Posted by: GeekHiker | September 24, 2009

Watching This Is Definitely The Best Idea

(This seems perfect, as I’ve been talking about Kings Canyon all week, and I wanted to make sure that you all knew about this before the weekend.)

Back in March I attended a pretty cool event.  I had multiple tickets but, unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts all those I invited were unable to attend the event with me.

I ended up going myself, the experience of which I blogged about at the time.

What I didn’t blog about was the event itself, because I knew that blogging about it back in March would be too much of a tease, and sharing the event and what it was all about now seems much more appropriate.

Starting Sunday on PBS is Ken Burns’ “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” a twelve hour documentary about the people, famous and not, history and lands that make up our National Park System.

In March, KCET, the local PBS affiliate, hosted a special preview event for KCET members.  It was held out at the Paramount Ranch, and Huell Howser was the host (if you live in California well, gosh!, you know exactly who he is).

Huell’s show, California’s Gold, is something I watch on a regular basis always wishing, just a little, that I could just quit my job and travel around the state checking out all the sites.  Just haven’t been able to figure out how to get someone to pay me for it yet.

In lieu of that, I got to meet the man himself (sorry ’bout the low-quality pics, they’re all from the cell phone):

Meeting Huell Howser. He was impressed that I wore my Indiana Jones outfit and put my smiley face on

Huell working the crowd

The event was well attended, with a couple of thousand people assembling on the wide grassy area in front of an outdoor screen:

The large outdoor screen, just before sunset

As dusk fell (and the temperature dropped precipitously), Huell moderated a question and answer session with the audience and Ken Burns:

Ken Burns answering a question from the audience

After the question and answer session, about an hour of film was screened from various parts of the documentary.  Five, as I recall, parts were shown, all of which were good, which made it just that much harder when they cut out of one to move on to the next.  Every time it got good, every time you started getting into the tale they were telling, they’d cut to another part. I think that may be a good indicator of the quality of the film.

After the screening, everyone moved off the field to (thankfully heated) parts of the old western town, where a huge buffet worth of food, free giveaways, even wine samples (in inscribed collectible mini wine glasses) were available.

The catered meal in Western Town

Needless to say, the event far exceeded my expectations (and it was free!), and mulling about with a plate full of food, I wished that my friends had been able to join me.

As for the film, based on what I’ve seen, I can’t help but recommend it strongly.  Burns has his critics, to be sure, and if you’re not into long documentaries, then the film is not for you.  For me, though, with this subject matter and Burns’ level of affection for it, it’s right up my alley.

Now, I will admit that the quote by Wallace Stegner that “National Parks are the best idea that we ever had” has been over-used in the advertising.  Heck, I couldn’t even come up with anything better than to crib it for the title of this post.  A better quote, I think, is from Burns himself, who points out in interviews that National Parks in the U.S. was the first time that fantastic areas of land were set aside not just for the rich and powerful, but for all of us.  In an interview on MSNBC Burns says:

“Without national parks, there would be mansions of the rich lining the Grand Canyon. The Everglades would be drained and filled with tract housing. Yosemite, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, would be a gated community.”

If that thought doesn’t send a chill down your spine… why the heck you reading my blog?  😉

Anyway, as a result, I may not be around too much next week.  I’ll probably be glued to my TV set, wishing I had an HD TV, maybe drooling just a little bit.

And most likely I’ll have paper and pen at my side, making a list of all the places I have yet to go…


  1. I have a huge list of places I want to go/hike already. Paramount Ranch is on that list. Every time I watch something about the national parks the list gets bigger….

  2. That sounds fabulous. I wish they had a show like that up here. We have some pretty stellar places to see! I will watch for it up here!

  3. Do you have a NP passport? I’ve always wished I had one so I can get a stamp on every NP I have ever visited. Not that I need a stamped passport to prove something to someone or anything, but it just seems such a cute idea, something like collecting fridge magnets (I don’t do that either) of places you have been to.

    I guess you are going to collect the DVD set, yeah?

  4. Those are some pretty decent pics for a cell phone, mine sure doesn’t take photos that good.

    Sounds like an awesome event. Does old western town have a saloon? I think I need to go next time I’m in CA.

  5. Jealous … again.

    Oh yeah, and the DVR is set.

  6. Got a passport this summer b/c we were traveling so much. I cannot wait to see this, I have heard about it and it got fantastic reviews. Thx for the heads up!

  7. I am grateful that we keep some areas the way they are and haven’t paved over them…

    Do you know what else I’m grateful for? the invention of peanut brittle. 🙂

  8. i remember watching ken burns’ jazz years ago, which was very well done. this should be interesting too. maybe if i had a tv 🙂

  9. Hahaha! I keep bumping into Huell Howser sometimes in Palm Springs but that event sounds interesting to go to.

  10. Wow that quote is freaky to think about. Thank god that didn’t happen. I have to say that the CA state parks are pretty great, too. I think you should start visiting the National Parks one by one and blog about it. I’ll donate on your site!

  11. OMG, GH! What’s wrong with all those people! Their faces! It’s an alien convention!

    Central Park had National Parks week last week but I missed it. Bummer. Glad you had a good time.

  12. Jean – I know the feeling. Pretty much everything on the map of the NPS system is fair game for me.

    CMACC – I know they’re streaming it online through the 9th. Don’t know if is available up there or if you’d have to go through a proxy…

    K – No, though maybe I should. So many random places I’d have to re-visit! I do have a couple of fridge magnets, though. 😉 As for the DVD, I haven’t decided yet…

    S’Dizzle – Well, the town is just a set, but they did have one building dressed sorta like a saloon for the wine giveaway.

    Homer-Dog – Did you watch? What did you think?

    Spleeness – Hope you watched and enjoyed!

    Miss McCracken – I do love me the peanut brittle, too. 😀 And really love that there’s no corporate logo painted on the face of Half Dome!

    BlakSpring – Can you stream it online?

    DesertLamb – LOL, I forgot he has a house out there, too!

    Mel Heth – It didn’t happen in some place, but it’s at risk in so many others, sadly. How much you willing to donate to my travels?

    Dingo – Aliens are people, er, life forms too! Sorry you missed the Central Park event.

  13. […] You can read about my meeting with Huell here. […]

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