Friday, October 11, 2013

Back over the cedar mountain I resume my spot in the woods behind the park. I told the rangers I’d be around if Bryce were to open as I would be camping behind the park. I think some of them got the impression that I’d been lurking in these woods all through the shutdown and were a bit creeped out by it. In the morning I go down to the store in Bryce Canyon City to buy a book and just nose around town. I’m unsure if the news of the parks impending opening is public knowledge yet. I hear people discussing the situation in town; apparently the city council has asked the sheriff to forcibly enter the park, cut the locks and run the concessions with inmates…no wonder the rangers at the gates have had to arm themselves. With the mood so rapidly deteriorating I’m hoping that the park will open soon. I see a cashier put up a sign saying the park will open at 3pm but a manager comes by and asks him to take it down as it’s only a rumor.

I drive back over to the park gate and ask the rangers there if they know anything. Apparently the deal is still in the works and they aren’t sure of what time the park will be able to open. I pull back into my hiding spot along the forested road beside the park entrance and wait. At 2:30 I decide to change into my uniform and by the time I reach the main road there is a line of cars stretching miles back to the highway to get into the park. As I’m pulling out right next to the entrance I manage to cut in line and get into the visitor center before any visitors start to show up. I excitedly greet my friends in the hall as I make my way to the information desk. As I emerge from the door behind the desk a ranger is greeting the first visitor to actually stop for information (the first 100 or so cars just drove right by and into the park). I take the next visitor and the questions are wonderfully familiar; “We’re here for a day and want to do a hike and see the sunset…” … “Well you’d better also get up early tomorrow and see the sunrise!”

It’s a Friday and we won’t have any astronomy programs until tomorrow but some visitors tell me they’re on their last day of a vacation that’s been completely derailed by the shutdown. I invite them to meet me at my usual spot for a private astronomy lecture after sunset. People come in saying how happy they are to be back in the park and I can genuinely say that I’m even happier to be back myself.
After a couple of hours at the info desk I decide to head up to the canyon rim to hike and answer questions on the trail. Some hikers find it interesting that people working in the park are as happy to get back on the trails as they are. Others assume that someone has already gotten lost and I’m part of a search party. We all just share stories of what we did during the shutdown and how glad we are to be back in this canyon (eroded plateau edge technically).
My aspiring astronomers show up after dinner and we spend a frigid half hour exploring the constellations and tracing the milky way across the sky. One of them heard me say earlier that I was a volunteer and has gotten the impression that all the employees are back in the park on a volunteer basis. After my talk he tries to give me a tip. I manage to stop my arm automatically reaching up to grab it and thank him anyway, saying that having a chance to teach visitors about astronomy in the park again is worth more than money. And it’s true.

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