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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Must See

I just spent a half hour enjoying the preview to a new Ken Burns series starting tomorrow on PBS: The National Parks: America's Best Idea. You can download the preview for free from Amazon (actually, PC owners can download it; as a faithful Mac owner, I only got to watch it. Whatever.)

I have known about this upcoming series for months and had it marked on my calendar. Complete nerd -- and proud of it. I am beyond excited that it's finally here. I have visited a national park every year since 1999. I am so grateful that I stumbled into this decision. I plan on continuing this habit for the rest of my life. I have gotten to go Yosemite, Sequoia, Olympic, Glacier, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Acadia, Rocky Mountain, Mt. Rainier... and one unique adventure into the Canadian National Park in Banff. Each one defines the word "breathtaking" in its own unique way.

Even better, I have stunning memories that escape description. Where do I start? I can still picture and feel these moments...

An early morning with a cup of coffee in Glacier, watching a beaver build a dam.

A lunch break on a long hike to Gunsight Pass, where a mountain goat tried to steal my sandwich.

A night during a backpacking trip where the winds blew so hard down the mountain that our tent was uprooted and we were nearly blown into the lake off of a cliff.

A climb with over 70 switchbacks up Upper Yosemite Falls, where I felt like I'd climbed Everest -- only to find a man at the top with a full backpack AND a mountain bike strapped to the backpack, boulder hopping!

Hiking on perfectly flat ground for 9 miles along a river in a rainforest in Olympic National Park. And camping for the night on a gravel bar to the sound of rushing water on either side.

A piping hot meal of tortellini alfredo after hiking all day.

On the trail for hours with no need to talk.

S'mores at night.

Ranger talks. Kids with flashlights. Junior Ranger badges.

Staring at the fire, then up at the stars.

The altitude taking my breath away at the summit of the Trail Ridge Road -- 12,000' in elevation -- at Rocky Mountain National Park.

The peaks. The peaks. The peaks.

The feeling of a hot shower after backpacking.

The silence.

It amazes and thrills me that we can have such easy access to pristine scenery, time and time again, for so little cost. I know I sound like a commercial. But it blows me away that we have the National Parks. Yes there is traffic and yes there are ridiculous RV'ers with satellite dishes and generators and yes there are loads of tourists taking photos of squirrels... deal with it. Push through it all and just enjoy the privilege.

Enjoy the series on PBS. Then plan on going - year round, they are incredible.

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