When Rex and I first entered Grand Teton National Park, we were ready for an easy warm up hike around Two Ocean’s Lake—an accessible but relatively less-frequented area of the park. A 2-mile drive on a gravel road, then a six-mile walk around the water—a great way to get started, we thought.
Shame on us for not first checking the park Web site: The road to Two Oceans was closed to cars and bikes—foot and horse traffic only. Rats. We don’t mind walking four miles, but four miles plus six miles is bit much for two out-of-shape flatlanders.
As we suspected and soon confirmed, the road to Two Oceans Lake was closed because of budget cuts. As the park service explains, sequestration requires Grand Teton to permanently cut 5% from its budget, adding up to a 14% total decline since 2009.
Today, we decided to walk the road to Two Oceans. We wouldn’t make it all the way around the lake, but we just might see some interesting birds anyway. Or so we told ourselves.
The road segment of our walk took us an hour each way. We enjoyed the scenery, but we were still annoyed. On our bikes we could have been at the lake in less than 10 minutes. What harm could a bike do? Do bike riders leave more trash than horsey folks? Does the park service have something against bicyclists? Why would the park service inconvenience us? Hrmff!
Whatever the real reason, Two Oceans did not disappoint. Rex immediately spotted several interesting ducks, including a female harlequin. And this fine bird greeted me as I approached the lake.
|Bald Eagle on Two Oceans Lake, Grand Teton National Park|
As if to say “no hard feelings,” our nation’s symbol welcomed us. In fact, in a twisted way, sequestration helped us today. I very much doubt that this bird would have been in this spot at this time if the lake had been more accessible to more humans.
We walked on for another 2.5 hours on the lake trail, watching osprey fish and American Widgeons float, muskrats dog-paddle and Western grebes court. A trumpeter swan paraded all morning, and a white pelican skimmed, mere inches off the water, from one end of the lake to the other. Two Oceans was truly magical today, partly because there were no people there, but mostly because we were there. And we were glad we came.
Now please don’t read this as some back-door endorsement of sequestration, or an elitist argument in favor of limiting access to our country’s fragile ecological preserves. I advocate neither—quite the opposite, in fact. The lesson learned today is much more banal: just do it.