NEW MONEY IS COMING to the national parks. This year, with the surprising support of George W. Bush, the Park Service's budget increased by a record $110 million. Longer-term, the Centennial Initiative, a challenge from Dubyathe national parks' new enthusiast-in-chiefcould add up to $3 billion to Park Service funding between now and 2016, when the system turns 100.
In anticipation of so much green stuff and, probably, of visits from people who possess more of it, many of the parks and nearby amenities are spiffing up. Hotels with 400-thread-count sheets are taking over where motels once reigned. Sommeliers are shouldering aside docents. Elegance is returning to the national-park system.
But what about those of us who still plan to sweat and grunt up rock-strewn trails, who want to wallow in the essential wildness of the parks? Can we luxuriate in high style without losing touch with our Ed Abbey side? The answer is yes, if you choose wisely. Pick the right parks and the right accommodations (within day-trip range) and you can combine strenuous adventure with plasma-screen TVs. And why not? As the president himself might say, there are nothing greater than our national parks.