National Parks: America’s Best Idea

by Marlene

This picture is of the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park and bears the inscription “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people”.

Last Sunday, we began watching the PBS documentary, National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Part one is titled “Scripture of Nature” (1851-1890). It focuses on Yosemite with its outstanding beauty and the “wonderland” of Yellowstone. Through interviews with historians and park personnel it discusses how the idea evolved to set aside exceptional lands “for the enjoyment of everyone”. Video of extraordinary scenery accompany the interviews in addition to old photographs of people and places in the parks.
The “Ken Burns Effect” of pan and zoom for which he has become notable, is used throughout the film. We chatted about this as we are now quite familiar with it and use it in our videography. A narrator recites passages from John Muir’s writings. One of Muir’s observations is an eloquent description of how “going to the mountains is going home”. At that, E took exception and noted that for her it meant being far from home. It made for a chuckle as M & E have yet to fully appreciate how a visit to a place of natural beauty can restore the soul and replenish the spirit.

To quote John Muir – Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

I too, have had transcendent moments when experiencing nature. With it comes a sense of oneness and a feeling of completeness.

No one needs to convince me that the National Parks are America’s Best Idea, but if you need a little prodding, I recommend you watch the episodes online at

Going to the Sun Road along St. Mary Lake – Glacier National Park

Other articles you may enjoy: