I've been all over the place this week as far as the tone of my posts goes. Today, though, I'm posting something happy- the National Park Service turned one-hundred years old. Back when government was seen as a good thing, and government competence was embraced, large tracts of land with ecological or historic significance were set aside for the good of the public. These natural wonders weren't walled off to become plutocrats' playgrounds or corporate profit centers. Some things are too sacred to be owned by any one person, family, or company.
Back in 1993, I took two separate cross-country road trips, visiting various national parks on both occasions. We not only hit popular parks such as Yellowstone, Carlsbad Caverns, the Devil's Tower, and the Grand Canyon, but less developed parks such as Death Valley, the Petrified Forest, the Guadelupe Mountains, and (perhaps my favorite) Big Bend. Sadly, when we were in the area, Yosemite was inaccessible due to the amount of snow on the roads (Gullyfornya used to have snow back then).
The memories I have of the time we spent camping in the parks are precious... Drinking beer in the evening as a herd of javelinas overran the campsite, hiking through a shallow alkali pond at the bottom of Badwater Basin, watching the silhouette of the Devil's Tower become distinct as our eyes adjusted to the predawn darkness- those are adventures I will never forget.
While I haven't been 'out west' in a long time, I still make a habit out of visiting National Parks, such as the Gettysburg battle site, Grant's Tomb, and Ellis Island. These parks and monuments are something I will always value, because they are priceless. The very existence of the National Park Service is a testimony to the importance of good governance. Of course, there are libertarian cranks who wish to privatize the NPS, precisely because these areas are beyond compare. We can't let that such a theft happen, these natural wonders must be held in the public interest.