May 4, 2017

This land is your land, this land is my land. -Woody Guthrie

by Erika Schroeder

Exuberant Travels to an Extraordinary Wilderness

It’s no surprise that upon arriving home from a long-awaited trip to the National Parks one feels nostalgic.  Quite possibly because a traveler can undergo a daze of excitement and awe in viewing one of these outstanding and breathtaking places that our country serves to protect. Just as suddenly as those experiences came, well, they went.  And when you finally embark on that return journey and reminisce of all the wonderful experiences, it suddenly hits you that you’re just not the same.  Sights were seen, experiences felt, and memories made that will never fade and have maybe – just maybe – drawn you closer to wilderness.  This was that feeling returning home from a long journey to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

What a thrill to come home with a new set a values-for our wildlife, for our parks, for our country.  We have a part to play and we hold a responsibility of something bigger.  To watch the looming mountains swallow up your car as it veers in and out of towering pines, and the gripping scenic images that no camera shutter can capture fast enough.  Can our country really hold this much beauty?  Perhaps the reason why millions visit–to retreat from their stressful, busy, and painful lives to a protected place that gives us sanctuary.  That’s why I was there..to escape from a long list of recent chronic diagnoses and ‘get back to nature’ as some like to put it.  As we neared the mountainous landscape, the park erupted with glorious beauty and we were a part of it. I must have repeated over and over, “I never want this to end, I never want to leave.”

My partner and I’s planned checklist of wildlife we hoped to see couldn’t be checked off fast enough.  Over to the left we witnessed a mama grizzly bear roaming the sagebrush with her two cubs.  She seemed focused, knowing what she needed to do to prepare for the year’s winter, while her cubs were out of touch and distracted by all the new sights and sounds.  Our eyes couldn’t be peeled and we watched for a long while at the incredible wisdom she was passing on to her youngins.  Their dependence on this park was clear and this grizzly knew more about her surroundings than our park map did.

Over the course of the week we continuously witnessed this.  As we stood out in the darkness looking at the Teton mountain range, our tripods and cameras poised to capture some star photography overhead, we heard a group of coyotes calling around us.  Maybe they were chatting it up with a group of elk we had passed on our way to park our car, or maybe the full moon brought out their playful nature.  Whatever the reason, one particular coyote sounded closer than the rest…hair-raising close.  It was a kind & gentle reminder that we are in fact in wild country.  And our blinking camera lights and noisy human nature was not fitting for this type of setting.  Bound for the car and out of breath upon entry, we both slipped each other a smirking glance.  ‘Close one’ as we heard a howl behind us.  This park doesn’t rest, but utilizes every hour of every day.

Each day brought new surprises…as the sun rose and set day after day over the mountains, it was a testament to the spectacular nature of this place.  These gifts weren’t wrapped up with boxes or bows, but revealed stunning results: ribbons of waterfalls, alpine terrain, pristine lakes, and remarkable canyons.  The bison didn’t care so for fancy sunrises, but held true to their course.  They chose this vastness to live long lives, to care for their young, and and to survive the long winter months.   As did the moose who was wading in the Snake River, not aware of the picturesque Teton mountains behind him, or maybe the mama black bear who passed us with her cubs and into the woods leading them to safety.  These creatures chose this home to thrive, in fact the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states chose this place.  To us this park was for our amusement, but the longer we lingered, the more understanding and respect we had of its necessity for not enjoyment, but our ecosystem.

One of the last days to wrap up an exceptional trip, we got an early start to catch a sunrise at Schwabacher’s Landing.  A beautiful photo opportunity presented itself and one we took full advantage of.  I, however, took a couple of minutes to stop and put down the camera, reflecting on what was going on here.  It was a much needed pause to try and take in all we were seeing.  Maybe I pinched myself a few times, I don’t quite remember, but I did think about if I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to physically be in that place.  I know I cared more, and I know that I whispered to myself this world is way too amazing to let it go to waste because of simple human error or inconvenience.  Speaking with other tourists there, we all had the same general feeling that morning.  Here were worldwide visitors, all coming to one place that they wanted to be there for years to come.  This isn’t a dead concept.  People are naturally drawn to beautiful things and there is no doubt this park is stunning.  With 59 national park protected areas in our country, we are bound to this 84.9 million acres to help keep America our home.

So imagine the dismay to learn that the Leader of our country and his administration has a swift desire to dismantle these protected areas, national monuments, and waterways–our cherished beautiful home.  Is there nothing sacred to our government?  Is there nothing they won’t trade for the Almighty Dollar? The places they have sworn to protect have now become a playground for greed and over-zealous depredation, leaving millions of Americans and its visitors to watch as these destinations vanish into fields of mining, fracking, and corporate control.  Let’s not be blinded in what makes America great.  This land was in fact made for you and me (and most certainly it’s inhabitants)…let’s opt to keep it that way.

We stand with Patagonia in taking action against President Trump’s executive order to attack Bears Ears, a national monument destination that is both sacred and valuable and has incredible cultural and recreational significance.  We strongly urge you to join the fight in upholding the promise to protect our public lands.  Defend Bears Ears.

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