With my brother about to finish up hiking and photographing the Long Trail and being swept away by the energy of the Boston mayoral race, I’d like to take a moment to say: I want a thru-hiker for president. Let me explain. There’s a picture of Teddy Roosevelt with John Muir, a 20th century naturalist, in Yosemite before it became one of the 59 iconic National Parks in America. There’s a lot of folklore surrounding Roosevelt and his presidency, but one of my personal favorite stories is centered around this photograph and their friendship.
When this photo was taken in 1903 Roosevelt and Muir had been hiking in the Yosemite Valley in California. Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, was at the time was actively advocating for the creation of Yosemite as a National Park. In the middle of this hike, Muir and Roosevelt split off from their hiking party and spent three days bush-whacking and trailblazing through the valley. When the duo returned, neither said a word about what the they discussed on this side hike, but by the time Roosevelt went back to the oval office from California, the state government ceded the land to the federal government thus creating the second National Park and setting a precedent for the establishment (Yellowstone’s creation in 1872 was a little trickier ) of future ones. Many people believe that it was this hike that gave Teddy the extra push he needed to make National Parks more than an idea.
While stories like this one sound quaint and romantic in our age and asking for a thru-hiker to be commander-in-chief, is, admittedly, a little idealistic, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want a candidate on the national level who is more than colloquially or statistically interested in both the American and the global environment. Regardless of party or stance, the environment and our relationship with it, or perhaps better said: it’s relationship with us, has been and is still becoming increasingly important in terms of creating policy. And whether arguing for the use of more natural resources or staunchly holding the Environmentalist line, debates and discussions about the environment can only be as effective as the experiences being brought into the conversation. Some people want a candidate they can drink a beer with, but I want one that I can take a hike with.