Update Oct 2, 2009: Patty and I watched the entire series on PBS. We learned a lot, while bringing back numerous memories of our trips to the National Parks scattered around the United States. Thanks, Ken Burns, PBS, et al…

Patty and I spent a couple hours this evening watching The National Parks: America’s Best Idea 1851-1890 – The Scripture of Nature – directed by Ken Burns and co-produced by Dayton Duncan. What a treat. This was only Part 1, and it covered the establishment of Yosemite, and Yellowstone National Parks, also touching on the creation of Sequoia National Park and the General Grant National Park. Much of the film dealt with John Muir, who had such an influence on our park system.

You might wonder what National Parks have to do with family history. The National ParksWell, think about it. These parks have played a huge part for our American families for nearly a century and a half. It’s where our families, and those of our parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents went for relaxation and appreciation of nature’s beauty. The parks have been a place where our souls were restored, giving us the strength to go back to our toil – until we could return.

I grew up at the base of Mt. Rainier near the town of Orting, Washington. Mt. Rainier was one of those areas to which John Muir was attracted. In 1991, we bought a home on the Nisqually River, just outside the Paradise entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park. During my first 43 years of living in Washington State, I spent many happy hours hiking and climbing throughout the area, first with my parents and church friends, and later with my own family and climbing buddies. I’ve climbed the mountain itself a couple times and scared myself silly on a few of the crags scattered throughout the park. The memories made during those sojourns are imprinted on my mind – and those of my family.

PBS has established a remarkable website to go with the series. If awards are given out for fantastic websites, this one surely should take top honors. It’s extremely detailed and it looks to me like it touches on just about everything that’s covered in the film itself.

The program tonight was only the first of six in the series, so we’re looking forward to many more fascinating hours taking in the wonders of America’s National Park System.