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Road Trips and National Parks


My parents moved to the States in the early seventies from Taiwan. It didn' take them long to fully embrace the road trip mentality of this expansive country. And, sure enough, many a weekend during summer vacation, we packed the Chrysler K station wagon and headed for the nearest national park attraction.

Living in the mid-west, often times the "nearest" park was located a few states away. From Badlands, South Dakota to the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, we drove never-ending highways, awaiting the brown sign that indicated the park was just an exit away. The obligatory photo stop at the entrance sign was a given, as were "hikes" along well-marked interpretative trails with a parting stop at the gift shop. I have no doubt, national parks shaped my childhood and instilled in me an appreciation and passion for the great outdoors.

Apparently, the influence of national parks on my upbringing was a shared experience. Ken Burns, legendary film-maker and story teller, premieres his newest work of art entitled The National Parks: America's Best Idea at Mountainfilm in Telluride this year. This world-premiere is a big deal. And, who better to celebrate the greatness of our national parks then Ken Burns. Ken created a name for himself with the success of Baseball and The Civil War. He is known to take controversy and tragedy head-on, with his latest efforts, he continues this trend.

Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales - from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska -  The National Parks: America's Best Idea is nonetheless a story of people: people from every conceivable background; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy. It is a story full of struggle and conflict, high ideals and crass opportunism, stirring adventure and enduring inspiration - set against the most breathtaking backdrops imaginable.

As Ken has said, the idea of creating the National Parks "is as uniquely American as the Declaration of Indpendence and just as radical."

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