“Leave it as it is. Man can do nothing to improve upon it.”
- President Franklin D. Roosevelt
This country is gloriously beautiful. What America lacks in age it makes up for in natural beauty. The most amazing thing for me was how the discovery of the vast beauty native to the United States was accidental. Often times it was people trying to scrape a living out of the harsh and unforgiving environment of the early Americas that stumbled upon the great and vast natural beauty. Imagine walking into the Grand Canyon without even realizing it is there. We have all seen pictures of the amazing natural beauty of this world, but I can speak from experience, nothing beats actually standing in the shadow of it.
I think most of us would like to think that the parks were created solely for the purpose of giving these places identity and importance, but the reality is that the national park system was created to keep these areas free from exploitation and from having the natural resources stripped for personal use. The early history of the parks is often wrought with having to convince the government that the land upon which such natural beauty sat was unsuitable for industrial pursuits. If there had been gold in Yosemite or coal in Yellowstone there wouldn’t be a National park in these locations. It’s hard to believe that anyone would be unmoved by such beauty, but those were hard times and they birthed equally hard people.
The national parks are constantly evolving. As much as they are seemingly staying the same, the very elements that were largely responsible for the creation of the natural beauty are still in play. So no matter how many times you visit a given park there is always something new to see. In our national parks you will find, the deepest lake in the nation with the clearest water in the world, 85 million acres of canyon, forest and wildlife, trees that are the oldest, tallest, and largest living things on Earth, a mile deep gash in the Earth… the list really is inexhaustible.
The national parks more than anything else are one of the most enduring symbols of America. They very much epitomize the American spirit of discovery. They remind us of our relative youth, as these are places still raw and unmolested by industry and as a consequence little changed over the centuries. In a way we are able to touch our past by visiting these natural monuments; we are able to stand in the same place as our forebears and experience the same sites and that is powerful.
The national parks are an idea based on generosity for all people in the US. They are the legacy that we leave subsequent generations. They are enduring and a testament to the beauty of this little bit of the world that I call home. We may not have ancient monuments and a long written history of our people; but we have the natural world that hints at the pre-historic and gifts us with natural wonder.
Though I admittedly am getting a late start on discovering these parks, I hope to get a chance to explore them all someday.
What do you think is not to be missed?