Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss and America's Greatest Idea

A favorite seasonal tradition for many people is a viewing of the movie "A Christmas Story", the adventure of Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun. Most people are unaware of a second film in the adventures of Ralphie that came out as a 1988 Disney TV movie: "Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss". Jean Shepherd once again narrated the adventures based on his childhood in 1940's Indiana, with Ralphie's first summer job, and the family's traditional yearly vacation to a lake in Michigan, the Haven of Bliss resort. It has yet to be released on DVD, but if you get a chance, check it out. It's hilarious, and even touching at times.

Ollie Hopnoodle came to mind last week when I was watching Ken Burn's wonderful documentary "The National Parks: America's Greatest Idea". As America's relationship to the national park system evolved, families who hit the road in the summertime began to "collect" parks in a sense, visiting as many as they could over the years. It could be a tremendous undertaking, given that most Americans lived in the east, and most of the parks were in far-flung locations in the west. Others come back to parks they love the most, year after year, in much the same way that Ralphie's family returned to Haven of Bliss. In another wonderful park movie, "Yosemite: Fate of Heaven", a family is interviewed about their yearly sojourn to the tent cabins of Curry Village. They have been there so many times that they can describe the relative merits of the view from one cabin over another.

This was on my mind last weekend as I made my estimated 75th trip to Yosemite National Park. I was thinking of the relative merits of learning a place in depth, or of seeing as many of the wonderful places of the world as one can with the limited time we all have for such ventures (the idea of seeing as many places as possible resulted in a fairly wild geoblogosphere meme and accretionary wedge last year). I tend towards the "collector of many places" school; I want to see as much of the world as I can before I'm done. Yet I also feel a certain frustration when I am on a once-in-a-lifetime tour: trying to take the pictures of things I may see only once, without the chance to linger and get to know them well.

In contrast, I live only a two hour drive from Yosemite National Park, and believe me, I never take it for granted. It is a true gift to be able to suddenly decide to run up to the park for a day or a weekend. We enjoy the sights everyone else seeks out, but we spend part of every trip trying to find something new, something we have never seen before. Sometimes that takes the form of pulling out the camera at a place that I would guess has been photographed 100 million times or more, and finding some new angle, some new feature that doesn't show up in the travel magazines. Other times it means hiking a new trail, or following a new road. It's not on the park map, and not widely known, but there is a perfectly accessible old fire lookout in the west part of the park that commands an incredible view from the Central Valley to the crest of the Sierra Nevada.

It boils down to the idea that one life just isn't enough. Every trip not taken is a loss and a waste, whether it is to a famous park half-way around the world, or a familiar non-descript lake in the midwest, hidden deep in a beautiful forest. Get out and enjoy your world, and take your kids with you! Electronic games can wait until you are sitting in the back row at school or stuck in another department meeting.

What do you think?

Today's pictures seem familiar enough, but I had never seen Half Dome in such stormy weather conditions, and the valley looks different from Tunnel View if you climb the hill and use some vegetation for framing.

Update: fellow geoblogger Callan Bentley was in Yosemite the same weekend as I was, but we ended passing each other on the highway! His photojournal can be found here.


Gaelyn said...

I feel fortunate to be able to work as a Park Ranger. One part of me would love to move to a different park every year. But another part wants to be in a particular park for many seasons to really get to know the place on an intimate level. Dilema. Plus there's still so many other places to see in the rest of the world. I'll need to live several hundred years to even scratch the surface. Guess I'll be back.

Gaelyn said...

Garry, I've passed along the "Best Blog Award" to you. I've so enjoyed your geologic, and other, posts. Thanks for being out here. Please feel free to stop by and pick up the award.

Unknown said...

"Ollie Hopnoodle..." is indeed now available on dvd. i agree whole heartedly about this wonderful heart warming tale...great for any family to watch together before their own summer vacation. Best to you all, Captain Erick