Wyoming, the Land of…Land

The Grand Tetons in northwestern Wyoming

We’re just back from a glorious trip to to northwestern Wyoming, and a curious change has come over us.

The stretching landscapes, gentle and rugged at the same time, were so breathtaking, the air and water so clean, the people we met so connected to the land around them, that for one of only a scant few times in the past seven years of G-Dubya Disaster, we feel truly proud to be Americans.

While environmental issues are a regular topic of discussion in our house, we hadn’t intended to think much about politics on this trip: we were simply celebrating our 9th anniversary. Turns out they don’t give you a medal in Los Angeles for being married this long, but it will earn you a few stares, as if you’re unusual animals. We thought, then, it would be fitting to honor this passage by going to in search of some unusual animals.

We stopped over in Denver, as that city prepared for this week’s DNC; starry-eyed volunteers were stationed at the airport, ready to help those just arriving for the festivities. Obama, often accused of being too inexperienced to lead, would within 24 hours make the announcement that six-term Delaware senator Joe Biden, respected on both sides of the aisle, would be his running mate. By the time we were halfway through with our trip, local news was reporting that a healthy chunk of redder-than-red Wyoming voter sympathies were, for the first time since the mid-1960s, purpling when faced with the prospect of President McCain. (Anyone willing to bet on a Wyoming majority for Obama, though, is a terrible gambler.)

Meanwhile, at Jackson Hole‘s small airport, Air Force Two and a handful of military helicopters were parked, having delivered almost-native son Dick Cheney for a visit to his home at the nearby golf resort, Teton Pines. The locals we met had this to say about the Vice President being once again in their midst: the only thing more hotly contested by Wyomans than using riverfront land to build private golf courses for the wealthy is the fact that Cheney’s security helicopters, when on the move, scare away the very wildlife that locals treasure/hunt down for sport and that millions of tourists a year come to see.

One imagines that the animals scatter like, say…birdshot on a turkey shoot.

In general, though, Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks are revered and protected places.

You’re all but guaranteed sightings of bison, moose, tule elk, beavers, eagles, ospreys, geese, ducks, and even a fox or two. Sulfurous steam and vibrantly-colored mineral water bubble up from deep within the Earth. Vast lakes stretch across verdant floodplains, and sawtooth-jagged peaks tower over soft waves of hills. Thick, emerald marshes provide quiet shelter, and sparkling rivers wend willfully past alders, willows, spruce, and lodge pine. Layers of clouds, some days big and fluffy, others brushed wispy by wind, stretch across ancient flat valleys carved out by glaciers.

Most real estate development still hovers on the fringes of these valleys, and people here prize the premium of open space.

So, yes, it’s true that funding for national parks is down and that golf courses (only usable in this area for three months a year) are still being carved out of the plains. But in this corner of Wyoming, American values also extend to preserving and protecting what has always made this land special.

Land.

More to come…

Comments

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