In the Ken Burns documentary series "The National Parks," the parks system is called "America's best idea." I am an avid enthusiast of the parks; if I had enough money to take off a year and do nothing, I would spend it traveling by RV to as many national parks as I possibly could. I'd spend weeks in Yosemite and in the Grand Canyon and in Montana's Glacier National Park, just being out in nature. The national parks are the last places on earth where the wilderness has not been consumed.
"There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm," Teddy Roosevelt said. And he's right. The wilderness is the last place on earth where you can get away from your computer and phone screens and surround yourself with the good kind of solitude.
But some of you hate the outdoors. Or, like me, you just don't have the time to really get out and explore. For folks like us, the announcement today from the Google Cultural Institute and the Parks Service is awesome. The two have teamed up to offer 40 National Parks and historic locations that are viewable in Google Street View.
You can roam the halls of Alcatraz from the comfort of your desk, or check out the various rooms in the home of Abraham Lincoln. Or you can gaze up at the wonder that is Half Dome in Yosemite, check out artifacts from Valley Forge or explore every detail of Paul Phillipoteaux's incredible painting of the assault on Gettysburg that is housed at the Gettysburg museum.
Maybe you don't have the time to go hiking to the floor of the Grand Canyon. And you probably don't have time to watch the entirety of the Burns documentary series. But all you need is a few free minutes to pop over to the Google Cultural Institute and check out some of the most gorgeous places in America.