5.04.16: National Parks Are Awesome & The Bookshelf

May 4, 2016

With spring springing and trees budding, it's time to think about spending some serious time outdoors. With so many choices, we asked a seasoned travel writer where to go. From Acadia to Yosemite, today we’re unpacking some of the practical and philosophical questions to ask when planning a trip to a national park...including how a park system founded a century ago coexists with our changing population, and an exploration of the national park's premise: creating a contained wilderness. 

Listen to the full show. 

How to Visit National Parks

In a few short months, many families will pack into their cars and head off on an American tradition - the road trip…which may well include a stop at one of the country's national parks.

In 2015 more than three hundred and seven million people visited sites maintained by the US National Parks Service.  NPS cares for over four hundred areas - totaling more than eighty four million acres - and including national monuments and military sites. But the jewels in the crown are fifty eight "national parks" - from the oldest, Yellowstone, founded in 1872, to Pinnacles, (a territory upgraded to national park status in 2013).  In recent years, it's become clear that these wondrous natural resources are being degraded by their popularity.

Ford Cochran joined us with advice on planning a fun and conscientious park adventure. He's an author, geologist, director of programming for National Geographic Expeditions, and national parks aficionado.   

Credit Jason Liebig via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/4JpNKk
Evicted From the Wild

In 1924 a group of wealthy Virginians applied to have the Blue Ridge Mountains designated a national park. They said the area was “pristine and free of human habitation” – an eastern counterpart to wildernesses like Yellowstone and Yosemite. That was a surprise for the five hundred families living in the mountains.

This story was produced by Jesse Dukes for BackStory with the American History Guys.  

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org

The Paradox of the Park
Credit born1945 via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/rgbBz

  We're continuing our look at the national park experience with Yellowstone - the world's very first national park, established in 1872.  Little has changed inside the park, but the American population and its concept of "wilderness" have.  Seven people have died in bear-related encounters at Yellowstone in the last 100 years, three of them since 2011. In the most recent case, the bear was trapped and killed, raising questions about how humans think about and interact with untamed wilderness - and whether we expect nature to be contained or managed by human rules.

David Quammen is a science, nature, and author of fifteen books on travel. He wrote in depth about Yellowstone, past and present, for the May 2016 issue of National Geographic.

The Bookshelf with Elizabeth Marro

On Fridays Peter Biello, host of All Things Considered here on NHPR, talks to authors from around New England about their latest works. Most recently to Elizabeth Marro about her debut novel Casualties as part of his ongoing series "The Bookshelf.” 

Listen to this episode again: The Bookshelf: Novelist Elizabeth Marro