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Paving The Way: The National Park-To-Park Highway

Airs Monday, December 27 & Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Anton Westgard, AAA’s “Pathfinder” led the 1920 inaugural tour.

Credit: A.G. Lucier/ Hinckley Library, Northwest College

Above: Anton Westgard, AAA’s “Pathfinder” led the 1920 inaugural tour.

At a time when train travel to the National Parks was only for the wealthy, this two-part documentary follows the convergence of U.S. Land being set aside for all people, the development of the "autos for the everyman" and the need to escape the drone of WWI and the 1918 flu pandemic.

With this need for release, 12 intrepid motorists embark upon the 1920 inaugural tour of the National Park-to-Park Highway. Traveling 5,000 miles over 76 days to promote the need for good roads, these individuals also explore the idea of what it means to "See America First" while touring in the western United States, instead of visiting their ancestry in war torn Europe.

Two characters played major roles in organizing the inaugural tour of this highway. Stephen Mather, the director of the National Park Service, was the major advocate for the highway linking the National Parks. However, Anton Westgard, a pathfinder for AAA, was the one who mapped the route through the parks and led the motorists on the tour. One provided the idea, the other provided the manpower.

From Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone, Glacier, Mt. Rainier, Crater Lake, Lassen Volcanic, Yosemite, General Grant, Sequoia, Zion, the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde and back to Denver, the original twelve travelers of the Park-to-Park Highway in 1920 faced a truly adventurous frontier.

Dirt roads often became muddy, and the weather was dangerously unpredictable. Even Westgard, exhausted from his efforts to secure safe passage for the tour, became seriously ill during the trip. Yet hundreds of other travelers joined them, sharing in the experience. By the time they returned to Denver, the idea of a road trip to the National Parks was firm within the American imagination.

Video Excerpt: Paving The Way: The National Park-to-Park Highway

"Paving The Way: The National Park-to-Park Highway" is a two-part documentary, partially underwritten by AAA, that focuses on the highways 76-day, 5,000-mile inaugural tour in 1920 through 12 National Parks in 11 western states. The film features Anton L. Westgard, a pathfinder for AAA, who mapped the route. It is currently airing on public television stations throughout the country. Order the DVD at

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