Featured image: “White Wolf” by Philippe Montes

What to do while National Parks suffer from unrepaired safety hazards, overflowing garbage bins and toilets, and possibly gagged workers who are asked not to explain to visitors everything that has gone seriously wrong in some of the most frequented parks, like Joshua Tree?  

Read about What We’re Missing

I’m reading facts about wolves, lovingly assembled by Jay Elhard, who is a National Park Service ranger on furlough.  As a side gig between paychecks that our government owes him, he’s selling his Masters thesis written when the US re-introduced wolves into the wild.  Elhard’s Facebook group sells his tales of wolf trappers, researchers, and poachers on a page he helped organize for unpaid government workers seeking to make ends meet.

Did you know that wolf scat is black the day after a kill as wolves eat 15-20 pounds of soft, juicy bits from fresh kill in a single sitting, and then the scat turns white over the course of a week as wolves eat tough, hairy bits and grind down the bones?   Did you know that “wolves have been subject to intense, ingenious and oftentimes pathological human persecution in North America for more than 400 years”?  According to Elhard, the first wolf bounty was enacted in the Massachusetts Colony in 1630 — at a penny a wolf — and in ensuing centuries wolves were shot, trapped, poisoned, clubbed and dynamited across the continent as a matter of course. I’ve learned this and more from Jay Robert Elhard, One Summer in the West.

Visit National Parks despite the Shutdown

You could visit open National Parks anyway, as the Trump Administration breaks with previous protocol and keeps some parks open – though the law may require them to be closed in part for safety reasons. The National Park website may provide information on what’s open and safe. But the site states for now (Jan 2019): “During the federal government shutdown, this website will not be updated and may not reflect current conditions. Some national parks may remain accessible to visitors; however, access may change without notice. Some parks are closed completely.”

Or Go Local

Locally in Washington State, Olympic National Park is currently open “but with limited access due to recent storm damage and high winds. No visitor services provided; hazardous conditions may exist. Call 911 for emergencies.”

Well, perhaps it’s better for Seattle people to skip “America’s greatest idea” (the park service) and go very local for now.  Recent gorgeous weather summoned me to Discovery Park in Seattle.  Seattle’s largest park is not half as grand as most national parks, but it’s lot closer and easier to visit. 270 species of birds.  Gorgeous coastline.  Free to park, free to visit. There, during one of the first weekends of 2019, dog walkers, romantic couples, children, and photographers enjoyed two days of crystal clear winter coastline vistas and stunning sunsets.

At Sunset in Discovery Park Jan 2019; photo by the author