It’s all very well visiting grand historic homes and grand museums, but sometimes a very ordinary-looking old structure can grab the imagination and unexpectedly suck you in. That was my experience with the Mingus Grist Mill at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
As I never visited the States as a boy, all my childhood impressions of the American landscape were formed via TV or the big screen. One of my most vivid memories of the weird magnificence of that landscape comes from the 1977 Steven Spielberg movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which features Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.
I remember the first time I heard about the Appalachian Trail. It was in the fall of 1991. Some friends were heading out for an extracurricular weekend of hiking and camping along a portion of something called the Appalachian Trail. I had the opportunity to join them but I hesitated. What kind of trail is this? I inquired. It certainly goes up and down mountains, as a decent trail should, but its main defining feature, I gleaned, is its length. The Appalachian Trail is very, very long—much longer than a trail has any right to be, or so I thought.
It was on this day in 1890 that Yosemite National Park was created—26 years before a National Park Service even existed to maintain it. Yosemite, along with Yellowstone, is often considered one of the crown jewels of the national park system, and it’s one of the few parks that most Americans have likely heard of.