Can Oprah Revive Camping Interest?
America's National Parks have been having a pretty good month, publicity-wise. First there was the announcement that master documentarian Ken Burns would be lending his skills and voice to creating tours of some of America's backlands and badlands and now comes news that the world's single biggest marketing jackpot — Oprah Winfrey herself — getting into the mix.
The talk show host/erstwhile cult leader took a camping trip to California travel destination Yosemite National Park in October, and then featured the experience on her show. The hope from the park service is that the episode and all the associated attention will increase interest in National Parks across the board, but they're especially looking to remedy the disproportionate lack of African-American visitors.
By all accounts, Oprah really tried to have a normal camping trip, from making her own fire to cooking her own food. We know all of that because there were cameras rolling most of the time, which kind of begs the question about the whole "normal camping trip" thing, but let's not nit-pick. It seems like it was a neat little episode for a good cause. Of course whether it will work or not is a totally different question.
Getting people to buy books is one thing. Getting them to live without electricity and Internet for a few days is a different thing altogether. We've embedded a recap of the adventure below and, honestly, it doesn't seem all that convincing. Although as we never tire of pointing out, we're not exactly a target-rich environment for pro-camping material.
Of course Oprah's idea of roughing it involves what we can only assume is a very luxurious pop up trailer (the Sydney Opera House camper is probably just a minimum). If you're really looking to immerse yourself in nature, you're not going to be nearly as comfortable. You're also going to have to figure out how to take care of business while you're in the woods. If you're in Mount Rainier, no problem. They've got a $70,000 toilet you can use. But for all of those other parks, may we suggest our new favorite product the Biffy Bag?