On this day in 1919, Congress created Grand Canyon National Park. I’m going to save the early history of the Park Service for another day, when it makes a bit more sense and I don’t have this horrible flu.

Instead, I’ll ask for your National Park stories. Here’s mine. Hiking in the backcountry at Badlands one time, when I was much younger, I stumbled off the trail by accident (because I’m clumsy, okay?) and slipped down a rock face about thirty feet. Sliding down, I dislocated my shoulder and sprained my ankle and wrist. I couldn’t climb back up. I huddled on a small outcrop for about two hours, as the day got progressively hotter, wondering if I was going to die. I think, scanning my memories, that’s the only time I’ve ever really thought such a thing: that my demise might be imminent. Anyway, I decided, as the sun kept climbing, that I needed to make a move. So I slid down the remaining thirty or forty feet, doing not much more damage to myself than I already had done. Actually, I remember that I ripped my Patagonia jacket, which was a bummer. Because I was still at an age when something like a Patagonia jacket seemed important. Anyway, I then hiked out and got a ride to a hospital in Rapid City, where they gave me some delicious drugs, popped my shoulder back into place, and that was that. (Actually, my shoulder still pops out from time to time — stupid National Parks.)

The moral of the story is this: unless you’ve rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, having lost one arm in the Civil War, it’s pretty hard to come up with a National Parks story that’s actually harrowing. And if you haven’t read John Wesley Powell’s Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons, you really should. Powell was the last American man. For reals. (Apologies to John McCain.) That said, my colleague Alan Taylor did have a bear poke around his tent one time while he camped on the valley floor in Yosemite.

[Editor’s Note: The Communist Manifesto was also published on this day in 1848. I’m far too provincial to think that I can tackle that subject. But if someone out there who isn’t feverish wants to write something about Marx and Engels, or related topics, drop me a line at my work e-mail.]