American Greatness
By Brad Friedman on 8/13/2004, 1:40pm PT  

(Blogged by Brad on the road...in the woods...on 8/10/04 at 8:43p PDT)

Not sure when this item will get posted, as I'm writing from site #25 at the Aspen Point campgrounds in Lake of the Woods, Oregon.

The sun is all but set now, though the lake still shimmers from the remains of the day as Desi builds a fire, and I peck out a Blog Item to be posted whenever the Internet and I shall next meet.

The weather here has been exceptional. Each day in the 90's and pushing 100 near the water's edge. But here amongst the towering Ponderos pines, many of them 200 feet or more, (think Styx's Grand Illusion cover meets Stephen King's Any Book That Takes Place in the Woods meets Dirty Dancing) it stays dry and cool all day long.

Our one night stay here has turned into four nights when our calculations determined that we could be here with a great view of the night sky on the night of the 11th, morning of the 12th when the Perseides Meteor Shower is predicted to be in fine and stunning form.

Lake of the Woods is in the Southern part of Oregon's Cascade Mountain Range. A chain of currently-dormant and spectacular volcanic peaks, cone and lava fields that have left a wonder of a summer playground for those Americans (and otherwise) clever enough to take advantage of them.

Today's day trip took us forty or so minutes north to the breathtaking Crater Lake National Park which has mostly inspired this evening's twilight entry.

For a measly $10 to the shamefully underfunded National Park System we were able to enjoy the entire day slowly working our way around the 33-mile rim road that encircles yet another natural American Marvel. In this case, one I didn't even realize existed until it found it's way onto our imagined path Northward smack dab in the middle of our well worn 2001 Rand-McNally Road Atlas.

Formed some 7700 years ago, when the former Mt. Mazama blew it's literal load and collapsed into itself forming a six-mile wide sinkhole surronded by towering peaks of molten lava, this awe inspiring site spent the next several thousand years collecting rainfall and snowmelt to become the bluest and deepest lake in the United States. And it's such a rich, vibrant --- even unnatural --- color of blue, such as I don't recall seeing before that the only comparison we could come up with was an overdose of Tidy Bowl. Hopefully you get the drift.

Reservations were unavailable for the Restaraunt (with mouth watering menu!) in the elegant old Crater Lake Lodge at the end of the day. So appetizers in the firelit Great Room would have to suffice. And so the day's journey ended at dusk sipping an excellent Red Crater beer (from the great local Deschutes Brewery) and munching on inspired appetizers overlooking the lake a few thousand feet below us.

The inspiration for this entry is not so much to share today's adventure with you, but to once again share some of the news that it took me, personally, and to my own shame, some three decades to discover; The extraordinary National Park and National Forest System that we have in this country.

If you're not taking advantage of these National Treasures whenever possible, you're out of your mind. If you're not doing everything you can to support these "local" Wonders of the World, then you simply must be unaware of their unparalled majesty.

I've heard America described over and over as "the greatest country in the world", but often wonder --- particularly when you hear something like that outta the mouth of the current Resident of the White House, who'd never even travelled across an ocean before becoming installed as "President" --- exactly what it is that makes us so "great".

I know it ain't our "freedoms" here, as many countries I've visited seem to be far "freer". It's certainly not the education or health of our citizenry. Other countries are much "greater" in both of those regards. We've had great victories in war, but also shameless failures in that same regard. We're technologically very clever, but have given up much of our lead in those areas as well. With our current Administration we are losing all sorts of ground in the area of science "greatness". Our economic system is certainly "great" as every country in the world seems to measure theirs against ours, though the seperations between the Have's and Have More's continue to widen and even the International Monetary Fund is taking us to task for our current Tax Cut and Spend Blowout. (Even Warren Buffett is chosing to invest in the Euro, instead of the Dollar! And for good reason!) Our system of government might have been considered "great" until the Stolen Election of 2000 and all the inequalities it revealed.

So what can we regard as "greatness" indeed? The still-mostly-protected wonders of our National Parks and Forests. Why any national politician could fail to see and protect with all their might the greatest of earth's miracles that we've inherited as a nation is far beyond me. The price is so small, given the rewards they present to every strata of American Society.

Teddy Roosevelt knew this of course, when he declared Crater Lake the country's 6th National Park back in 1902, long before there was any danger of Wal-Mart hoping to open up a new super-store on the rim, and even before the Logging Companies had figured out how to "save our forests" from devastating fire by clear-cutting them. FDR continued to understand the importance of these National Icons by pouring funds into them to protect, develop and make them family friendly through many CCC projects that still stand today as testament to a forward thinker and a great American.

I've rambled on enough, the light on my keyboard is gone, and the gnats are now migrating towards my computer screen, so I suppose that's more than enough for this evening.

Point of it all: Hit the roads, enjoy the parks and all that America has to offer. Skip the airplane, bust out an atlas and pay attention to those areas highlighted by a thick purple or red boundary line. They are the best that a Great America has to offer.

And while I'm at it, don't stand for any politician slacking off in their role as temporary proprietor of these Majestic Wonders!

Now back to my campfire. And back to your regularly scheduled fire fight.

UPDATE: Click here to easily send a letter giving your opinion of the Bush Administration's recent opening of National Forests to the Logging Companies!

UPDATE 8/30/04: Here's me blogging the entry above at Lake of the Woods!

More pictures from Crater Lake and the rest of the Road Trip here!