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Windshield Wilderness

Cars, Roads, and Nature in Washington's National Parks

by David Louter

Publication Year: 2006

In his engaging book Windshield Wilderness, David Louter explores the relationship between automobiles and national parks, and how together they have shaped our ideas of wilderness. National parks, he argues, did not develop as places set aside from the modern world, but rather came to be known and appreciated through technological progress in the form of cars and roads, leaving an enduring legacy of knowing nature through machines.

Published by: University of Washington Press


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pp. vi-viii


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pp. viii

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pp. ix-xiii

Lucky indeed is the book with a title so perfect that it manages to convey with just two strikingly unexpected and arresting words the core of the argument that its author wishes to make to readers. David Louter's Windshield Wilderness: Cars, Roads, and Nature in Washington's National Parks is such a book. ...

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pp. xv-xvii

This book began as a title with a lot of promise, and if it comes close to its potential, it is only because so many people have helped me along the way. My father, Herman Louter, was a big influence, not because of any particular interest in national parks or history, but because he owned a 1965 blue Buick Wildcat. ...

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Introduction: Nature as We See It

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pp. 3-10

When we visit national parks, we drive. And with few exceptions, national parks welcome us with open gates and splendid scenery. At a park like Washington's Mount Rainier, we leave behind urban sprawl, the roadside blight of strip malls, and the patchwork of fields, clear-cuts, and other signatures of people ...

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1 / Glaciers and Gasoline: Mount Rainier as a Windshield Wilderness

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pp. 11-35

In the early 1920s, a national park brochure observed that driving around Crater Lake was not "a joy ride, but a pilgrimage for the devotees of Nature." Touring the lake by car was "a spiritual experience - nothing less."1 In time Americans would come to question the presence of cars in national parks and their ...

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2 / The Highway in Nature: Mount Rainier and the National Park Service

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pp. 36-67

Knowing nature through machines presented an ideal way of thinking about and experiencing national parks. Although largely unproven, the idea of the automobile as an enabling technology, displayed so well at Mount Rainier, was powerful. It centered on the belief that park roads not only conveyed auto tourists ...

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3 / Wilderness with a View: Olympic and the New Roadless Park

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pp. 68-104

In July 1938, the writer Thomas Wolfe toured the West's national parks in search of inspiration. As he told a friend, he was embarking "on what promises to be one of the most remarkable trips of my life . . . a complete swing around . . . every big national park in the West."1 Riding with a reporter who was ...

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4 / A Road Runs Through It: A Wilderness Park for the North Cascades

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pp. 105-133

In the years after World War II, Americans began to understand national parks in a different way. For many, a wilderness encounter increasingly meant leaving the car behind and heading into the backcountry on foot or horseback. Even the Beat writer Jack Kerouac, symbol of life on the road, felt drawn to mountains ...

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5 / Wilderness Threshold: North Cascades and a New Concept of National Parks

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pp. 134-163

In the late 1960s, the establishment of North Cascades offered a variation on national parks as wilderness reserves open to automobiles. Like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Mount Rainier, North Cascades possessed unique natural wonders of grand proportions. The park also reflected more contemporary visions of wild nature. ...

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pp. 164-172

Cars have been in national parks for more than a century, and it would be hard to imagine parks, with the exception of Alaska's reserves, without cars. But what does this really tell us? For one thing, it tells us what we already seem to know: that cars dominate the national park experience. Automobiles provide ...


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pp. 173-210

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 211-226


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pp. 227-240

E-ISBN-13: 9780295989846
E-ISBN-10: 029598984X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295990217
Print-ISBN-10: 029599021X

Publication Year: 2006