Commentary #16: “The Roots of ‘America’s Best Idea'”


Yellowstone National Park. Image Credit:

“Keep close to Nature’s heart … and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”

~John Muir

In the beginning of February, I stumbled upon this article on

I didn’t know that the National Park Service was turning 100 in 2016, so that grabbed my attention immediately.

I love that CNN is launching a year-long series to celebrate. I can’t wait to see what they publish.

This first kick-off article focuses on Yellowstone National Park, the first federal park to be created, in 1872.

Its anniversary, the 144th this year, is March 1st.

The National Park Service was established on August 25, 1916, by way of the Organic Act. Back then, it protected the existing 14 national parks, 21 monuments, two reservations, and “those yet to be established.”

While reading this article, I recognized John Muir’s name immediately. I remembering researching him and the Sierra Club in high school. I took Visual Arts in my junior and senior years, and I had to have a focus, or an overall theme, for my final presentation at the end of my senior year. I was drawn (no pun intended) to flowers, nature, and landscapes, so I made environmentalism my overall theme. I remember being fascinated by Muir and his work to help conserve our land, dreaming of the day that I would get to experience the lands that he worked to protect.

Sadly, Muir died two years before the National Park Service was created. He died on Christmas Eve 1914, at age 76, of pneumonia.

However, his legacy lives on.

He helped establish Yosemite National Park in 1890, and has been lauded as an inspiration to both Scotland and the U.S.

His name, in the U.S., is on a 211-mile hiking trail in the Sierra Nevada, a national monument, a beach, a glacier, a college, a camp, and a mountain.

In Scotland, his name is on a 130-mile long distance route. In 2013, the first ever John Muir Day was celebrated in the country, to mark the 175th anniversary of the conservationist’s birth.

Reading this article, it’s chock full of history that you just don’t see in the history textbooks today. Personally, this article has inspired me to dig deeper. I want to learn as much as I can about the National Park Service, Hetch Hetchy Valley, artist George Caitlin, Stephen Mather, and the National Geographic Society.

It also makes wanna get away. Between reading this article and recently chronicling My Bucket List, I want to go West as soon as possible!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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