The fact that I received a traffic ticket for riding my mountain bike across an empty gravel parking lot in Death Valley National Park in no way colors my perspective on parks, authority, being an American, freedom of the hills, best ideas, or any of that. Nuh-unh. No, my perspective is more colored by campgrounds, traffic jams, and tourists: National parks, despite their often glorious settings, too often remind me that no matter how free I feel, the Man is still in charge.
But national parks, despite their restrictions, or perhaps at the expense of their restrictions, harbor some of the most sublime landscapes under the sun, glorious places where, with just a few miles walk, you can escape the hordes and be alone, with no reminders of rules and regs other than perhaps a little blue plastic bag. I’ve sat on top of Yosemite’s Mount Hoffman in the middle of July, when the valley was a hazy mess of air pollution and tourists, and been blissfully alone as my head bumped against the cobalt blue sky. I’ve gone deep into Canyonlands until covered with a century’s patina of dust and never seen another soul, except for thin white contrails far above.
National parks are amazing. And they are exasperating. And what I’m wondering, for the adventurous spirit who doesn’t come to ogle wildlife, but who goes outside for the joy of physical effort, for the levitation of having no borders, for the whole YES of being away, are national parks overrated?
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This week, one poll participant will receive Smith Optic’s Collective shades. We’ll pick the winner via random number generator (and announce it here) — all you have to do to enter is vote and leave a comment so we have your email to contact you. Must have a U.S. or Canadian address. Contest ends Sunday, April 14, at midnight PST.
Congrats to Shirley Klepac, winner of the Collectives!