International travel is absolutely awesome, but it’s all too easy for young travelers to forget that we have a wildly diverse backyard of our own worth visiting. To be fair, it’s more of a series of backyards, expertly managed by the U.S. National Parks Service, but it has been around for almost 100 years. Plenty of Americans are die hard park enthusiasts, but it often seems like the fresh-out-of-college set is quick to go literally anywhere else. But potential vagabonds take note: From the Everglades to Zion, we have a lot to offer a wayward traveler here in the U.S. And with over 400 parks, chances are there’s one closer to you than you think.
On August 25, 2016, the National Parks Service will turn 100 years old. To help get you excited about that, Conor Knighton took the reigns and hit the road. The CBS reporter learned about the upcoming centennial, approached his bosses with a hair-brained idea, and the suits bit. Knighton now spends his days bouncing across the country showing you a different park every Sunday morning and explaining why you should give a damn in his series, “On The Trail.”
The Yale graduate who helped launch Current-TV isn’t a razor-tongued Bourdain-type, he’s just a passionate dude who likes being outside. But, he’s doing something that we can all be inspired by — upending his quiet life and exploring our stunning, diverse, enormous backyard.
What’s the goal of “On The Trail”?
I’m spending the year hunting down fascinating stories set in and around National Parks. It’s no surprise these places are beautiful — my goal is to showcase how interesting they are. If I’m doing my job right, the pieces shouldn’t feel any different from any of the other diverse segments that air each week on Sunday Morning. They just happen to be set in some of the most beautiful places on Earth.
How’d the series come about?
I’ve done a number of stories for Sunday Morning — pieces on history, art, celebrity profiles. I’ve always been based out of Los Angeles, and I’ve always flown to wherever the story might be. Last year, knowing that the Park Service Centennial was coming up, I started to pitch a piece pegged to the 100th Anniversary. But then I thought…why not do a SERIES of stories? A YEAR LONG series?
From that moment on, I became a little obsessed. I wrote some absurdly long emails to my bosses in New York, sketching out what I was thinking and how we might pull it off. Example pieces, a possible route, all of that. I pushed send, feeling good I’d at least gotten it out of my system. I was convinced it was good idea, but I was also totally convinced it would never happen.
But they were intrigued, and we started to chat about what a series of parks segments might actually look like. It quickly became clear I’d basically be living on the road full-time. I think they assumed that might be a deal breaker. For me, it sealed the deal — before I even got an official “yes,” I’d put my stuff in storage, sold my car, and headed out On the Trail.