Zion National Park, Utah.
Tobias Alt/Wikimedia Commons
Zion National Park, Utah.

In our national parks, some common ground

A change of scenery in an extreme natural world can offer a change in perspective on many levels

Lisa Chase is retired and lives in Putney when not exploring national parks.

PUTNEY-If you find yourself frowning too much and assuming the worst of your fellow Americans, I have this to offer as a corrective.

I don't get out much. Winters are long here at home in Vermont. No snow, no bitter cold, no struggle to mark the days.

So my daughter and granddaughter challenged me to join them for a week in Utah, hiking - gently, they promised.

We spent three days in a state park prowling all over Padre and Snow Canyons, then three days in Zion National Park. Wow. Knocked the socks off this aging provincial.

The landscape and precipitous trails were a thrill, but what is sticking with me the most?

I find myself still marvelling about the phenomenon of being among hordes - and I mean hordes - of people, folks, fellow humans in state and national parks, just digging the drama.

* * *

The phenomenon is this: people management and crowd control is the biggest job for our park rangers. I'm sure they devote themselves to flora and fauna as well, but the crowds - oh, my goodness.

And about these crowds? Never did I see a bit of litter. On all those towering rock faces never did I see a bit of graffiti. In all that shuffling of crowds, never did I hear a discouraging word.

Compliance was everywhere. And the thing about compliance is this: it doesn't show. It just is.

But there were also lots of families, lots of children of all ages. Forging ahead, running, scrambling over impossible rocks and ledges. Being intrepid. Totally having fun and not being hovered over or freaked out over by parents.

But also: These children were not buried in their phones.

But also: Everyone was enjoying themselves.

And furthermore, I heard lots of languages. All nationalities - the gamut.

* * *

There were old people. Birders. Toddlers! Very urbane young people being freshly exposed to the challenges of an extreme natural world.

Then there were the serious hikers being seriously pleased with themselves and their gear. Smile more, you guys! Look like you're having fun!

And then there was this: I never saw a single political bumper sticker, roadside sign, hat, or T-shirt. Not once.

I take that back - I did give a thumbs up to a Caitlin Clark T-shirt.

If you find yourself frowning too much and assuming the worst of your fellow Americans, I'm offering this as a corrective.

This Voices Essay was submitted to The Commons.

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