“I’m not talking to you anymore,” the man ranger said to David, holding his hands up as if to push David away. We’d stopped to get out and talk to the rangers when we saw two of them standing in front of orange cones and making cars turn around on the road into Bryce Canyon National Park. I was having better luck talking to the woman ranger.
“Would I be breaking a federal law or a regulation if I drive down the road and park?” I asked her and she said she wasn’t sure, but then decided it was a federal law. ”You’ll be arrested,” she said. ”We have national park law enforcement and they’ll arrest you and take you to jail.” By then David had joined the conversation, since the man ranger wouldn’t talk to him any more.
“I’m in a place in my life where that might be okay,” David said. ”What jail would they take us to?” David and I told the ranger about our idea of organizing thousands of vacationing grandparents and getting them to stage a sit-in at a national park lodge and refuse to move. I told her about my history of civil disobedience, having been arrested at the Seabrook nuclear power plant and at a Wall Street protest in the 70′s. She told us she was working without pay, “because I love this park.” We told her we’d created a Twitter hashtag #nationalparksprotest but since I only have about 80 Twitter followers and David just set up a Twitter account last night to tweet under that hashtag it probably wasn’t going to get a lot of traction. She laughed.
David and I thanked both rangers for working without pay, then got in the car and drove down a dirt road we found out of the parking area across the street. We found crowds of people on the rim of the canyon, most of them having taken a back road behind the Bryce Canyon Best Western, some in tour buses. We crossed the fence into the park and started walking, following foot paths along the edge of the canyon. The further we walked the more spectacular the hoodoos (the spires of rock that make Bryce so remarkable) became. The rocks got redder and the canyon glowed with color.
At a mile and a half we reached the first parking area of the park and picked up the official park trails. We kept going until we reached Sunrise Point, an elevated platform which looks out over the Bryce Amphitheater. We were the only ones there. The only people we met actually in the park (most people who’d come in the back road to the rim weren’t going more than a few hundred yards) were Europeans. I welcomed them to our national park and they smiled and thanked me.
Tomorrow, Capital Reef National Park, which is vast and criss-crossed with back roads. We’ll find a place to park and take another hike on our public land.