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Posts Tagged ‘national parks

“There is a phenomenon called ‘Trail Magic'”*…

 

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Each year, about a thousand people complete a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail, walking the 2,192 miles that run from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Millions more follow the trail for some shorter stretch, whether along the alpine ridge of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range, the towpath of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, or the downtown sidewalks of Damascus, Virginia, making the trail corridor one of the most well used and widely recognized recreational sites in the world.

But the original concept for tracing out a hiking path along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, dreamed up almost a century ago by the planner, forester, and idiosyncratic social reformer Benton MacKaye, was so radical that MacKaye himself feared it would be dismissed as “bolshevistic.” What MacKaye envisioned when he first proposed the trail in a 1921 article for the Journal of the American Institute of Architects was something far beyond a woodsy recreational amenity. This “project in regional planning,” as MacKaye called it, was meant to be a thoroughgoing cultural critique of industrial modernity — a template for comprehensive economic redevelopment at a scale never before attempted in the United States. The project drew on ideas ranging from forest conservation to socialist central planning, and its effects were intended to be felt just as strongly in the booming urban centers of the eastern seaboard as in the devastated hill towns of the Appalachian uplands…

In its original concept, the Appalachian Trail was more than a hiking path. It was a wildly ambitious plan to reorganize the economic geography of the eastern United States: “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.”

* Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods, an account of his hike along the Appalachian Trail

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As we walk the walk, we might recall that it was on this date in 1932 that an act of Congress created Hot Springs Reservation, to be “preserved for future recreation,” in Arkansas.  Established before the concept of a national park existed in the U.S., it was the first time that American land had been set aside by the federal government in this way.  It became a National Park in 1921.

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Pool of hot spring water in Hot Springs National Park

 

“Travel makes one modest”*…

 

… or not.

grand canyon

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK

★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Went to the Grand Canyon this past week, and let me tell you, it’s a big ole waste of time! There was dirt EVERYWHERE, and the hiking trail was too long! Also where are the vending machines?? And nowhere to charge my phone! It’s way too deep to even see the bottom! The only thing that saved this trip were the crab enchiladas we ate down the road at Plaza Bonita. BEST MEXICO FOOD EVER! Grand Canyon—more like Grand Blandyon.

Gina M.,  Los Angeles

Just one of the instructive one-star reviews of National Parks on Trip Advisor.  For more: “Too Hot, Too Crowded, Needs More Vending Machines.”

* Gustave Flaubert

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As we look gift horses in their mouths, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that a jealous Robert Frost heckled Archibald MacLeish at a reading of the latter’s poetry at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Middlebury, Vt.  Bill Peschel recounts:

The gathering was held at Treman Cottage, and Frost was among the attendees, sitting in the back. It was a time when Hitler was on the ascendant, and the United States was divided between warning against the rise of Fascism in Germany and Italy, and those who didn’t want to intervene in another European war. MacLeish was anti-Fascist, and Frost despised MacLeish’s support of Roosevelt.

That night, as MacLeish read from his poetry, Frost began heckling him. “Archie’s poems all have the sametune,” he said in a whisper that could be heard. When MacLeish read the single-sentence poem, “You, Andrew Marvell,” smoke could be smelled. Frost had accidentally, on purpose, set fire to some papers and was beating them out and waving away the smoke.

Most people accepted the story of the accident, and the reading eventually concluded. MacLeish was still the center of attention, and he was asked to read from one of his plays. But Frost was not done with him. As [Wallace] Stegner wrote:

“His comments from the floor, at first friendly and wisecracking, became steadily harsher and more barbed. He interrupted, he commented, he took exception. What began as the ordinary give and take of literary conversation turned into a clear intention of frustrating and humiliating Archie MacLeish, and the situation became increasingly painful to those who comprehended it”.Even Bernard DeVoto, a scholar and friend of Frost, had enough, calling out, “For God’s sake, Robert, let him read!” Frost ignored him, but shortly thereafter, on some pretext, “said something savage,” and left.

Afterwards, Frost’s defenders tried to kick sand over the events. One friend wrote only of “unfounded allusions” and “behavior not proven by fact.” There were people there who didn’t even notice what Stegner saw that night. But baiting MacLeish had caused a permanent rift between DeVoto and Frost. At the end of the conference, when they met and shook hands, DeVoto told him, “You’re a good poet, Robert, but you’re a bad man.”

 

Written by LW

August 27, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Public life in good quality public spaces is an important part of a democratic life and a full life”*…

 

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Paternoster Square, pictured here from the top of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, is owned by the Mitsubishi Estate Company

 

In general, the privatisation of public space in the west accompanied the traumatic transition from an industrial economy to one based on financial services, shopping, entertainment and “knowledge”. This model began in 1970s America, where downtown waterfront areas that were former industrial heartlands were redeveloped into entertainment complexes: Baltimore’s Inner Harbour, described by the Urban Land Institute as “the model for post-industrial waterfront redevelopment”, is the prime example.

London’s Docklands, once the hub of the UK’s shipbuilding industry, became a centre for privatised financial services districts such as Canary Wharf, gated developments and private campuses such as the Excel, the enormous conference centre where the potential to “lock down” the site ensures it is well suited to host such events as the Defence and Security Equipment International Exhibition.

War very often leads to heavily privatised areas, too. In downtown Beirut, the rebuilding of the city centre provided the opportunity for Rafik Hariri, a billionaire businessman and the former prime minister, to form Solidere, a company that has remodelled a 200-hectare area of the city centre.

Jerold S Kayden at Harvard has coined the term Pops (“privately owned public space”) for these types of places, and found that there are 503 in New York City alone. One of the highest profile is Manhattan’s latest tourist attraction, the High Line, which also appears to be the model for London’s contentious Garden Bridge – an urban “park” that bans all sorts of activities, closes for corporate events, does not allow political protest and requires groups of more than eight people to book ahead.

Indeed, the key question in determining how “private” a city might be could be about access, rather than ownership. Zucotti Park, another Pops in New York, was for many months the venue for the Occupy Wall Street protests. Contrast that with London’s Paternoster Square, home to the London Stock Exchange, where Occupy was quickly evicted when the owners took out an injunction. Political activity has been almost entirely squeezed out of London’s square mile, and Occupy had no choice but to camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral, on the only genuinely public space left in the city.

So while it may be impossible to name a city or a place as the “most private” in the world, what we can say is that societies with high levels of inequality are also those where the privatisation of the public realm and life behind gates increasingly defines the urban fabric. In Britain and North America, where democracy remains the system by which we define ourselves, the spread of this kind of city space is extremely problematic…

More and more parts of more and more cities are becoming the equivalent of private clubs or airport lounges: “What is the most private city in the world?

Semi-related (but altogether fascinating): “Everything we’ve heard about global urbanization turns out to be wrong.”

* Jan Gehl

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As we try not to ask about access, we might recall that it was on this date in 1869 that John Muir set pen to paper to capture his experience of awakening in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.  Published in 1911, My First Summer in the Sierra is based on Muir’s original journals External and sketches External of his 1869 stay in the vicinity of the Yosemite Valley.  His journal, which tracks his three-and-a-half-month visit to the Yosemite region and his ascent of Mt. Hoffman and other Sierra peaks, was instrumental in building public support for President Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation efforts, and for the formation of Yosemite National Park and the birth of the National Park Program.

jul-19-muir source

 

Written by LW

July 19, 2018 at 1:01 am

“What people ought to do is find out what a national park is to begin with”*…

 

In the beginning, there was Yellowstone: more than 2,000,000 acres of mountains, fields, forests, geysers, and rivers, a place of such commanding beauty that, according to an early account describing the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, “language is entirely inadequate to convey a just conception of the awful grandeur and sublimity of this masterpiece of nature’s handiwork.”

Yellowstone was declared the country’s (and the world’s) first national park in 1872, and by the time the National Park Service (NPS) was established in 1916, the program had grown to include Casa Grande Ruins, Rocky Mountain, Sequoia, and Yosemite, among others. After President Franklin D. Roosevelt reorganized and expanded the NPS in 1933, there were 137 parks and monuments across the country (today, the National Park System includes 417 areas, including the White House)—all of which required, and still require, significant management and planning.

The first master plan—a document packed with maps and recommendations for preserving and monitoring a park and the visitor experience—was drawn up in 1929 for Mount Rainier National Park, 369 square miles in Washington state. It was created by Thomas Chalmers Vint, landscape architect and, from 1933, Chief of the NPS Branch of Plans and Designs. It served as a kind of blueprint for the plans to come, and included proposals for a new hotel complex and an expansion of the facilities on the south slope of the glacier-covered volcano.

Throughout the 1930s, a series of master plans for parks and monuments followed. They became the essential documents for the management of every square mile of protected land…

Learn more about– and peruse some of the artwork from– these gorgeous documents at “The Early Master Plans for National Parks Are Almost as Beautiful as the Parks Themselves.”

* Michael Frome

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As we marvel at the maps, we might recall that it was on this date in 1870 that the members of the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition traveled down the Firehole River from the Kepler Cascades and entered the Upper Geyser Basin. The first geyser they saw that afternoon they named “Old Faithful.”  Two years later, the area was officially created as Yellowstone National Park, the nation’s first national park (and some argue, the world’s).

source

 

“There is nothing so American as our national parks”*…

 

Oh so many more– Yellowstone, Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Death Valley, to name a few– at “I Can’t Stop Reading One-Star Yelp Reviews of National Parks.”

[image above: Greg Heartsfield/Flickr

* Franklin D. Roosevelt

As we as we rethink the first “R” in “R and R,” we might spare a thought for Martha; she died on this date in 1914.  As she was the last known passenger pigeon, her death meant the extinction of the species.

(De-extinction efforts are underway.)

Martha

 source

 

Written by LW

September 1, 2015 at 1:01 am

Sunday In The Park With George (Lucas)…

 

From the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, “Top 10 Movies Made in the Parks.”  (Readers should be sure to scroll through the comments, to see– indeed, to add– alternative suggestions…)

[TotH to friend MK]

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As we slip popcorn into our picnic lunches, we might send culture-capturing birthday greetings to Norman Percevel Rockwell; he was born on this date in 1894.  Famous as a painter and illustrator in the U.S. through much of the 20th Century, Rockwell created such iconic images as the Willie Gillis series, Rosie the RiveterSaying Grace(1951), The Problem We All Live With, and the Four Freedoms series.  Perhaps because he published in such settings as Saturday Evening Post and enjoyed so much popular acclaim, Rockwell was dismissed by serious art critics in his lifetime.  But as The New Yorker ‘s art critic Peter Schjeldahl said of Rockwell in ArtNews in 1999: “Rockwell is terrific. It’s become too tedious to pretend he isn’t.”

The Problem We All LIve With, depicting an incident in the Civil Rights struggle of the early 1960s, when Ruby Bridges entered first grade on the first day of court-ordered desegregation of New Orleans, Louisiana, public schools (November 14, 1960). Originally published in Look magazine.

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Written by LW

February 3, 2013 at 1:01 am

What’s better than that “new car smell”?…

 click here for video

From the fine folks at AbeBooks

Walk into a used bookshop and you will encounter the unique aroma of aging books. The smell is loved by some, disliked by others, but where does it come from?

A physical book is full of organic material that reacts with heat, light, moisture and – mostly importantly – the chemicals used in its production. The smell comes from the reaction of the organic material to these factors.

Chemists at University College, London have investigated the old book odor and concluded that old books release hundreds of volatile organic compounds into the air from the paper. The lead scientist described the smell as “A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness”…

More in the notes below the video; and more on book collecting, here.

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As we fondle our folios, we might send bucolic birthday wishes to Scottish-American inventor, naturalist, farmer, explorer, writer and conservationist John Muir; he was born on this date in 1838.  In 1849, the Muir family emigrated to the Midwest of the U.S., where Muir carved clocks and built curious but practical contraptions (like a device that tipped him out of bed before dawn), that won Wisconsin State Fair prizes (1860). But by 1867, he had begun travelling the U.S.– and developing his love for nature in general, and the Sierra Nevada in particular. In his later years he wrote extensively: 300 articles and 10 major books that recounted his travels, celebrated his beloved wild lands, and expounded his naturalist philosophy. Muir drew attention to the devastation of mountain meadows and forests by sheep and cattle, led the effort to establish the Sequoia and Yosemite national parks– and became the “Father of the National Park System.”

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. (source)

Written by LW

April 21, 2012 at 1:01 am

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