Jewish World Review July 12, 2002 / 3 Menachem-Av, 5762
Debra J. Saunders
A paradise for moderns
Modern life in America. Man is king. When he
meets an animal, he's top dog. When he buys land,
he can do with it what he will. And if he wants to
experience beauty, he can see it or hear it with the
flick of a switch.
It's a great way to live.
But there's something missing: the grandeur of forces
bigger than yourself.
When you live your whole life in the driver's seat, it
makes sense to spend some time in the back seat,
and let nature be in charge. That's when savvy
families visit America's great national parks, like
Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.
At Yellowstone, wildlife rule, and the wise man
respects their right to rule. Cars stop for buffalo
herds. Hey, cars stop for the sole stray buffalo. (They
can weigh 2,000 pounds.)
Back home, four-legged creatures fear man; in the
park, man should be fearful of grizzlies, black bears,
buffalo and moose, and keep a respectful distance.
You have to be aware of your surroundings because
the terrain is dangerous. The land is alive. It's
seething. Geysers burst, mud pots bubble and
As for the beauty, you didn't turn it on. And you can't
turn it off.
It's late afternoon, and there's a grizzly foraging at the
roadside. At dusk, elk herds descend toward the
valley. In early morning, wolves frolic by a stream.
Behind Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Tetons shine.
At the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the rocks
change color with the light as two waterfalls cascade.
Too bad most visitors don't get the most out of the
park. According to spokeswoman Marsha Karle,
some 3 percent of visitors leave the main roads and
visitor areas. The majority catches Old Faithful and
the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and that might
But even if they don't get to see a black bear
scurrying by Echo Rock from the back of a horse,
and even if they never see two big-horn sheep as
they hike to the top of Bunsen Peak, those who stick
to the main roads will see their share of geyser
action, waterfalls, buffalo grazing and serene elk
herds soaking up the afternoon sun. It's early in the
season, and a buck's sprouting horns are soft -- "in
velvet," it's called.
There always are and always will be tourists who
aren't clear on the concept. They don't really
understand that the animals are wild, and therefore
"People look at bison and think cattle, but they're
not," Karle noted.
Last month, a man from Texas encountered a buffalo
grazing about a foot from a walkway by the Old
Faithful Inn. David Havlik decided to keep walking,
passed within three feet of the buffalo, and found out
what it feels like to be gored in the thigh.
He probably won't do that again.
Even though you've traveled by car, lathered with
sunscreen and bug spray, and sleeping in a cabin
with a roof and running water, Yellowstone gives the
modern visitor a taste of what this land must have
been like before the industrial age. In this age when
television beams pictures from across the globe, the
beauty here can only evoke wonder.
As Karle put it, "I truly think it's a miracle that these
places still exist."
That's why it is surprising how many Americans have
never visited this breathtaking natural treasure.
BUT IT COSTS MONEY
Washington is working on the national parks budget,
right now. Readers should urge their congressional
representatives to boost spending. President Bush,
who as a candidate promised to erase the system's
appalling maintenance backlog, has proposed
increasing the park's $2.4 billion annual budget by
$107 million. That's not enough; Americans for
National Parks calls for an additional $172 million.
Congress can and should find a way to fund these
treasures adequately. Increased funding should
include money to research whether increasing visitor
fees could help pay for the park without pricing out
families who come to enjoy America the Beautiful.
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