Its been almost three months since I camped in Rocky Mountain National Park, but I’m finally getting around to writing about the trip. I’ve been camping before, but never in a national forest like Rocky Mountain. It was amazing to see a moose, elk, deer, and other animals going about their business unaffected set against a backdrop of massive mountains and dense forest. I was really glad not to have come across any bears, given our tent situation, but that didn’t stop me from being nervous the entire time hiking.
The 415 square miles of land was established on January 26, 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson. The creation of the park protected it from mining and logging interests, a similar theme among many of the national parks created over the years. The park provided jobs during the Great Depression, as members of the Civilian Conservation Corps built roads, stopped fires, and planted trees. Unfortunately though, by the end of World War II the park had fallen into disrepair and people stopped coming. The National Park Service started a campaign to ensure the facilities were brought back up to standards and added additional buildings such as the centralized visitors center.
Today, the park is managed by “an interdisciplinary staff of education rangers, law enforcement rangers, carpenters, mechanics, biologists, administrators, engineers, resource specialists, and volunteers.” What was once done by mostly volunteers and laborers is now handled by various specialists. When you visit the park, you would have no idea the work that goes into maintaining and ensuring it is around for years to come.
While watching the sunset and waiting for dinner to cook over the fire each night, we watched as a herd of elk or a stray deer bounded past the campsite. The fascination with one moose making its way slowly across a shallow lake made me think about how disconnected most of us are with wildlife. Parks like Rocky Mountain are some of the only places most urbanites see animals larger than a raccoon. This is why our parks, whether national, state, or local are so important in today’s changing environment.
Families would flock to parks in the first half of the 1900’s when most people lived in dense urban cities where all your errands could be done on foot or with a short trolley ride. Then the suburbs happened and your backyard seemed large enough to satisfy the need to get out and see nature. But people are coming back to parks at a rising rate which underscores the need to preserve the parks we have from mining, drilling, or just giving them away altogether. Trump gutted Bears Ears National Monument by 85% just a year ago and has allowed mining into Superior National Forest.
My short trip this summer made me thankful to all the past presidents that saw the value in nature and put together our incredible system of parks throughout the country. Many span multiple states and create routes for hikers, runners, and the casual vacationer. These are resources that are only here as long as we protect them. Just like the great buildings of our cities that we strive to preserve, these parks are pieces of history in their own right and should be maintained for generations to come.