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Reader Participation Day: Which Historic Person Would You Take Hiking In The National Parks?


Which historic person would you like to hike, ski, or paddle with in a national park?

Would you take John Muir to show him what Yosemite National Park looks like now? Maybe you would hike with Benton MacKaye so he can see how his vision of the Appalachian Trail turned out. What would you talk about?

Alternatively, forget these outdoor icons. Instead, you would bring over your great-grandfather from the old country and show him Picture Rocks National Lakeshore.

Or you could mix it all up and take Henry Thoreau to Yellowstone National Park and explain today's philosophy of national parks.

Whom would you choose and where would you take them?


Barack Obama and his family -- without the usual entourage. We'd hike virtually any trail in Grand Teton, Glacier, Zion, Olympic or any other national park, for that matter. We'd let them sleep under the stars, watch for wild things, wade in creeks, witness an awesome sunrise and track the sun across the sky until it disappears in another spectacle over the western horizon. If we were in a dark park, we'd lie out for hours under a night sky watching either the Milky Way or the moon. We'd stand at a high overlook and try to see a distant peak through the human haze. We'd walk along a beach and witness the endless power of an ocean and discover the little things in its tide pools -- and the human detritis that has accumulated there, too.

We'd show them the hard work done by maintenance and trail crews and take them along on ranger guided hikes and to evening campfire programs. We'd show them roads with unfilled potholes and restrooms and pit toilets that need to be cleaned more often. We'd show them collections of priceless historic and prehistoric objects that have been awaiting curatorial services for too long. We'd show them the effects of Congressional stinginess and of sequestration.

If we could take them to parts of the west where ORVs have run amuck, we'd show them the tire tracks and erosion that will require the lifetimes of the girls to repair -- if even then. We'd show them overgrazing on government land by subsidized ranchers and piles of trash left behind by uncaring recreationists. We'd let them experience the thrill of having to leap off the trail to avoid a crash with a screaming, swearing mountain biker on a suicide run down a single track trail. We'd show them some of the "roads" that county commissioners, state legislators and others who hate wild places are trying to open to unlimited travel. Then we'd show them ruins thousands of years old that have been pillaged by local grave robbers in search of treasures they may sell.

We'd also show them forests filled with bug kill that could be prevented by proper management and selective logging if some environmental groups would get out of the way. We'd show them strip mines, abandoned mines and prospects, abandoned oil and gas sites and those under use or development today.

But most of all, we'd let them experience for themselves the joy in a child's eyes or the happiness in the heart of an adult who has just rediscovered -- through some small, unexpected adventure -- their sense of wonder. We'd try to show them how absolutely priceless these places are and how zealously they must be guarded against those who would thwart the mission the NPS has been handed to "preserve unimpaired . . . "

My dream is that if we could do that with the Obama family -- and every president who will follow -- we might, just might, find the conditions of our natural places improving by leaps and bounds.

I would take Joel Sartore and go to Glacier, Yosemite or Yellowstone and hopefully take some great wildlife shots. If he wasn't available, I would go with Kurt Repanshek and hope for some dancing elk, etc...I also would not mind going with Lee and Obama (sounds fascinating).

There are so many that it would be an honor to be with, President Obama for sure. How about two heros in todays news, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsberg for trying to save the voting rights act of 1965. Or State Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth Texas for a 13 hour standing filibster ( now water, no restroom, etc), trying to defend keeping women's reproductive health issues in the hands of doctors, not politicians. These two women are pretty special.

Part of me wants to show Teddy Roosevelt all the monuments and parks he had a part in creating. But only if he leaves his firearms at home [g].

Great comment Lee Dalton! If I could select anyone from present time or from history, for purely selfish reasons, I would like someone from whom I would learn greatly during the comraderie associated with a hike in the parks. Who would be my first pick? Ludwig van Beethoven. I'd take him on the 7-day loop of the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite. Next would be John Muir. Where we'd go would be his choice. How far we'd go would be his choice too. Finally, I'd be honored to be able to meet and guide Pete Seeger to Cascade Pass in the North Cascades. This is a rather short hike, but at Pete's advanced age, it would be quite appropriate. Along the way, I'd like to explain to him all the reasons why I believe he should qualify for the Nobel Prize for Peace.

A roadtrip with Walt Whitman to all the national parks.

I'd like to take Richard Wetherill on a tour of Pueblo Bonito. It would be fun to match what we think we know now about that place with what he thought he knew in the early 1900s.

Grandma Gatewood - Appalachian Trail Truman Everts - Yellowstone NP Albert Gallatin - Friendship Hill NHS Daniel Morgan - Cowpens NB George Masa - Great Smoky Mountains NP Charles Kuralt - Voyageurs NP (canoe) John Wesley Powell - Grand Canyon NP (raft)

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