National Geographic : 1966 Jul
National Geographic, July, 1966 Last autumn I drove the section that leads from near the White Wolf turnoff to Yosemite Creek. Along one stretch I met a car. I backed to where the road was wide enough for the auto to pass, but before it could get by, two other vehicles arrived, jamming the route. We all got out to discuss the situation, and the old Tioga Road versus the new. In one of the cars was a family of five, Mr. and Mrs. William J. Kearns from Downey, California, and their three children. "We think the new road is great," Bill said, "but Barbara and I are glad you kept parts of the old one. You see, we came camping here on our honeymoon. Now we're celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary by camping here again-only this time we've got kids who can also enjoy the beauty of the place." I couldn't help thinking of Mission 66 and its boon to generations to come. What Mission 66 did for Yosemite's Tioga Road was repeated elsewhere. Mount Rainier National Park's Stevens Canyon Road had been a-building since 1931. But the short sum mer construction season, plus small yearly appropriations-nearly half of which went for repairing the previous winter's damage made progress slow. Through Mission 66, a lump sum made it possible for contractors to bring in heavy equipment and complete a section in a single season, thus avoiding dam age wrought by snow and ice on partly fin ished grades. The Stevens Canyon Road was finished, except for paving, in four years. Blue Ridge Parkway Grows Fast A third of the scenic 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, linking the Great Smoky Moun tains and Shenandoah National Parks, was yet to be built in 1955. Mission 66 completed the project in ten years, all except a six-mile stretch around Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, where there has been a prob lem in acquiring right of way. The road to Desert View in Grand Canyon, the new road offering a window onto the grandeur of Mount McKinley-the list of rebuilt roads or new mileage could go on and on. Occasionally people talk to me about roads spoiling the wilderness quality of our parks. In reply, I point to Yellowstone. It's true that modernizing the 150-mile Grand Loop Road has allowed more people-two million visited the park last summer-to view the great gorge and steaming geysers and other won ders (pages 24-5). But that modern road still traces the old route cut for stagecoaches around the turn of the century; no new areas have been opened by road since 1908. Furthermore, suppose a road does encroach on the wilderness character for a distance of, say, a quarter of a mile on each side? In Yellowstone the area thus "spoiled" amounts to only 5 percent of the park. No, there's plenty of wilderness left in our parks. And I'm convinced that it's worthwhile opening a few windows onto it through which more people can derive pleasure. Workmen Risk a Dizzying Drop Besides miles of safe roads, Mission 66 gave the parks 936 new miles of good trails on pilings over sloughs in the Everglades, un derwater for snorkelers in the Virgin Islands, into wilderness or beside natural wonders elsewhere. Two of my favorites lie in that granddaddy and pacesetter of parks, Yellow stone: The trail to Inspiration Point and the switchback walk that leads to the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River-"400 yards down and 4,000 back up," another not-so-young climber told me as we rested on one of the handy benches. I defy you to walk the trail to Inspiration Point when early-morning sun or evening shadows chrome the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and not feel uplifted by the scene preserved here for man's enjoyment. You'll marvel, too, at the steel nerves of the workmen who replaced the old wooden walkway with pipe, stone, and concrete. Park employees laid footings inches from the edge of an 18-story drop to the nearest slope of the canyon wall below; 620 feet farther down, the river carves its way along the can yon floor. Even now the thought of men unprotected by railings-maneuvering wheel barrow loads of stone above that yawning Like a great bite torn from earth's raw crust, Bryce Amphitheater gouges the rim of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Rock pinnacles suggest steeples and minarets, castles and colonnades. But to pioneer cattleman Ebenezer Bryce, who gave his name to the wonderland, it was merely a terrible place to lose a cow. Mission 66 improved park roads, enlarged parking facilities on Inspiration Point at far right, and added a visitor center. KODACHROMEBY WALTERMEAYERSEDWARDS,NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICSTAFF © N.G.S.