One unmistakable thing is that if you get a chance to travel this summer as I have been doing, the National Parks are packed. They were filled way over capacity, everywhere. Park Rangers are perplexed with the number of people they are suddenly dealing with and are complaining that there needs to be a reservation system at the National Parks to help them manage the capacity. Now that is a very “government” thing to do; rather than embrace the surge in National Park interest, they are looking for ways to turn them into a BMV where visitors need to take a number before visiting to see their favorite tree. In the video above, I talk about the several parks my family visited recently and the news report about Zion in Utah. The story was from Idaho, which I saw on a television screen while staying there; the capacity problem was a direct byproduct of the government screw-up on Covid, where people were confined in their homes for a year. Now that they are free, they are doing all the things they wanted to do over that period, and the surge is the reaction, which government doesn’t know how to handle.
I tend to have a soft spot for park rangers and anybody who works in the park systems. We have an America the Beautiful pass, which I am very proud of. This year, we have used it a lot, which essentially waives the 35 dollar fee that it takes to get into all the parks. As this story about National Park capacity was breaking, we visited Yellowstone, one of the biggest ones. We were in the Tetons. We even went down into Dinosaur National Monument, and there are fees to get into all those parks covered by America The Beautiful passes. I am typically in a pretty good mood when I’m visiting a National Park, so I overlook more than often the apparent liberalism of the government employees, including park rangers. But I heard more bitching from them than I cared to. Even over at the Yellowstone lodges at Old Faithful, workers complained about the number of people at the park because I was there in a midweek setting, and the employees expected an easy day. Instead, at 9 AM, they had rushes of people that resembled 2 PM on a Saturday, and they were not happy about it.
I deal with these kinds of things by getting up at 6 AM and getting everywhere before everyone else does. The crowds didn’t bother me much until we were leaving. The crowds can be managed if you think out of the box. But if you think you’re going to wake up at noon and hit the parks, you can forget it, which is why Zion has already implemented an appointment system. They had an appointment system at Dinosaur National Monument as well, which irritated me. We were so early in the morning that it didn’t matter, but in the middle of Utah, they were seeing surges that the park rangers were having a hard time dealing with. It was both fun to watch and grossly sick because they were essentially upset that they had to work, which they aren’t used to. Other parks are feeling the pressure. Thankfully when we were there, Yellowstone hadn’t yet done such a thing as a reservation system. It defies the purpose of spontaneous adventure when you must check in with a park ranger to see a geyser. But these are new problems caused by the government that government is not prepared to deal with.
What I find interesting is the human reaction to the problem. The Covid lockdowns were pretty scary stuff. The idea that a government that didn’t want to control the virus that came from China could destroy the economy, lock people in their homes and expect some tame result at the end of it is unfathomably ignorant. There were solutions that were ignored, such as hydroxychloroquine and zinc. Covid-19 was a self-imposed stupidity because there were ways to solve the problem. The government ignored them, hoping to control people until this July 4th Holiday under the Biden administration. But the dam broke this spring as people pushed their governors to ignore the CDC rules and reopen their economies, and thus, out came this rush of interest in the National Parks. It looked for a time that the new standard would remain and that we would never return to a time in America without masks and social distancing. But much to our credit, people got sick of being lied to, and they just started to ignore the government, and now there is this massive surge in National Park attendance. People spent their time in isolation thinking about the things they’d like to do, like going to Yellowstone, and the moment they could, they did.
We saw the same thing at Jenny Lake in the Tetons. It was early in the morning when we arrived, and cars had already filled the parking lot and were piled up down the road toward Jackson for miles. Now Jenny Lake is very nice; they have great accommodations. Once we finally arrived in the little village, they have there like restrooms, a visitor center, and a gift shop at the foot of the magnificent mountains; it looked like Disney World with people occupying almost every bit of the available sidewalk. It was packed. The employees at those places had a kind of blasted look on their faces. I was glad to see it. I think it was good for people to get out and see such magnificent places. I think it’s also good for the employees to be challenged a bit. Maybe they got jobs with the National Park Service because they were liberal and didn’t want to work very hard, but this was a good reality check. Whatever the viewpoint, the only reason can come from people leaving their homes and seeing their national parks, even if they were crowded. I didn’t mind the crowds at all, but there were significant crowds that would have just been worse if there was a reservation system.
The lesson is that this is what happens when government tampers with the will of the people. Unforeseen circumstances are bound to arise. This built-up serge of interest in National Parks was not planned. The reaction by the public has taken the government quite by shock; they were very flat-footed in dealing with the market needs. And since the government does not make decisions based on market forces but bureaucratic sentiment, they were clueless about the outcome. But that problem isn’t for us, the visitors. They’re going to have to figure it all out, the government. They’ll have to complain to someone else because we don’t want to hear it. In the future, when they think of shutting down society and the economy that fuels it, they need to think of these mistakes. These surges may last for years. Things may never get back to normal for the National Parks as the lockdowns look to have triggered people’s desire to do something in their life they used to put off. I suspect that the new normal that everyone has been talking about isn’t accepting lockdowns and more government regulations on personal behavior. Instead, an increase in people not putting off what they could do today might have otherwise been inclined to wait until tomorrow. Because with government, they may screw up everything tomorrow, leaving today as the only choice to do something.
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