Wednesday, September 17, 2008

North Rim Art

Yellowstone National Park: the world's first national park and one of America's best ideas ever. Many countries have taken our lead and copied the idea. To preserve and protect beautiful places is a very good thing.

We recently had the amazing opportunity to see a work of art in progress on the north rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The road has been closed this summer to tend to some much needed maintenance and repair. We found out about it by accident and sheer good luck. We drove out to once again enjoy the amazing view at Artist Point on the South Rim. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a place of great, wild beauty. The stone is really yellow in color, named for the golden lichens on the rock walls. The shear force of the water fall that has carved the canyon provides a scenic wonder that is a feast for the eyes and a magnet for the artists that have tried to capture it with paint and canvas.

On our way to the parking area, we were stopped by Ranger Joe. He told us they had worked all night paving the parking lot and, while they weren't quite finished, we could proceed with caution and park on the right. We enjoyed the amazing vista and spent some time taking it all in.

Ranger Joe was at the same spot when we left, and my husband Ron, as he often does, stopped to say thank you and introduce himself. Ron was the 8th Director of the National Parks and he loves being in a park and especially meeting young rangers and learning about them. Ranger Joe said if we thought artist point was cool, how would we like to see what they were doing on the North Rim?

What we saw was a work of art. Because the young project manager, Ranger Joe, was so dedicated to greatly improving the visitor's opportunity to truly experience the canyon. He wanted to improve and also preserve the historically significant work of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC, was responsible for most of the work in National Parks during the administrations of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. They worked in Yellowstone during the summers of 1933 to 1941, building and repairing walkways, trails and bridges. Ranger Joe took care to save the "look" of the CCC work, but also to add safety features, walking trails and overlooks. Years of putting new asphalt over old, crumbling asphalt, had resulted in several inches of added heigth. This meant that in several places, clueless tourists could easily hop over the barriers and venture out onto unsafe presipices.

Ranger Joe had a great team working with him. Experts from the Federal Highway Administration shared his enthusiasm, and were also dedicated to providing more than had originally been planned. One of their most impressive accomplishments was the strong desire to not be able to see the "newness" of the project on the north rim from across the canyon on the south rim. They found over 600 huge boulders in different parts of the park that perfectly matched the yellow hue of the canyon. These were put in place on the boundary of the trails and overlooks, replacing the old wooden barriers. Obviously, rocks last much longer than wood, and reduces the burden of maintenance costs in the near future.

We loved spending a few days in Yellowstone National Park. The wildlife thrives. Buffalo, moose, elk, deer, and even some wolves were spotted among the trees, in the Lamar Valley and in the thermal areas. The Old Faithful area was crowded with tourists, as it so often is, but other beautiful places were serene areas of solitude. That's why we visit and why we always want to go back soon.