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Archive for July, 2007

Pick Me a Winner

Last Week we delved into the National Parks of Harry Potter, imagining the little magician as written by Park-honored American writers. This week we’re looking at another cultural phenomenon and another hit summer film: The Simpsons Movie. But which National Park Sites will we choose? Parks that honor Simpsons? Er, couldn’t come up with any? Does Ulysses S. Grant count? Parks in Homer, Alaska? Haven’t been there yet. No, this week we’re traveling to Park Sites located in our heroes’ home: Springfield. First up: Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

Springfield, Illinois is America’s only Springfield capitol. It’s also home to America’s most famous historical figure, Abraham Lincoln. We have a fleeting memory of the Railsplitter appearing in a few Simpsons episodes. Confirmations, anyone?

We enjoyed our time in Honest Abe’s hometown. The Park Site consists of a few blocks and houses sequestered from automobile traffic and successfully suspended in time circa mid-19th Century. We sauntered down the shaded lanes, entered a few Lincoln museum buildings and imagined the life of a young frontier lawyer. He couldn’t possibly have known what the future had in store.

Downtown Springfield, Illinois offers even more Lincoln attractions. You can visit the Old State Capitol where Abe worked as a state representative, plead cases as an up-and-coming attorney, and gave campaign speeches, including the “House Divided” speech, which vaulted him into the national spotlight. The newly opened Lincoln Presidential Library is located just a few blocks from the Old State Capitol. Visitors have flocked by the millions to see this ornate look into Great Emancipator. We’re planning a trip back.

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Southeastern Utah.
Visited: No Time Soon
NPS Site Visited: Not There Yet
NPS Website

This is one that got away. We fear that getting to Rainbow Bridge NM , Utah will be near impossible, at least on our budget. Options: a.) $110/person boat ride or b.) a 34-mile round trip hike with limited camping options along the way. A permit from the Navajo Nation is required.

The second option wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t require a 30-mile drive down an unpaved road to get to the trailhead. A 4×4 is strongly recommended. Poor little ‘Tima. We couldn’t do that to her. Renting a jeep or a driver to get us to the trailhead is also cost-prohibitive for frugal travelers.

The closest we came to Rainbow Bridge NM was getting its stamp at the Glen Canyon NRA.

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Goats!In recognition of the 8.3 million Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows books sold last weekend, this week we are looking at National Park Sites that honor authors. Earlier this week we imagined the new Harry Potter book as written by Eugene O’Neill and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Today we turn our attention to America’s greatest poet Carl Sandburg.

We don’t have to imagine how Carl Sandburg would have stylized The Deathly Hollows. Why? Because Sandburg would have had no interest in lionizing an upper middle class precocious British hothead. Sandburg wrote only about the common American. He might have imagined a half-blood elitist wizard to be an inappropriate hero, especially to impressionable adolescents.

We also don’t have to imagine Sandburg’s take on Harry Potter because he authored an equivalent book, The Rootabaga Stories, which, similar to the Deathly Hollows, can be downloaded page for page on the Internet. These tales attempt to create wholly American fairy tales and originated from bedtime stories Sandburg told to his daughters.

Unfortunately, The Rootabaga Stories don’t compel the reader like the Harry Potter opuses and won’t be beelining to the cinema screen.

Click Here to Read More about Carl Sandburg NHS.

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Godric Hollow?In recognition of the 8.3 million Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows books sold last weekend, this week we are looking at National Park Sites that honor authors. On Monday we imagined the new Harry Potter book as written by America’s only Nobel Prize for Literature winning playwright: Eugene O’Neill. Today we see Harry through the quintessential American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

How would Longfellow’s Deathly Hollows be like? It would have: a) taken epic poem form; b) been unbearably long; c) reeked of sentimentality; d) fostered a new mythology; e) been loved by children and adults en masse; f) followed easy themes; g) been queasily patriotic and uneasily offensive in parts; h) sold outrageously well; i) been roundly dismissed and panned by critics; and j) been endlessly parodied. Hey, wait a sec. I think we might have found a copy.

The Dark Lord?From the magic of Godric’s Hollow
Through the hallowed halls of Hogwarts,
Stands Harry, the troubled adolescent,
Pointing with his finger westward,
O’er the Azkaban pointing westward,
To the purple clouds of sunset.

Fiercely the red sun descending,
Burned his way along the heavens,
‘Tis beloved Dumbledore aloft,
setting the sky on fire behind him,
Death Eaters, when retreating,
Burn the moors on their war-trail;
With Ron and Hermione at his side,
Stalwart and ready for the fight,
They shall follow fast those bloody footprints,
Follow in that fiery war-trail,
With its glare upon his features.

And Harry, the troubled adolescent,
Pointing with his finger westward,
Spake these words to Ron and Herme:Harry was Here
“Yonder dwells the great Dark Lord,
Voldemorte, the Magician,
armed with the mysterious Horcrux,
Guarded by his fiery Muggles,
Guarded by the black pitch-water.
We must find the remained Horcrux,
We must slay Dark Voldemorte,
We must restore the peace,
O’er the Azkaban standing westward,
To the purple clouds of sunset!

“He it was who slew my father,
By his wicked wiles and cunning,
When he from the moon descended,
When he came on earth to seek me.
He, the mightiest of Magicians,
Sends the fever from the marshes,
Sends the pestilential vapors,
Sends the poisonous exhalations,
Sends the white fog from the fen-lands,
Sends disease and death among us!

Perhaps we got a little carried away with the excerpt. Hopefully, Bloomsbury won’t sue. Nevertheless, one of those four paragraphs is an EXACT duplicate of Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. Should the Longfellow family be searching for some Rowling’s royalties or should the next epic J.K. series revolve around daring Ojibwas? Hard to say.

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Aaaaaaah!In recognition of the 8.3 million Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows books sold last weekend, this week at we are looking at National Park Sites that honor authors. First up is the only American playwright to win the Nobel Prize for Literature: Eugene O’Neill.

Harry Potter rumors and spoilers are everywhere and have elicited scores of questions. Is it really the last book? Which characters die? What will happen to Harry? Well we’ve wondered what would The Deathly Hollows be like if it were written by O’Neill…

It’s been years since we last saw Harry struggling through his troubled adolescence. He’s just attended Dumbledore’s funeral and has decided to leave Hogwarts. Flash forward 15 years. The Hog’s Head, Hogsmeade. Harry’s at the bar. Head down. Full of despair. He’s here every day. An alcoholic, mired in depression. His youthful dreams now seem so distant so out of reach so naive.

He enjoys it here. The dirt floor, the smell of goat. He especially enjoys the darkness…and the company. Soon Uncle Damocles Hickman, the traveling potion salesman will be coming. His visits bring joy, free drinks, and escape. The other patrons discuss their service in the Second Wizarding War. One, a Death Eater, insults his Order of the Phoenix friend. Their discussion never ends. Their side was right, their motivations were pure. They always will be.

In the meantime Harry thinks of his past, how it all went wrong. His scar, the constant pain, the reminder, the torture. He waits. He wonders.

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Newborn LambMichael’s sister and her husband Adam weren’t last week’s only lucky first time parents. Our friends Mike and Bridget also welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world. So in honor of our prolific procreators, this week we are revisiting National Park sites where we saw newborn animals. This week we have seen a day old calf in hill country Texas and scores of newly hatched alligators in south Florida. Today we go down on the farm.

What’s the best time and place to see newborn animals? Late spring and at a farm. The National Park Service is no exception. What did we find at Maryland’s Piscataway Park?

Baby lambs! We saw two baby lambs. As in, just been born baby lambs! A volunteer was explaining to a group of wide-eyed kids, us included, one of the lamb’s present predicament. The little guy had managed to get himself on the side of the fence opposite his mom, who was already taking a stronger liking to his sibling. If he couldn’t find his way back to his mom and back in her good graces, he could starve before the week was through. Come on baby lamb! You can do it!

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Newborn Babies!

Sunning SiblingsMichael’s sister and her husband Adam weren’t last week’s only lucky first time parents. Our friends Mike and Bridget also welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world. So in honor of our prolific procreators, this week we are going to National Park sites where we saw newborn animals. On Monday we went to hill country Texas and LBJ National Historical Park. Today we travel to south Florida and Big Cypress National Preserve.

The Tamiami Trail highway (Route 41) stretches 275 miles from Tampa to Miami. The roads first 165 miles slog through the stop lights, strip malls, and glorious commerce of the Gulf coast. Through Bradenton, Sarasota, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, and finally Naples. Then the Trail makes a sharp due east turn towards Miami and into the mystery of wild Florida. The road narrows to two lanes and nature appears. You are now surrounded by Big Cypress National Preserve.

We first traveled the portion of the Trail after Michael’s cousin’s March 2002 wedding and were enchanted by the density of wildlife and the lure of the swamp. We frequently parked our rental car at the side of the road to peek into the canal that paralleled the Trail. Initially, our eyes were drawn to the many behemoth alligators. They were everywhere. Sunning along the water’s edge head up mouth agape. Or slowly drifting through the shallow water eyes fixated on an aquatic target. Or standing along the roadside looking right at us!

Then we opened up our ears. We heard high pitched barking akin to a small dog. We heard an endless symphony of odd gruntings, hissings, and squeakings. What could be making these noises? It couldn’t be these huge reptiles? Could it? We took out our binoculars and saw the culprits: dozens of tiny baby gators. Some were floating in the water, some were riding their mother’s back, and some were looking right at us!

Frequent Camp VisitorNight was coming so we had to return to our Naples motel. And we were a little afraid to stay past nightfall. Who knows what happens in this primordial wonderland when the gators take charge?

We found out a few years later when we spent few nights camping: gators walk a few feet from your tent, vultures perch nearby (unafraid of you), and the sunsets are breathtaking. We love south Florida.

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