Wild Visions

National Parks Adventure, a giant-screen documentary presented by Subaru, honors conservationists who dare to dream

Every expedition begins with a dream. For Rachel Pohl, a vivacious young artist and adventurer from Bozeman, Montana, that dream spans a continent (and more). Pohl’s ambitious quest to visit every national park in the United States—more than 400 in all, stretching from American Samoa to Maine—is one of the astonishing stories captured in National Parks Adventure, spectacular IMAX film presented globally by Subaru of America, Inc. in honor of this year’s National Park Service centennial. The film is presented globally by Subaru of America, Inc. which, in honor of the centennial, has pledged to share its knowledge of zero landfill practices with the National Park Service to reduce landfill waste from the parks.

More than 30 national parks feature in the MacGillivray Freeman Films production, including the Grand Canyon, Everglades, and Glacier National Park. The power of the film is rooted not only in its soaring imagery but in the personal narratives and conservation success stories that reveal how these majestic landscapes have become monuments of the human spirit. Pohl is joined on her odyssey by two other adventurers whose outdoor expeditions could fill volumes. Celebrated rock, ice, and mountain climber Conrad Anker has summited Everest three times. His stepson, and Pohl’s pal, Max Lowe, is a National Geographic Young Explorer who has hiked, photographed, and written about the wild world from Montana to Mongolia, Nepal and Antarctica. Together, this trio treks deep to some of America’s most astonishing national parks.

Freeze Frame

Pictured Rocks National Seashore may not have the instant name-recognition of Yellowstone, but when an unseasonably warm winter failed to produce snowfall in the latter, the National Parks Adventure film crew went searching for an icy alternative. They found their perfect park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “We’d never seen a place that looked so much like a fantasy land—where you have caves filled with ice crystals and icy waterfalls that are so pristine,” said film producer Shaun MacGillivray. “It’s a real hidden gem and it was a chance for us to explore the wild in winter.”

View Images

Explore they did. Anker embarked on a brisk ice climb up a frozen wall while Pohl uncovered a nearly hidden ice cave, its archways draped with glittering icicles. Director Greg MacGillivray overcame frozen toes and jammed IMAX 3D equipment to capture dazzling scenes of billowing snow and translucent walls. “I’ve seen other ice caves but I’ve never seen icicles like this—some were mysteriously covered in powdered snow, other were so impossibly thin you couldn’t imagine how they were formed.” From famous places such as Denali and Devil’s Tower to “hidden gems” such as Pictured Rocks, the wild spaces that populate the film deeply impacted the director.

Pull Quote
These parks belong to us, to people the world over. The parks give us a sense of awe, a sense of wonder, and in return I think we understand what a tremendous gift they are for future generations around the globe.
Greg MacGillivray, Director, National Parks Adventure

Rooted in History

The National Park Service centennial in 2016 marks a milestone in conservation policy. Although Ulysses S. Grant signed an act in 1872 that made Yellowstone the first official national park, enhanced efforts to protect public lands were frequently met with political opposition. But in 1903, one of the most unconventional camping trips in American history brought naturalist John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt together for three days in Yosemite Valley. Muir’s mission was to convince the sitting President that such “temples of nature” were as worthy of conserving as the great cathedrals of Europe.

View Images

In National Parks Adventure, Muir’s maverick lobbying mission and Roosevelt’s commitment to conservation are brought to life by actors who convey the spirit and intellectual complexity of the historic camping trip, which resulted in Roosevelt’s resolve to protect Yosemite, along with five additional national parks, 18 national monuments, 55 national bird sanctuaries and wildlife refuges and 150 national forests. These actions set the stage for President Woodrow Wilson to sign the Organic Act in 1916, which established the National Park Service. 

Pull Quote
Not so long ago, the early pioneers had no idea what lay beyond the frontier. Imagine an entire continent of unmatched wilderness and a people who believe that the greatest natural wonders belonged to no one. They belong to all. A hundred years ago, these pristine places—America’s wild—were protected for eternity for everyone. And the national parks were born.
Robert Redford, Actor, conservationist and narrator, National Parks Adventure

Learning to Go

National Parks Adventure underlines our commitment to promoting the approximately 400 National Parks Service properties and working with them to ensure that future generations will also be able to enjoy them,” said Alan Bethke, vice president, marketing, Subaru of America. The film is one of many initiatives that have been undertaken this year to inspire young explorers to learn about America’s canyons, mountains, forests, and coastal regions.

In an innovative collaboration designed to empower students to claim national parks as places for recreation, conservation, and discovery, Subaru of America and National Geographic education specialists have partnered to produce the Find Your Park, Love Your Park initiative. The program features five free activity modules that educators can download and share with students as part of a program timed to honor the National Park Service centennial.

Educators can apply the curriculum to encourage students to explore parks in their own communities and document their discoveries in exploration journals. While in the field, kids observe ecological challenges such as littering and investigate conservation solutions. One educational activity involves mapping the cultural and environmental qualities, features, and activities of a wilderness area to make an atlas and travel tool that can be shared with others.

A goal of inspiring individuals to explore and protect the wild spaces around us unites the missions of the Find Your Park, Love Your Park curriculum initiative and the National Parks Adventure film. “Being in nature almost always refreshes us, but some spots go far beyond that; they fill us with a sense of awe, wondering how anything so sublime could exist here on Earth,” said Stephen Judson, a writer of National Parks Adventure. “That profound spiritual connection is the gift the national parks keep giving us, visit after visit.”

National Parks Adventure opens February 12, 2016 in select IMAX®, IMAX 3D® and other giant-screen theatres. 

This content was written by and is brought to you by our sponsor. It does not necessarily reflect the views of National Geographic or its editorial staff.