Some people say we’ve outgrown the national parks. We’re a nation of sloths who watch “Biggest Loser” while sipping from a Mega-Gulp, the complaint goes. National parks? Dude, that’s so yesterday! Others blame the Internet, or technology. Why bother with bugs or the searing sun when you can get close to Half Dome on hi-def through the Discovery Channel?
We like our soft pillows and Jacuzzi baths too much, it is said. The population is aging. A study earlier this year, from the National Academy of Sciences, suggested that the downward trend included nearly all outdoor activities. They blamed it on electronic media, particularly games.
A few years ago, I was in Monument Valley, home of the Navajo and the great, rust-hued spires that formed the backdrop for so many of John Ford’s iconic Westerns. The place blew me away—the scale, the color, the moods of the sky, the immensity of this scrapyard of exposed geology. There were plenty of tourists, equally amazed—Germans, Italians, Japanese, French, Australians. I was perhaps the only American.
Where are they getting most of their information from? You guessed it...from the media. From Apocalypto (Indians as barbarians and bloodletters), Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (Indians as weaklings and turncoats), and Comanche Moon (Indians as rapists and killers). And every other media product I've criticized in the last few years.
I'd say every American should spend at least one vacation driving through and immersing yourself in the American Southwest. The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, and on and on. It would take you months to see everything worth seeing.