Will Yosemite Be One of Oprah's Favorite Things?
When park ranger Shelton Johnson mused that a visit by a big celebrity like Oprah Winfrey would inspire more African-Americans to visit national parks, it sounded to some like wishful thinking. Now, just more than a year after he made that statement, Johnson is getting his wish: Oprah and best pal Gayle King recently spent a weekend camping in Yosemite, and the pair's adventures will air on TV as a two-part series on Oct. 29 and Nov. 1.
Johnson, whose book Gloryland chronicles the life of a "buffalo soldier," regularly performs reenactments to teach park visitors about the history of the African-American soldiers who once patrolled in Yosemite. Oprah and Gayle, who heard Johnson's presentation as part of their trip, are arguably Yosemite's most recognizable campers. Considering that The Oprah Winfrey Show reaches roughly 30 million viewers, they may be just the first two in a wave of new visitors to the national parks.