It’s hard not to take note of the surge of visitors this summer in the Parks. There’s more traffic than parking spaces, tent sites and hotel rooms combined can accommodate. And let’s admit this, there are too many bad outcomes from what we call avoidable events.
The Parks’ Centennial is a double edged sword. Arguably the National Parks are America’s greatest feature. Parks need park goers, just like any business needs patrons. The parks are sacred—and in our little corner of the world, especially Grand Teton National Park, one of the smallest national parks with features awe-striking enough to change one’s life. This is why most people end up staying in Jackson Hole unless they came for the bottomless powder at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort or fly-fishing for the Snake River trout. They wake up for the first time to the Grand Teton reaching for the sky from a cabin or tent in Kelly, and say c’est finis to sky scrapers, traffic and a tie. We’re smack dab in the middle of the Elysian Fields of geology, powder, rivers, wild herds and It’s an unbelievable backyard, with a small taste for the Wild West still on the wind. Our close proximity to GTNP, Yellowstone, and if you compare it to travel distances in Continental Europe, we have a pretty much a straight shoot out of town for most of the West’s open spaces. Once you visit one of these parks, you know how important it is to keep them open and safe from development.
This is why social media feeds are filled with reactions to bad tourist moments in the park this summer. It’s our backyard. It’s personal when a buffalo calf is separated or a bear killed. Bear 399 is a regular in the paper, a favorite among friends’ art and clearly a wise sage of an animal. Local poet Lyn Dalebout, regularly photographs Bear 399 and her antics, reminding people that these animals are here to teach us. So if you don’t live in the Tetons, compare our loss to your high school baseball coach, beloved musician or a civic leader, osprey, the family dog, moose, whale — in our case, a bear. There’s a beautiful article from National Geographic written earlier this year about the miraculous nature of Bear 399 and how exciting it was to see her with a cub here.
Honestly, it’s hard to share the park with people—this year will prove to be the most challenging. Celebrating Roosevelt’s incredible experiment should be shared worldwide. Our open spaces need protection and patronage to keep their gates open and their habitats healthy. So please visit them. Move slowly. Practice being completely silent in their presence. Give yourself more than one night. Unplug all your crap and leave your car in the parking lot. Let it be your church and place of wonder. See the great vulnerability. Let it be that important before you consider to interrupt the scenery with a selfie. The tag line “Find Your Park” is yes, a hashtag, but really it’s a promise to explore, to go on adventure, to play—everything we believe in at Kate’s Real Food.
We hope Bear 399 heals from this tragedy. We hope we don’t keep reading sad headlines about people not seeing this place for what it really is—a small slice of life from before we got here, uninterrupted, magnificent all on it’s own with no ports or followers, just Mother Earth in all her splendor. Part from your patterns and ways. The wild is, well you know, wild! It won’t be online anytime soon, liking your status or sharing your pic. The Wild exists outside all of that, and you do too.
We are so grateful to the people that help keep our open spaces safe and open. They have the hardest job of all and Kate’s wants to say thank you for the hard work. If you know someone who works for the National Park Service, please tell them to contact us. We have a special discount program to honor park employees.