National Parks makeover: American edition

Joseph Wood

“Experience Your America” is the slogan of the National Park Service.  By that, they mean rolling hills, the purple hues of sunsets, pristine forests, old growth trees and the crisp bite in the air. In reality, it seems like our America has become rolling hills of urban sprawl, the purple hue of your overpriced two-dollar grape slurpee, pristine forests of shelving at Home Depot, and that “glad-to-be-alive” feeling you get the next morning after doing Edward 40-hands and passing out in the Beta bushes.

If they truly mean “Experience Your America,” the National Park Service should have Wal-Mart run the parks.

Just think about it. You drive up to the entrance and there is a half smiling, half pissed off, barely-breathing elderly person in a cute little blue apron there to greet you. You enter the park and already you know exactly where you are going, with 10-feet blue signs with the name of destination in the park written in brilliant yellow writing. The road is lined with dirty tile. You decide to head to the ranger station and so you park in the endless cement parking lot.

The ranger station has a few maps but also futons and Legos so you decide to do some early Christmas shopping and also put an armoire –– yes, you are very classy –– on layaway because, after all, you only visit Yellowstone once. After loading your furniture, you drive out to a great viewpoint of the geysers.

Walking through the giant store at the ranger station has made you tired so you hop on the escalators that carry you around the park. After an hour or so of being stuck behind a guy with a plumber’s crack passed out on the escalator, you get tired and decide to head back to the Super 8 hotel in the park and watch “Lock Up” cause it’s the only thing worth watching on cable.

What a vacation! Now you can wear that little Yosemite pin and people can ask you about your fantastic adventure in the great outdoors, and you can show them the armoire you got at a great price. And it’s real wood too.

If you think this sounds like a great trip, you should just go camp out in Wal-Mart in the appliances section. I want to tell you about the real parks, though, not just the utopian, consumer-based hell hole I just described. Do you really want to hang out with that passed-out guy on the escalator? Or would you rather talk to somebody with different life experiences than you? (I know you Whitties with your plans to study abroad and rainbow-colored woven ponchos are drooling at this prospect.)

Truth be told, the only people that go to America’s National Parks are foreigners. There’s so many Indians, Italians, Brazilians, Saudi Arabians and Russians that you don’t even need to leave the country to go abroad. And that hot American chick that you talked to? She’s really a Swede with a great accent. You might even get a chance to snap a selfie with her with the sun setting over the desert and get a bunch of likes on Instagram. #meltingpot.

Finally for those of you who find it hard to leave Jewett or an off-campus house, traveling in National Parks is a breeze. There’s no random sprinklers to spray you or friends to forcibly acknowledge. It’s a new experience with fresh faces and you can even drive your Prius to the different viewpoints.

If this sounds too difficult, talk to John Muir who helped found two of the first National Parks.  That man canoed through Glacier Bay, Alaska (now Glacier National Park) with a missionary and two natives facing driving rain and intense cold and when he wasn’t canoeing, he was climbing glaciers with snow up to his shoulders.  What have you done today?

So get up from your PBR-stained couch, turn off “Judge Judy” and find your way to a National Park. As John Muir said, “the mountains are calling and I must go.”

They aren’t going to leave a call back number or a voicemail, so answer now and maybe just maybe, you’ll meet the Swede, Argentinian or Indonesian of your dreams.


Joseph Wood is a pseudonym.