Sunday, October 4, 2009

Celebrating U.S. National Parks II: What I Learned

I learned so much about the National Parks this week; it was one revelation after another. That is always the best way to hold my attention.

For example, I'd no idea that Buffalo soldiers were among the first to provide security to Yosemite National Park, under the leadership of Captain Charles Young.

I also did not know fully the inspiring story of John Muir, a man whose passion for the natural world inspired a host of people to follow his lead and seek to preserve the best this land had to offer for all of us.

Who knew that there was a Japanese immigrant, George Masa (along with Horace Kephart), at the heart of the story of the creation of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park?

I loved the story of George and Emma Cowan using their vacations, for over thirty years, to visit all of the existing national parks in their lifetime. I was also moved by the tragic story of Glen and Bessie Hyde (she was the first woman to attempt to sail down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon).

These are just a few of the many stories tied to the national parks. And I've been struck by the diversity that existed in plain sight in the American past, a diversity that is either ignored or maligned by too many. Like the diversity of the lands that make the various national parks so wonderful, so too a diversity of people made it so that the parks could be enjoyed by all.

This documentary refreshed my sense of joy in studying American history, and it reminded me that I still have an important role to play in helping to preserve the diverse historic places that made this country great.

1 comment:

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