Those who live in the developed world take so many things for granted without regard for how quickly it could all disappear. These were some of Sophie’s thoughts as she walked through Yellowstone National Park during the United States government shutdown. This wasn’t the trip Sophie envisioned when she took her handcrafted LUC8K leather handbags and belt to Yellowstone, but it was eye-opening nevertheless.
To double the damage already caused by the shutdown, the former Department of Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, decided to keep the park open with only a skeleton crew to maintain it and handle tourists.
The results were easy to predict as toilets and trashcans were overflowing with human waste. Snowmobiles tore through the park as they steered off designated courses without regard. Dogs and other pets were running wild in areas where there are bears and predatory wildlife.
Yellowstone National Park was dedicated in 1872, making it the first national park in the United States and the world. It started a new era of having governments set aside lands to preserve it in its natural state to benefit people and wildlife. Ferdinand V. Hayden, who was one of the early explorers in the region, lobbied the U.S. government to set Yellowstone aside as a government-protected park, warning “the vandals who are now waiting to enter into this wonder-land, will in a single season despoil, beyond recovery, these remarkable curiosities, which have required all the cunning skill of nature thousands of years to prepare.”
How prophetic his words turned out to be. It only took a month for Yellowstone and other national parks to experience a breakdown. Hard as it might be to believe, Yellowstone fared better than some of the other national parks like Yosemite and Joshua Tree National Park, where people were actually cutting down trees. Local businesses pitched in to help clean the park, but the crowds of uncaring tourists are just big.
Fortunately, Sophie was able to take her LUC8K bags with all of her provisions and, like the other animals, go deep within the wooded areas where the other animals live, away from the human madness.
There she was, one of the few who could reach and feed off the leaves and pine needles that remained on the trees in the winter. She walked along the wild Yellowstone River through the magnificent Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. She followed it to the two-level Yellowstone Falls, where even in winter, the rushing water remains powerful. She strolled across the Yellowstone Plateau, where there were herds of Bison searching for fresh grass beneath the snow. Fortunately, she didn’t come across a wolf. Sophie saw all six geysers in the parks as well as the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, where the white chalky ledges are the results of thousands of years of thermal activity.
Throughout her Yellowstone tour, she saw firsthand the natural beauty and the importance of leaving land areas protected from development. She also saw how easily the best-laid plans could quickly turn into chaos.