Sean Carroll has traveled to a number federal and state parks, forests, and destinations throughout the United States where the public “meets” the wilderness. Using his father’s tatered road Atlas as a reference, his journey of documenting vacationing Americans touches upon more than the desire to touch nature, but highlights the conveniences and amenities that aid us in what some consider a ritualistic journey.
The parks, which obviously set aside dramatic natural wonders for our enjoyment, also generally include modern conveniences like benches for rest, restrooms, concession stands, campgrounds, marinas, and hotels. While there as visitors, we walk along specially marked paths through the wilderness and snap photos from designated vista points. Life in public parks is a curious, non-commercial arrangement of government workers, generic signage, busy parking lots, sunburned kids, and frustrated parents. As I’ve been participating in this rite of American vacationing, I’ve become amused and enamored by how we interact with the wild and the infrastructure we put in place to do so.