When Shelton met Oprah

 

Yosemite National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson was as surprised as anyone. “I was more than surprised,” he said in a recent phone conversation. “I was shocked. When the EMTs resuscitated me I was pretty much flat-lined.”

Standing outside the south entrance to Yosemite National Park, Johnson thought he was awaiting the arrival of six African-American women, all about to have their first camping experience. “I was told they’ve been friends since college and they were being reunited at a spa,” he said. “But unbeknownst to them they were being taken to Yosemite Valley for a camping trip instead. At least that’s what I thought.”

Johnson thought he was in on a clever plot to welcome a group of nature neophytes into the great outdoors. But the joke was on him.

“Here I’m expecting to meet these six African-American women and who shows but Oprah Winfrey and her friend Gayle King,” Johnson said. “I knew this was a project affiliated with her show, but to have Oprah right there in front of me was something else entirely. So yeah I was surprised, surprised in the best possible way.”

Oprah and her BFF Gayle did indeed spend an evening overnight in the Valley camping. Their experience in Yosemite aired in two episodes of the Oprah Winfrey Show Oct 29th and November 3rd. Johnson was flown out to Chicago to appear in the studio audience where producers of the program had apparently made up the stage as an authentic reproduction of the Yosemite campground complete with the pop-up camper used on the trip. With two-hours of high profile television devoted to boosting the National Parks Johnson hopes that more people, particularly people of color, will be inspired to visit and thoroughly embrace these wild scenic places for the national treasures they are.

“Oprah has the ability to influence trends in travel, where people go on vacation,” Johnson said. “But she didn’t just visit a National Park. What made this special was that she was camping. She didn’t do the Ahwahnee Hotel. She’s a billionaire and she went camping.”

High Country News Classifieds
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • FEATURES DIRECTOR - HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Features Director to join our editorial...
  • GENERAL MANAGER
    The Board of UYWCD seeks a new GM to manage operations & to implement our robust strategic plan. Details at www.upperyampawater.com. EOE
  • IN TUCSON, FOR SALE: A BEAUTIFUL, CLASSIC MID-CENTURY MODERN HOME
    designed by architect David Swanson in 1966. Located a block from Saguaro National Forest, yet minutes to Downtown and the UofA campus, 3706 sqft, 6...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Friends of the San Juans is seeking a new leader guide our efforts to protect and restore the San Juan Islands and the Salish...
  • 80 ACRES
    straddles North Platte Fishery, Wyoming. Legal access 2 miles off 1-80. Call 720-440-7633.
  • DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AND MARKETING
    High Country News seeks a Director of Product and Marketing to join our senior team during an exciting chapter of innovation and growth. This individual...
  • OWN A THRIVING MOUNTAIN GUIDE SERVICE.
    Eastern Sierra guide service for sale to person with vision & expertise to take it onwards. Since 1995 with USFS & NPS permits. Ideal for...
  • IMPROVED LOT
    Private road, hillside, views. Well, pad, septic, 99 sq.ft. hut. Dryland permaculture orchard. Wildlife. San Diego--long growing season
  • UNIQUE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY
    Profitable off-the-grid business located 2 miles from Glacier National Park. Owner has 6 years operating experience. Seeking investor or partner for business expansion and enhancement....
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...