When I was very young…
When I was very young, five or six years old, not sure of exactly when, my grandmother gave me a book. This book was called Americas Wonderlands and was put out by National Geographic. I’d give you the publishing information but this book has been loved hard for many, many years and has lost the pages with that information. The book is one of those 1960’s coffee table books full of colorful Kodachrome photographs of all of our nation’s National Parks. Not surprisingly this book had a great impact on me. I wanted to go and see all of the places shown in those photographs. I wanted to wander about on my own in those wonderful landscapes, paddle the wild rivers, and especially I wanted to climb those fantastic mountains.
Let me state that I was a precocious reader, one of my big treats growing up was to go to the library every two weeks. I’d come staggering out with a tall stack of books on whatever subjects I was currently interested in and read them all. At so young an age, I was often gently steered by well meaning librarians to the children’s section where they thought I should be. When they turned their backs I’d head back to the adult section to find what I really wanted.
One consequence of all of this childhood reading was I was exposed to the works of John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt. Two very different, accomplished great men, that had a similar goal: they were responsible for giving us America’s Wonderlands, our great treasure of protected wild places. Our National Parks.
These Parks are our collective treasure as Americans, not just mine or just yours, ours.
Until recently, it was unthinkable that we would take land away from a Park. We added to them when possible and created new ones when we could. The current political climate, though, puts profits and political or personal gain at a higher priority than protecting our wild lands. Budgets for parks get cut and the National Park Service loses rangers and maintenance personnel making problems worse.
National Park Rangers
It takes a special kind of person to be a National Park Ranger. They take their job as stewards of our parks and public lands seriously and they do a fantastic job of doing so. When a park’s staff gets cut, our remaining rangers just work harder.
But it gets worse. Our government, in its infantile wisdom, has decided to get in a pissing contest about an ill advised and useless wall to mostly keep out folks running from oppression with their families. As an American, I’m flattered that those folks are willing to try to get here despite all of the hardships put in their way. This reassures me that the United States is still the best place in the world to live despite all of our current problems. Personally, I think it is immoral to not try to help these folks as many of our ancestors came here for the very same reasons.
The gist of this, and the reason I started writing this in the first place, is that the government in it’s dubious wisdom has somehow decided that it is in the countries best interest to shut itself down. This causes all sorts of problems, federal employees are not being paid, essential services are being curtailed, and there is no protection for our National Parks.
Giant Cloud of “Stupid”
It seems as if a giant cloud of “stupid” has spread from the District of Colombia over the rest of the country. Most parks stayed open during the first part of the shutdown; you could get into our parks without an entrance fee. Many took advantage of this but instead of having the sense to act responsibly they chose to act like lazy irresponsible cretins. Piles of trash, overflowing toilets, cutting down trees to take their prized four wheel drive trucks into environmentally sensitive areas, abusing volunteers that are just trying to help, shooting wolves, and who knows what else. This says quite a bit about where we are as a society. Four weeks (so far) of damage will take years to fix. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers.
If you are reading this I’m probably preaching to the choir, but if you can, please get out and volunteer. Our parks need all the help they can get at this point. Oh, and get yourself a nice Japanese folding paper fan – they’re biodegradable you know – to fan the cloud of “stupid” away.
But if you are one of those folks out there cutting trees, riding your four wheeler through sensitive areas and shooting wolves. Well, may the shade of John Muir chase you out of the wilds with a sharp ice axe, and the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt shoot out your all terrain tires with his trusty ’98’ Winchester. The walk would probably do your fat ass some good, or perhaps you could be food for wolves… Like our Parks and Park Rangers, they seem to need all the help they can get at this point.
Trent Carbaugh, January, 2019
Sorry, no pictures this time, its just too depressing. Always remember to use Leave No Trace principles. I mean it.