This last month I watched Ken Burn's The National Parks: America's Best Idea and loved it. I'd seen some of it a few years ago but this was the first time I've watched it beginning to end. It is a hearty 12 hour endeavor and I did over a few weeks, but it was worth it.
A few years ago I decided to make some lifetime goals. One of these goals was to visit every National Park (NP) in the US. I already had a good start, being from Utah and having a parents who must have loved NP --or were just cheap-- because it seemed we visited a NP every family vacation whether we wanted to or not.
Even though I may have complained on a few of those trips, I love National Parks, in idea and actuality. They may be the only form of federal government involvement some members of my family and I will ever agree on. It is easy to get caught up in owning very tangible and proximal items like electronics, cars, clothes and real estate, these things usually belong to one person or a family, we don't have many opportunities to experience what it is like to have ownership and responsibility for communal goods.
I recently visited two NP in Florida, the Everglades and Biscayne. Each park has it's own beauty. The Everglades are like the where's Waldo of National parks, keeping one ever alert i hopes of glimpsing a Heron, Anhinga, Alligator or some other wildlife. Whereas the Western parks of my youth demanded great hikes and quiet contemplation as one looks upon God's natural temples.
National parks are filled with people from all over the US, the world and from every walk of life. I have met people both from the US and other countries with whom I have very little in common but can talk about the grandeur of delicate arch in Arches NP or the acrophobia inducing Angel's Landing of Zion NP. Talk to Europeans who once they know you are from Utah want to re-live their trips of Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion's to you. A national park is a place where I and a Latina teenager from Florida can stand side by side and watch in wonder an alligator on a log staring at a turtle. It is a communitarian experience that people from the entire political spectrum can appreciate.
Everglades: If you look real close you can see an alligator
Glacier: Brother Mike and I on a sibling bonding hike.