“National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” ― Wallace Stegner
The American landscape is spectacular. While other aspects of my country have deeply disappointed me lately, the land itself stands with timeless dignity. Preserving and respecting it is perhaps the best insurance we have against even more desperately dismal times. Experiencing our natural history firsthand teaches a kind of wisdom that is inimitable. In the face of sweeping geology, teeming biology, mysterious archaeology and the interconnection of every aspect of life, how can we not be humbled and fascinated?
National Parks and Monuments provide opportunities to camp out at a living history museum. Steve and I prefer to spend several days in one spot and explore in depth…but this time, we didn’t do that. By the end of our two weeks, we had gone through eight national sites. The Memorial Day weekend crowds were one factor. The start of the summer season also influenced the Park Service staff resources. Park Service rangers are the best. I love having these enthusiastic and well-informed guides on hand — they are so much better than Google! Walking through the park and asking them questions gets my inner four-year-old awake and engaged. It’s more difficult to get this kind of ranger time when they are new to their post and in training or helping out a crowd of Junior Ranger visitors. Still, each one we met was friendly, intelligent and helpful. I wish there were more of them.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument was the first park we visited, so I bought my inter-agency Annual Pass there. The site exhibits petrified sequoia trees and fossils from the Ecocene. My new word for that day was permineralization. Walking the trails, groggy and cramped from 30 hours in the car, was a sweet liberation.