Each year now
more than 50 million people visit our national park system. Yosemite Valley
seethes like an anthill. Mile-long bear jams choke the highways of Yellowstone.
New campgrounds can't be punched out of the landscape fast enough to keep ahead
of the increase in campers, many of whom have never before slept in a tent or
cooked in the open, not even over a Coleman stove. Better roads will soon be
built, to make even remote parks like Rainbow Bridge National Monument (shown
on the opposite page) more accessible, but eventually new wilderness areas,
like the dry, wild lands of southern Utah (see next page), will have to be
acquired to absorb the increased tourist traffic.
To those who work
in the national parks nothing could be more encouraging than this great exodus
into the scenery, for they know that all of the country in their charge—the
deserts, the mountains, the forests, the swamps, the ocean beaches—offers city
man a change, a chance to get back into step with the fundamental rhythms.
It's pleasant to
think that Americans are at last discovering America. But it's not so pleasant
to realize that, so far, they have discovered only the road that leads, and the
place it leads to; they have not yet discovered what it is that lies there.
As a seasonal
ranger in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, I spent one day a week
contacting park visitors on a point overlooking Jackson Hole and the Teton
Range. Each day I talked with several hundred people. A typical meeting would
go like this:
A man, his wife
and 8-year-old son walk up the short path from their car. "Where's that
airplane wreck?" asks the man.
I tell him that
the old crash was on Mount Moran, and I point to the 12,594-foot peak across
the valley. "That's an interesting mountain," I go on. "The black
streak you see running down the east face is a stream of volcanic material that
got pushed into—"
"You see it
from up here?" the man asks.
vertical black line to the left of the glacier."
"I mean the
seen it," I tell him.