On Nature Lovers, Classic Hiking Gear, and Our National Parks

Last night I caught part of Ken Burns’ gorgeous new documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, on public television. If you haven’t heard, it’s a six (six!) part, twelve-hour series that charts the history of US national parks, from the dreams of a few nature-loving people to the park system as we know it today.

One of the things I enjoyed about this first part of the series, airing all this week, were the stories of the early days of the parks, including some of the crazy ideas for drawing new visitors that were fortunately vetoed. For example, did you know someone considered stringing a cable car across the Grand Canyon? Even more, I loved the contemporary film footage juxtaposed with photographs from the parks’ early days in the 1920s, showing rangers and visitors hiking in what I’d consider dressy attire: collared shirts and ties, long skirts and buttoned blouses. I’d like to see outfits like these next to the fleece at REI!

Besides re-thinking my hiking outfit, I’m now making a list of new parks I’d like to pay a visit: Mesa Verde, for its cliff dwellings and Pueblo archaeological sites; Glacier, to see if that icy water really is as mirrorlike as it appears in its famous photos; and farthest-north Denali, peaks perpetually covered in snow.

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