Carole took this one of me and Andy at Mammoth Hot Springs. Not too many years ago energy companies wanted to tap the thermal aquifer beneath Yellowstone National Park to run steam turbines to create electricity. This would effectively have destroyed most, if not all, of the thermal features in the park.
Until I get a chance to go back west and visit Yellowstone and other National Parks in those amazing places, I'll be poring over the photos we took and reliving those memories. For years I have realized that our remaining wild lands are existing on the verge of destruction. It's only a matter of time--and I'm convinced short time--until they're all either outright destroyed or ruined beyond only the application of peace and time to restore.
And, of course, restored only in the absence of Mankind.
Looking at our parks and wilderness areas, reduced to relatively small patches of territory around the Earth, I can see now that saving it all is an impossibility and that the final destruction of our remaining ecosystems and the living things who dwell within them is a lost cause. For these artificial boundaries that we set up to indicate a park or national forest or protected wilderness are ephemeral and easily destroyed through the same legislative acts that created these tenuous boundaries.
To see what can and will happen one has only to look to recent history in places like Rwanda and the Sudan. There, National Park boundaries were ignored and overrun by desperate people displaced by poverty and warfare. In short order they became wastelands where animals were nothing but food for the raving hoards of weapon-carrying humans and the forests were felled for fuel and housing, the waters fouled. So much for parks.
Think it can't happen here? It can, and will. Already I read of timber poachers who creep into National Parks to surreptitiously fell old growth trees in the absence of rangers. We can't afford rangers, you see, and there are more than enough desperate assholes in the USA willing to rape their own parks to cut down ancient hardwoods to sell for enough money to buy a big screen TV. Bears are shot for body parts to sell to rich Asians who believe in old superstitions that instruct them that consuming such things will increase their potency and likelihood of conceiving a male heir.
Even in Yellowstone, which showed me the power of Nature, the park is constantly under threat. Land owners and gun rights madders are whipped into a frenzy of insanity over the existence of wolves and bison which they see as threats. These idiots don't understand that they're being used by energy and real estate interests to weaken laws and regulations that protect these creatures. Without those protections rich men can become even richer mining the earth and mowing down the forests and building atop the places that now serve as home for the creatures that are just in the way of their profits.
Our parks are doomed. Our forests will be cut. Our rivers will be fouled. Our fellow creatures will be exterminated. All of this will be done for money.
And the only thing one can really do for it is to see it all before it's gone. So if you want to witness an unspoiled mountain vista free of urban sprawl, then I suggest you get yourself to such a place and hike into it with all due speed. If you want to see a free-roaming herd of bison living as they once did before Man arrived on the scene, then I think you should rush out to one of the few parks left that afford you this chance and lay your eyes upon it. If you hunger to walk through virgin forests of old growth trees then you'd best hurry up and do so, because between timber companies and invasive pests and climate change and mysterious diseases I fear we're going to see the end of such places in quick order.
Mother Nature does fine art with super-heated water and mineral deposition.
This huge buffalo was using a dust wallow on a steep slope above the valley.
It was the beginning of the rut and this bull was staking out this cow and warning everyone away. Later that same day, I watched a group of motor bikers pull up beside an enormous bull bison sitting in a wallow beside the road, walk up to him, surround the animal, as one of the idiots reached out to touch the almost one-ton buffalo. Humans can, and will, destroy everything that they can get their mitts on.
Telephoto shot of part of one of the enormous herds we watched in Hayden Valley.
A bit of the hundreds-strong herd in Hayden Valley. Once upon a time, the west was all like this for thousands and thousands of miles. We've destroyed 98% of it, but that apparently is not enough. That remaining 2% must, apparently, also go away.
View of 10,300-foot Mount Washburn, which I had climbed a day earlier. It has one building on it, and would, some would argue, be better off if it could be covered in subdivisions and gas stations. I am reminded of Highlands NC and the hideous sprawl of houses wrecking the slopes every time I look at an unspoiled mountain.