National Parks are Sacred

A recent series on PBS was a “must see” not to be missed. PBS and sponsors generously made this series available online for free for a short while, too. I want to thank PBS, their sponsors and Ken Burns for this wonderful series of documentaries.

National Parks – America’s Best Idea

This is a program about the passion of a few people beginning 150 years ago or so who were determined to preserve our unique scenic wonders and historic treasures for the ages, and for everyone. This series of documentaries is about people – the story of greedy politicians and opportunists vs. the naturists. In some sense, we have greedy politicians and opportunists today who are financially destructive, and I fear that we don’t have a passionate community of idealists to fight back for the good of our society as the naturalists did more than a century ago. I am thankful for our National parks.

I have three particularly powerful memories in my life in our National parks. I remember several weeks working in Yellowstone one October in the 1970’s installing a microwave network to provide telephone service to the park offices. Several times I walked past a large herd of bison gathering in a valley for the coming winter, and I could hear them breathe and move about – these animals were magnificent and some not much more than an arm’s length away. When a group moved, I felt a rumble in my legs and stomach. When they looked at me walking past, I was certainly the one who did not belong there.

I remember a technology meeting in Yosemite in the 1980’s where a number of the telephone industry’s network planners and manufacturing product planners gathered to define aspects of SONET standards. If my memory serves me, I think I was there to help define an esoteric notion of a path and a trail. Our first day in the park was spent walking together in small groups throughout areas of the park close to the lodge. The second day, we walked outside after a brief time in morning meetings to marvel at the landscape that surrounded us – we all disappeared into the park until dinner. The third day, we ate breakfast outside the lodge and soaked in this awesome park for another precious day. That night, many of us worked through the night until dawn to complete our deliverables so that our time in the park would not be wasted. But truth be told, it would not have been wasted if we returned to our desks with nothing but the experiences we shared in this park. Some of us to this day still talk among ourselves about that special meeting in Yosemite.

And finally, I remember a day in Big Bend with my father in the 1990’s. We had driven to Midland, TX with several great friends for a ham radio convention, spent a day in Ft. Davis, TX to see the observatory and the new solar and wind power generation projects under construction. And on our last day of our trip, we took the “long way” back to Midland driving through a portion of Big Bend. We stopped at a scenic vantage point for lunch and stayed much of the afternoon amazed at the remoteness and massiveness of this desert. My father and I ate sardines, stale French rolls, cheese and apples for lunch, and we talked about things a father and son should talk about – the only time my father and I talked about such things – the desolation of Big Bend was inspiring and beautiful and truly special – and a wonderful place for a “father and son picnic”.

I hope that society continues to value our National parks – they are sacred places and the source of lifelong memories for many – and for me.

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