous pictures which I promise to pester him all day to post. I warn you though...more landscapes and less kids;)


Mouse said...

Have you guys been to White Sands, NM? Its absolutely BEAUTIFUL - especially if you stay until it starts to get dark!

Little House On Wheels said...

You know, we wanted to go there, but it just wasn't close enough on our route to make the trip.

The Valentine's said...

White Sands remains one of our kids most-mentioned places when they're asked what their favorite places have been. We were there in March, went almost every day during the week we were there and saw barely another person. The reason for the return visits: sand sledding! We bought cheap round sleds and they kept finding new routes, wandered all over the dunes, I couldn't keep up, they eventually all came back and had a blast! You're not too far from there, a long w/e maybe in your future?!