Some things in life are worth fighting for, or so every movie in the 1980’s told me. Maybe you want to fight for your kids; maybe you want to fight for your job or your home. For me, I fight for nature. My life is spent in the woods. My struggles, my successes, my joy and my pain, all are related to the great outdoors. The closing of the National Parks has been hard on me, not just financially as a business man, but emotionally, as a hiker and climber. I know I have some amazing trails I can still hike, but there is something about hiking in the National Parks that is extra special. I thrive off of walks in the woods, up in peaks or in bizarre geological wonders. Hiking is therapy. Going without it is just bad for my mental health.
I must not be alone in this way of thinking. All over Reddit and Twitter, stories and pictures are popping up from hikers who are jumping fences, ignoring signs and taking back the National Parks. Some get caught, the majority does not. The National Parks are calling, and to quote John Muir, “You must go.”
People are going. In the Grand Canyon National Park, over twenty people have been issued trespassing citations in just 7 days. Each citation is a federal charge and according to reports, has a MANDATORY order to appear in federal court. Yes, they broke a rule and will pay, but the issue is not with the charge, but with the fact that the gates are closed in the first place. On the famous gates of Yellowstone National Park it reads “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of All People.” If only these words were actually true. In Yosemite, climbers decided to sneak into the park and climbed with lights, taking pictures of their brazen act for all to see.
From what I can tell, it isn’t just me being frustrated by this. The hiking and climbing community is fed up. Twitter and Reddit are full of images of groups inside of the National Parks. The pictures, which are usually captioned with something witty, like “Catch us if you can” are a testament to American’s desire to experience nature firsthand. In the Badlands and Zion National Park, visitors have pushed barricades and stolen cones from the road so they can enter the parks. In the Olympic National Park visitors are arranging rides to and from trail-heads so the few rangers on duty won’t see cars parked. As we speak, I know of a small group quietly through-hiking the Olympics.
The Olympic National Park, while fully staffed, employs 134 people. Because of the shutdown, the park now employs 31 people, which include rangers, critical staff and maintenance workers. The Olympic National Park is 960,000 acres, meaning that there is one park service employee for every 30,968 acres. Odds are if you know where to go, you can still go there. Just know that willingly breaking a rule will result in a punishment of $100 and an appearance in Federal Court.
See you on the trails,
Finally, a sign left at the Hurricane Ridge entrance to the Olympic National Park: