A living reminder at Mammoth Cave National Park

On Saturday, my wife, son and I visited Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky on the tail end of a week-long vacation. As we were walking down to the entrance of the cave, I noticed large clumps of daffodils growing in the hillside. I remember thinking to myself that planting all those bulbs would have been a chore, and that there didn’t seem to be much rhyme nor reason for their placement.

Later in the tour, another visitor asked our guide about the daffodils. It turns out that they are a living reminder of the thousands of private landowners who once called the park home. Before Mammoth Cave was established as a National Park in 1941, eminent domain was used to forcibly evict many families from their land. Not surprisingly, this subject remains sore for many local families, nearly 70 years after the park’s founding.

There is no doubt that Mammoth Cave National Park continues to enrich the lives of millions of visitors each year by exposing them to both the human and natural history of the area. These daffodils emerge each spring as a bittersweet reminder that there is always a price attached to the common good.

I certainly will never again look at a daffodil without wondering a bit about the person who first gave it a home.

The sound of first steps

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” –Marcel Proust 

On September 23, 2001, the crunch of my hiking boots on the gravel-strewn parking lot sharply broke the dark morning silence. Our goal that day was to hike the nine miles from the Jenny Lake trail head to Lake Solitude, perched atop the northern trail of Cascade Canyon. Normally one of Grand Teton National Park’s most popular hiking trails, only our conversation and footsteps echoed through the trees this day. Fall was dawning in the Wyoming mountains, long from the busy season, late enough that the specter of snow keeps most casual tourists away. Our packs stuffed full of enough gear and food to get us to the top and back, we set off along the trail toward our first significant turn in the path. Continue reading The sound of first steps