Tuesday, October 15, 2013

With national parks closed, Jackson Hole quiet on the eve of ski season

When I was in Jackson Hole over the weekend, people were plenty sore about the Republican-spawned national park shutdown. Hotel reservations have been cancelled and tour buses rerouted to other parks, notably those in neighboring Colorado and Utah reopened by state funds. In Wyoming, alas, the constitution forbids state funds going to federal government operations. The tourism industry made an appeal to Gov. Mead. Alas, private dollars from Cody and Jackson were enough to plow the roads that got the parks opened in the spring but money couldn't be leveraged for general operating costs. That's fine with me, as I'm content to let Republicans stew in their own juices. Unfortunately, everyone in Teton County, D & R & I alike, is in that same gravy boat.

The newly refurbished Snow King bar wasn't dead, not exactly, but it's a jumping place on sun-drenched summer evenings and frigid ski-season nights. Last Saturday night, with baseball playoffs on one TV screen and an SEC tiff on the other, only a few patrons lined the bar. Most of the rest of the 20-some people were connected with the Wyoming Arts Council's conference going on around town. We made reservations for 10 on Friday evening at the popular Rendezvous Bistro. The place was half-empty by the time we got around to dessert.

Traffic flowed freely and no tourists seemed in danger of getting flattened by an RV; close calls are an every day summer occurrence. There just weren't that many targets (or RVs). 

We heard rumors about a protest by Cody Tea Party types set for Yellowstone's east gate. I don't know if that happened. It was snowing most of the weekend, and that tends to take some steam out of Tea Party gatherings, as most attendees seem to be of advanced years. We did hear about some daredevils sneaking into the park, but they risked getting a ticket from park staff still on duty.

Probably the best quote I heard about the closed national parks came from writer and activist Terry Tempest Williams. She's a Utah native but now lives in Teton County. At an arts conference talk on Monday, Williams spoke about taking a walk "on the periphery of Grand Teton National Park. I was surprised by how quiet it was."

She wondered what the animals were doing and thinking. " 'Frolic' came to mind."

The animals may be frolicking, but the humans, perturbed by Congress's antics, are in a sour mood.

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