“National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best, rather than our worst.”
-Wallace Stegner, American historian, author, and environmentalist, 1909-1993
“This land was made for you and me.”
-Woody Guthrie, American folk singer, 1912-1967
Wallace Stegner got it right: There may be many things to complain about in America today, but the National Parks are not among them. More than anything else in America, they represent the natural beauty of our land in all its diversity—and, perhaps even more importantly, they protect it for all Americans, in perpetuity.
And no one better celebrated that natural beauty in song than Woody Guthrie, whose classic folk ballad, “This Land Is Your Land,” serves for many as an alternative national anthem. Although not solely about the National Parks, Guthrie’s classic celebration of America’s beauty, written in 1940, is a timeless reminder that our undeveloped, protected, natural beauty is an inheritance that we must pass on, intact, to each new generation.
So take a visit to a National Park this summer or fall. Hike to the top of Guadalupe Peak in far west Texas and face east, knowing that the next higher peak you would see, if you could see it, would be in the Swiss Alps. Visit Yosemite and stand at the base of a granite monolith 3600 feet high—over 300 stories! Trek to Sequoia or Redwoods and marvel at nature’s tallest trees (or Saguaro or Joshua Tree for some of America’s oddest—and most iconic). Take in Bryce or Canyonlands or Arches and encounter rock formations you wouldn’t have thought possible. Or Great Smoky Mountains, and hike a few miles on the Appalachian Trail (or all 71 miles of the 2200-mile trail that traverses the Smokies, the most visited park in America).
The opportunities and the vistas are endless, thanks to the wisdom and foresight of our national government. Visit the fruits of that wisdom and foresight. Visit a National Park. Your soul will be refreshed.
Mike Brock, PsyD, LPC, is a counselor and life coach in private practice in Dallas. Later this summer, he will visit the northern Oregon coast and Redwoods National Park.