How are you doing?
I’m sitting in my room, in employee housing at Bryce Canyon National Park. I turned off the wifi to help me focus on the text for this post.
I cracked a local beer, and started a repeat playlist of Bruce Springsteen’s latest singles.
I’ve been here since May.
I like it.
Bryce is a compact park with numerous, simple trails that are more accessible than Grand Canyon’s.
Civilization grocery stores are closer, too.
Best of all, some of the lower 48’s most exquisite backcountry is only a short drive away, in any direction.
All the photos in this post are from August or September, here in Utah.
The Park has been especially quiet this year.
…because we all know this has not been a normal year.
I’d spent every summer since 2015 at the North Rim of Grand Canyon. I love the Canyon and the people I worked with there at the lodge, but for me 5 years is a long time to be at the same place each summer.
The reason I kept going back to Grand Canyon was in no small part due to my job there at such a world class destination. Factor in the low cost of living at such a remote location, and I was doing very well at a place that I love.
This year I had virtually the same gig lined up at Bryce Canyon.
But then of course 2020 happened, and let’s just say I accepted a less desirable gig in exchange for housing within the boundaries of Bryce Canyon National Park.
There’s only a month left to go in the season now.
I’ve muscled through it okay, but things have sure been different.
The historic dining room is still open, but it’s to-go food only, with all the tables stacked into a corner. Step in to the empty, spacious room and you’ll be greeted by one of two masked “servers” behind a table, separating you from them for social distancing purposes.
Be sure to stand on your floor sticker, too.
The North Rim is operating in a similar way. It makes me sad to think of the formerly vibrant dining room, filled to capacity with excited travelers. The wine flowed like water amid the clink of plates and silverware. Voices rose to be heard over the din.
Whether delivering food or managing hungry hordes pressed upon the host stand, I miss the hustle of a restaurant staff waging its a subtle war of controlled chaos.
And that was normal – the “old normal.”
(Don’t even get me started about the North Rim’s abnormal scenarios.)
But today there’s none of that in the Parks. There’s very little lovely chaos in the workplace.
It’s been replaced by a different kind of chaos, especially in the greater world.
I won’t delve too deeply into that, since we’re all in tune with what’s been going on (click the link, you’ll be pleasantly surprised), but I’d like to take note of a few things.
First, it’s been strange without any international visitors (and employees) in the Parks. Back in the Spring, a friend noted that it’s only the most affluent 10 percent of the population that’s traveling on vacation this summer. For the most part, that was true (at least at first). Rooms in Bryce fill up at $250 a night, and the gap between upper and lower classes in this country is striking.
Second, to expand on that note, National Park visitors have always hailed from a certain, ahem, “demographic.” The lack of international visitation has truly enhanced the prominence of this “demographic,” and shined light on the lack of representation of others.
I’m being careful with my words because I don’t particularly care to be blunt, but you know what I’m saying.
The news headlines are sad.
Finally, I fear that things will only get worse through the national election and winter flu season. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just close your eyes, go into hibernation, and wake up sometime in 2021 after all the dust has cleared?
In the vein of going into hibernation, I deactivated my Facebook account in early September. I don’t see myself logging back on to it anytime soon.
For a long time I’d considered giving it up, but never had the courage to actually pull the trigger. I’m sure you’re familiar with the laundry list of excuses that kept me on it for so long, so I won’t dive into those.
I do miss having that connection to so many people from my life. But since that’s gone, I’ve been inspired to reach out to people in a much more substantial and genuine way. I also figure I can be found easily enough online, through this website.
To be real, Facebook has been a nagging, persistent part of my life for the last 12 years. No one who uses it regularly can truly deny its effect on the lens through which we see the world.
There were times in those 12 years where I didn’t log in for long time, but that was always during special circumstances, like extended backpacking or rafting trips… rarely in day to day life.
In late August, some friends from my grade school days in Pennsylvania (that I hadn’t seen in years) came to visit me here at Bryce. After they left, I had the impulse to post the requisite photo of us together on Facebook.
It’s the sort of thing that the platform was made for. You can imagine how the comments from our old schoolmates would come rolling in, with things like “wow, look at the 3 of you together again” and so on.
All of us had possession of these pictures, but without even discussing the matter, we all refrained from sharing them on social media. This experience played a role in confirming that I wouldn’t really be missing out on much in leaving Facebook.
Though I overall used social media sparingly (compared to many), it’s still striking what a relief it is for it to be gone. After only a few weeks, I feel a tangible difference in my sense of well-being. I never had an Instagram or other forms of social media, so you might say I’m now 100% clean of it.
As a cold-hearted truth, what I may miss most is the ability to share things from this site via the business page I had on Facebook. So maybe you could help me out by sharing this post? 😉
Finally, this exact post would never have been written if I stayed on Facebook.
Bruce Springsteen, and looking forward
Part of what got me through the quarantine days and less-than-stellar employment of summer is the magic of music on YouTube.
…particularly live music, and particularly Bruce Springsteen.
I’ve been a die-hard fan since my late teens. At first I was somewhat ashamed of my interest, given the memory of his 1980s cheeseball-ness.
But now I don’t care. He’s awesome. I’ve attended almost 20 of his concerts.
Imagine if I had invested all that money for tickets in the stock market instead?
Nope. Still worth it.
How does my taste in music apply to anything I’m talking about right now? Well, take a look at this performance from a concert I attended on July 1, 2000 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
It’s not only pre-Covid, but also pre-9/11.
Doesn’t something like this seem so unattainable today, and sum up everything we’ve been missing in 2020?
I miss concerts.
I tried to mimic Bruce’s “on top of the piano” pose in some of my 2001 Appalachian Trail photos. In most cases I failed miserably, but this one turned out pretty good.
As has been par for the course lately, my focus this summer was on my regular working routine – you know, like a normal person. There’s been a handful of rewarding day hikes (look for new trail guides on those soon), but overall I haven’t been getting out as much as I used to.
It’s been a while since the last “epic” hike, and I don’t foresee one coming in 2021. I’m at a place in my life where I want to focus on getting more things sorted out before taking off again for an extended time.
No small part of that includes getting this site “caught up,” which has been a never-ending task for years and years. I tend do more hiking and screwing around than putting my butt in a chair and working on this.
I guess most bloggers would love to be in my shoes, with piles and piles of fresh material still “in the vault” to be fleshed out.
Though Bryce hasn’t been ideal, thing could be much, much worse.
Breaking away from consistently working at the North Rim opens a few doors.
Seasonal summer employment affords very little time off for the extent of the season, and I’ve grown to miss the mountains.
I hope you’re doing okay and making the best of things, too.
Leaving Facebook does have me missing those connections, so feel free to leave a comment or drop me a note via the contact link way down at the bottom of the page.
Finally, it was just in September that Springsteen (at 71 years old) surprised everyone by announcing a new rock album with the E Street Band. The two new singles so far are found here and here on YouTube.
New Bruce! Maybe 2020 isn’t all so bad after all 🙂