Sunday, September 27, 2009

Road Trip: Celebrating National Parks, Ken Burns and America's Best Idea

I must confess a good part of my road trip itinerary was inspired after seeing some of the breathtaking advance press footage for the Ken Burn's directed documentary series "The National Parks - America's Best Idea" which debuts tonight on PBS.

I have always believed our National Park System is without question one of America's greatest legacies and I have been looking forward to the debut of Burn's highly acclaimed work for months. I learned a few months ago that I would be working on the night of the big debut and s0 - decided to see some of these parks for myself in a nearly 3000 mile drive across Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California.

Like other of Burn's award-winning documentary work - the National Park film takes an historical look at the people and politics that saved America's greatest natural treasures from exploitation and certain demise. A battle that continues today.

PBS says that the documentary was filmed "over the course of more than six years in 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 documentary is nonetheless a story of people from every conceivable background — rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; 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 of struggle and conflict, high ideals and crass opportunism, stirring adventure and enduring inspiration — set against breathtaking backdrops."

To whet your appetite for the documentary - here are scenes from nine National Parks and Monuments that I have so far visited on my great western road trip.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Chinle, AZ

Monument Valley Tribal Park
Northeastern, Arizona
(not technically part of the NPS)

Natural Bridges National Monument

Capitol Reef National Park

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Bryce Canyon National Park

Zion National Park

Desert National Wildlife Refuge at Corn Creek
with Warbling Vireo
Las Vegas, NV

Death Valley National Park
California/Nevada Border

PBS says THE NATIONAL PARKS film is a visual feast, featuring some of the most extensive, breathtaking images of the national parks system ever captured on film containing the most contemporary footage of any Ken Burns film since “Lewis and Clark,” shot principally by chief cinematographer Buddy Squires (who has photographed all of Burns’s films), long-time Florentine cameraman Allen Moore, Lincoln Else (who also is a former ranger at Yosemite) and Burns himself. Read more here at

I'll be featuring more of my road trip to the nine National Parks and Monuments listed above over the next few weeks here at The Faraway, Nearby.

Top Photo: Monument Valley

All photos ©trryan @ from the faraway, nearby
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