The “Wild Heart of the Continent” in My Backyard
It’s finally here. The May issue of National Geographic magazine is entirely devoted to Yellowstone National Park, here in Yellowstone Country, and I couldn’t be more excited.
The entire 172-page issue is a celebration of the world’s first national park as well as the centennial of the National Park Service. Some of the country’s truly great writers and photographers spent three full years producing the photography and stories, and the resulting package is a timeless, sensitive, thought-provoking portrayal of “America’s Wild Idea.”
I’ve already gotten lost in the stories, as the dog-eared copy on my nightstand attests. “The Paradox of the Park,” explores how man struggles with its co-existence with wilderness, and how that dynamic has changed over the years. From an image from 1972 on page 54 showing tourists surrounding and photographing a bear on its hind legs just a few feet away from them, to a group of teens splashing in the Boiling River near Mammoth Hot Springs, the images are beautiful and disturbing, sometimes at the same time.
There are honest profiles of some of the park’s most ardent supporters, such as Dan Wenk, superintendent of Yellowstone National Park; and Caroline Byrd, executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.
I was particularly drawn to the images of wildlife. There is a two-page photo showing rutting bison in Lamar Valley, and you can almost feel their fury. An aerial photograph shows seven members of the Mollie’s wolf pack, leaving their prints in the snow as they wander, rest and romp. And there’s a wonderful black-and-white image of a grizzly reaching for fruit in the branches of a tree just outside the residential area where National Park Service and concessions workers live in Mammoth Hot Springs. Like several terrific wildlife images in the magazine, this one was taken by a camera trap.
An insightful story by David Quammen has particularly resonated with me. In the prelude to story, “America’s Wild Idea,” Quammen writes: “It’s more than just a park. It’s a place where, more than 140 years ago, people began to negotiate a peace treaty with the wild. That negotiation continues today, with growing urgency, at Yellowstone and all over the planet, as the human world expands and the natural world retreats. Can we come to terms?”
I suspect I will be spending many hours reading and re-reading this truly outstanding testament to the world’s first national park, and I urge you to do so as well.
Until next time, I’m loving the park in my backyard and my life here Yellowstone Country.