Category Archives: Books

Hungry for Shenandoah

Have you seen The Hunger Games movie? Jason and I made it our date night for March and saw it on its opening weekend. That is rare for us, seeing a movie opening weekend, and it has been a long time since I’ve been in that packed of a movie theater.

I read the Hunger Games trilogy of books last year and absolutely loved them. I’ve been re-reading them over the last few weeks in anticipation of the movie. If you haven’t read the books or haven’t seen the first movie, I would highly recommend doing both.

In the lead-up to the movie, I found myself watching the trailer online each day. On top of that, I found the video for one of the songs on the soundtrack, Safe and Sound by Taylor Swift. I actually enjoyed it – and keep in mind that I am not a fan of country music. Even though the song is not upbeat by any means, I found myself fixated by the video. Why? The scenery reminded me of our fall trip to Shenandoah National Park.

Watch the video here:

Taylor Swift ft. The Civil Wars – Safe and Sound (The Hunger Games)

 

Have you watched the video? Now, tell me that it doesn’t look like this…

Untitled

Stony Man Trail

Misty Mountains in the Morning

Maybe it’s just me and my memories of our visit, but the video definitely took me back. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed our visit to the park, however short it may have been. It’s definitely a place I would like to return to someday.

Book Review: The Undying Past of Shenandoah National Park

Why, hello there! Long time, no write. Can you believe it is only five days until Christmas?? Where has this year gone?

I have one more DC/Shenandoah-related post to go. It stems from my inability to travel without purchasing many souvenirs. This makes my work trips to Walt Disney World incredibly dangerous.

On this recent trip, I did some shopping at the National Archives gift shop, and I showed good restraint at the shop in Shenandoah’s Dickey Ridge Visitor Center. Other than the all important Shenandoah National Park sticker for my National Parks Passport, I only made one other purchase: a book.

The Undying Past of Shenandoah National Park by Darwin Lambert provides a very thorough overview of the human history in the Shenandoah area. Before visiting the park, I really didn’t know much about it. Actually, the parks I know the most about were those focused on in the Ken Burns film, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea – Yosemite, Yellowstone, Acadia, Crater Lake, Biscayne Bay, and a handful of others. Shenandoah was not highlighted in the series. It’s nearby cousin, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, was. It turns out, their histories are rather similar.

The book starts as far back in human history as possible – with the “spear hunters.” Radiocarbon dated materials found in Pennsylvania can be traced to 18,950 B.P. (Before Present). If there were humans in the Shenandoah area at that time, it means they would have experienced…wait for it…the Wisconsin Ice Age. I thought that was a fun little tidbit  🙂

While I enjoyed the book, it was a little too thorough. I absorbed much more from the second half of the book, when the “story” got to the Civil War period and beyond. I took much more interest in learning about the farmers and tenants who lived in the park area in the 1800’s, the “mountain folk,” and their subsequent removal from their land for purposes of the park.

If you are planning a trip to Shenandoah and would like a comprehensive overview of park history, this would be a great book to read. I enjoyed reading it after the trip, but I wish I had read it beforehand. Then when you visit, stop at the Byrd Visitor Center near Big Meadows and walk through their exhibit chronicling the establishment and development of the park. It’s an excellent exhibit, and it nicely compliments the book.

Now that I’m finished with this book, I have started reading the other book I picked up on the trip, The People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present. Just a little light reading for the holidays…

Latest Read: Gloryland

My Read for the Trip

Jason and I are in love with the PBS documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. While we both have wanted to visit many of our country’s national parks, watching this series simply made the desire stronger.

One of the NPS employees featured throughout the series is Shelton Johnson, who became a personal favorite of mine. I was thrilled when I learned that he is a ranger in Yosemite AND when I saw that he would be presenting a program while we vacationed there this summer.

We attended his presentation of This Is America, a short film that focuses on the stories of diverse individuals who influenced the national parks idea. It was beyond incredible to be sitting in a theater in the middle of Yosemite Valley, listening to the thunder of Yosemite Falls, watching this film derived from our beloved PBS series, all in the presence of Shelton Johnson. Amazing!

Photo of me with Shelton Johnson. Sad that it’s blurry, but it is what it is – this was pre-photo workshop 🙂 .
This Is America

There was no doubt that I had to buy his book, Gloryland.

Gloryland is the fictional story of Elijah Yancy, a young African American man who leaves his hometown in South Carolina and heads West towards real freedom. He joins the U.S. Calvary and is eventually assigned to Yosemite National Park. It is there where he finds true peace and freedom.

Shelton Johnson’s career in Yosemite has focused on telling the story of the Buffalo Soldiers who patrolled Yosemite in the early 1900’s, and this book is one more outlet for his work. He created the fictional Elijah Yancy for Gloryland, much like he created the fictional Sergeant Elizy Boman for his ranger program in Yosemite.

Apparently, Shelton’s ranger program is amazing…but he wasn’t presenting it this past summer. When one of the people in attendance at This Is America asked why, Shelton’s response stuck with me. As he put it, being in the frame of mind of an African American man at the turn of the last century, after the Civil War but well before the Civil Rights Movement, every single day, really starts to mess with a person after a while. He needed a break from his personal portrayal, but the story still goes on through Gloryland.

Shelton writes with such eloquence. I found myself riveted by the story of Elijah Yancy, just as I had been riveted by Shelton’s stories on America’s Best Idea and in person in Yosemite.

Reading Gloryland while camping in Door County. See – Riveted.
Serious Reader

To get a sense of Shelton’s telling of the Buffalo Soldiers’ story, be sure to view The Untold Stories Project: Yosemite’s Buffalo Soldiers video online.

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