My Year as a Volunteer VIP Campground Host Comes to an End


A large white-tailed deer buck in the Greenbelt National Park Sweetgum field in Autumn: Glynn Wilson

Secret Vistas –
By Glynn Wilson

WASHINGTON, D.C. – My eyes and my soul are drawn to one event in nature more than any other. Autumn color.

I could play the innocent and talk about this natural beauty like describing playing in mud puddles as a youth and wax eloquent about the uniqueness of the South, or something. Some writers do. That’s not my thing. In fact, I am sick of even hearing about the South, the Civil War, etc. The South sux.

This attraction to fall color is not a mystery to me anymore. It hasn’t been in years, not since I picked up Edward Wilson’s book on Biophilia. Maybe you’ve heard of it too.

Back when I was pursuing a career as a college professor in the 1990s, I even tried to test the theory with a sociology survey for the National Park Service through a professor at the University of Tennessee. But like a lot of things in the college world in those days, no one seemed open to the idea. Universities are not as liberal and cutting edge as you might think.

I actually had conservative professors and even deans say to my face that the Internet and World Wide Web were all just part of another fad, like Hoola Hoops and Frisbee Golf. Imagine that.

They are gone now, these men, to who knows what retirement home or grave site. If they are still alive I hope they choke on their nursing home gruel. If I find out where they are buried I will dance on their graves.

The idea that humans are drawn to nature is the very essence of our humanity and binds us to all other living things. In his latest documentary, Of Ants and Men, Wilson seems to wrap up his life, career and thinking about these things as if he is about to depart this world, which seems inevitable considering his age. He is trying to communicate with the masses, a thing most scientists avoid like the plague. He even tried to appeal to Alabama football fans in this one, in a way I found to be quite surreal.

He needs a little help in the explaining. He tried to make it clear that the survival of other species on the planet is critical to our very own survival as a species, a story that has been tried by many writers over the past half a century or more. He makes the case for group natural selection as well as individual natural selection, the most recent thinking on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. And he points out that while competitive people do well within groups, only groups that draw on the altruism gene survive in the long-run.

I’m afraid that’s over most peoples’ heads. Perhaps if he would simply explain nature vs. nurture, again, in simple language, more people would get it. It’s both, you see. We are born with the tendency toward biophilia but it also must be nurtured culturally through education. Otherwise it is possible to lose it. Many already have. They clearly don’t care anymore.

We must help them — or perish ourselves.

I am trying to help, but there is only so much one can do out there alone in the world like a lone wolf without a pack to help it hunt in the cold winter months. Success is hard without a tribe, you see. Wilson shows that as well, if not in such graphic terms.

In case you were wondering, my year of living in a camper van in state and national park campgrounds as a volunteer VIP campground host is almost over. I must return to the real world soon and either get a job or get serious about funding my own work. Either way, I will be heading west soon and then south for the winter. You can’t live in a camper van in the Northeast in winter. Not really.

My first camp host gig was in the Patapsco Valley State Park near Ellicott City Maryland. I spent a glorious last half of May, June and July in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. And for the past three months, I’ve been living for free 13 miles from the White House in the Greenbelt National Park campground. It is a well-kept secret of a place, an urban oasis that provides inexpensive public access to the nation’s capital to many from all over who would rather pitch a tent or camp in an RV than pay $300 a night for a hotel room in Washington, D.C.

It is only 1,100 acres, while Patapsco has 16,000 and Shenandoah is nearly 200,000. It is not so scenic and thus more difficult to figure out how to photograph. Probably the highlight here is the big field in the Sweetgum Picnic Area, where the deer come to feed in the late afternoon. The problem is they don’t show up every day, and when they do, it is often at dusk when the light is not so great.

I’ve been trying for days to get these shots with the fall color in the background, but the color finally just arrived a few days ago. I am going to try a few more times this week as the moon gets full again. This is what I have so far. I hope you enjoy and share.

I will have more to say about my plans for the future in the coming days. I’m working up a series on the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service, and the status of the issue of privatization. I think you will be surprised by my conclusions. Stay tuned.


Greenbelt National Park Sweetgum field in Autumn: Glynn Wilson


Greenbelt National Park Sweetgum field in Autumn: Glynn Wilson


Greenbelt National Park Sweetgum field in Autumn: Glynn Wilson


Greenbelt National Park Sweetgum field in Autumn: Glynn Wilson


Greenbelt National Park Sweetgum field in Autumn: Glynn Wilson


Greenbelt National Park Sweetgum field in Autumn: Glynn Wilson


Greenbelt National Park Sweetgum field in Autumn: Glynn Wilson

© 2015, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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