- Posted October 16, 2013 by
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This iReport is part of an assignment:
Shutdown over: What next?
A Park Abandoned
- Jareen, CNN iReport producer
The government shutdown affects so many things we never consider. It's strange, to live through this unique and understatedly profound event.
Recently, I answered an ad on my university's Facebook “confession page” concerning a young man needing a ride back to Bozeman, Montana from Yellowstone National Park. In exchange, he offered to provide the code to the combination lock currently keeping Yellowstone's west entrance closed.
The shutdown left hundreds of the park's workers stranded, furlowed and forced to leave. International tourists, often scheduling trips into the nation's most famous national parks months or even years in advance, piled into tour buses only to be disappointed. Upon arriving at the locked west gate, tourists found themselves greeted only by a stark white sign declaring, "park closed due to government shutdown.”
I arrived at the west entrance with my photographer on a brisk fall afternoon. Before unlocking the single combination lock keeping the entrance to Yellowstone closed, a group of European tourists crouched in front of the shutdown sign. Posing for photos with smiles on their faces despite the obvious and embarrassing disappointment, they held in their hands what seemed to me a most inappropriate gesture - a thumbs up.
Ironically, the government's own political unruliness has closed those special lands sanctioned specifically to preserve wildness. Now the park is empty. Posted rangers line the park's various entrances in order to maintain its security.
Driving through the gate, beyond the closed signs and disappointed tourists, Yellowstone unfurled outside our car windows. The wildlife - moose, deer, elk, bears, wolves, and of course American bison - have emerged onto Yellowstone's barren roadways and clearings in stunning abundance now that tourists have been locked out of their world. A mother grizzly and her cubs wandered though the empty parking lot of the Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone's most popular and typically crowded lodging. An enormous log cabin once filled with tourists eagerly awaiting the regular eruptions from the residing Old Faithful Geyser, the Old Faithful Inn now stands silent containing only overturned chairs and ghostly blanketed dinner tables. Yellowstone, the Old Faithful Inn, and its famous geyser appear forgotten.
Waiting for my photographer to capture shots of the empty benches, empty sidewalks, and empty buildings surrounding this geological hotspot, I sat alone anticipating when Old Faithful would show herself. The bubbling from the geyser persisted well into twilight without erupting as I listened solitarily in this empty place containing only her steamy silhouette and my quiet eagerness.
I sat alone in the dark until my photographer joined me. Only hearing the gentle movements of her hesitance we waited together. In our solidarity, in the quiet peace of the cold night, we waited for her to show herself, for the park to show itself. In the dark we waited for a time when she would be seen once again.
Article: Elizabeth Hobby
Photography: Dan Goodman