Today, hundreds of National Parks across our great land are closed due to the partial government shut-down. This makes me sad, and makes me grind my teeth in frustration for so many reasons. Most of all, my heart goes out to all the bright and faithful Park Service employees who live their lives helping to maintain and preserve what is truly “America’s best idea,” and to the thousands of families who’d planned vacations in the Park system this Fall.
I’m lucky to have spent a lifetime outside, and in the Park system–although there are quite literally hundreds of Parks I’ve not visited yet and would still love to see. When I researched Keowee Valley, imagining and tracking the routes that Quinn and Jack would take across the wild Appalachian backcountry, I spent quite a bit of time in National Parks and National Forests. I hiked, camped, swam, paddled, horseback rode and simply just sat in the splendor that is our national natural heritage. I wouldn’t be who I am, and Keowee Valley certainly wouldn’t be what it is, without that exposure and those experiences.
The air has cooled, the leaves will soon be afire with Autumn, the fog hangs low on the hills and hovers spirit-like over the river bottoms in the dawn, and the sky is crystalline blue during the day. It’s the perfect time to get outside.
But since you can’t get into the National Parks right now–or at least until the government (and I mean ALL of us) wake up and smell John Muir’s and Teddy Roosevelt’s coffee–I suggest you check out probably the coolest documentary I’ve ever seen: “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” on PBS, by award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns.
You’ll be forever changed. You’ll want to steal someone’s station wagon and take to the open road. I promise.