I’ve saddled up old Seminar and we’re ready to ride this afternoon up to Rocky Mountain National Park for a week of camp as a participant in this year’s Parks as Portals to Learning, which is run by my colleagues who are faculty affiliates of the Public Lands History Center at Colorado State University:
This interdisciplinary field workshop was developed by Dr. Ben Bobowski and Dr. Ben Baldwin of the National Park Service and Rocky Mountain National Park. This workshop is a major curricular and institutional innovation that addresses a real-world, practical problem: the disconnection between academic teaching and research on the one hand, and professional natural resource management in the public land agencies on the other. Parks as Portals to Learning will use environmental history as a foundation for students, professors, and agency professionals to analyze contemporary resource issues such as climate change, air quality, and elk-vegetation dynamics. The pilot launched in 2013, with field workshops held each summer since. For one week each August, a group of students and faculty from a range of disciplines stay on the ground in Rocky Mountain National Park. They engage with park natural and cultural resource managers, learn about management issues within the park, and propose ways to use environmental history to address these issues and propose creative strategies for learning about and preserving park resources.
It’s a real honor to be participating this year, as the NPS celebrates its centennial this month. La Famille Historiann buys a parks pass every year as we tend to visit and vacation in national parks very often–but then, we live an hour’s drive from Rocky, and there are dozens of spectacular national parks and monuments within a day’s drive of Colorado’s Front Range.
What’s your favorite National Park? I’m guessing that many of you would tag at least one of the Big Three (Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon.) Last year on our drive back from Los Angeles, we hit Zion, Bryce, Escalante, Capitol Reef, and Moab. (Truth be told, the Big Three are great, but I could noodle around in these southern Utah parks and national monuments forever.)
As many of you are aware, traffic and popularity have become real issues in some of our most treasured national parks and monuments, and the Parks Service works every year to balance their dual mission of preservation and access to these public lands. Marquee parks like Glacier and Yellowstone are overrun every summer in spite of their relative isolation from major population centers, and parks like Rocky and Yosemite are popular with visitors all year round because of their proximity to Denver and Los Angeles. Zion is almost becoming a year-round park too, because of the short winters there and its location only a few hours beyond what it takes for most Southern Californians to drive to Yosemite.
I’ll be busy this week on the trail, but I’ll try to check in from the road. I hope to be able to do my annual(ish) run in the clouds sometime this week. In the meanwhile, I leave you with a little magic from the man in black, Mr. Johnny Cash, singing about the Greatest Cowboy of Them All: