Perfection (Jiskastya X OhGodOfWriting)
Spring, May 23, 2013
It was still quiet this early in the season, for the tourists that were this park’s primary source of income and excitement were not willing to brave the chill wind that raced down over the mountains from the north. But the park itself was wide awake as the morning sun crested the horizon, bathing the valleys in a golden glow and reflecting bright white from the snowcapped peaks. Herds of elk moved slowly along the valley grasslands, digging hooves into the snow to unearth the small shoots that had survived the winter and were beginning to peak above the ground. A wolf pack slipped through a pack of trees, moving together swiftly and efficiently. Their pups were just starting to emerge from the den, and the pack needed to track down a new kill to feed their youngest members. Many of the park’s bears were finally starting to emerge from their layers, blinking sleepy-eyed up at the bright sky, and rolling off in search of food.
Hunt’s Falls National Park was only beginning to be released from the grasp of winter, even though May was almost over. Within a month the tourist season would begin, and millions of people would pour in from all over the country, trying to see everything the park had to offer without leaving the comfort of civilization, not knowing that the true wealth of the park could only be seen hundreds of miles from the nearest proper road, bed, or bathroom. The park had been built up around the geothermal valley, the primary attraction of the park, although one carefully maintained road did lead to the set of 20 magnificent waterfalls that had earned the park its name.
Hunter Chase had been a ranger at this park for seven years now, and he knew that he would likely be here for the rest of his life. He had been lucky enough to be able to get a basic position when he turned twenty-one, only intending to stay for a year, live life a bit on the wild side, before returning back to his comfortable home in San Francisco. But he had fallen in love with the sheer, wild beauty of this park, the freedom he could find in its mountains, valleys, and rivers. He had only left briefly in the time he had been here, long enough to tell his parents that he wouldn’t be coming back. In his brief span back in civilization, he had been surprised at how cloying it had felt, everyone pressing in on everyone else, living through life to acquire as much wealth and money as they could before dying without having found anything in life. There was no connection in the bustling city, and Hunter had missed the natural god he had found far from civilization.
And so he had returned to the park, knowing that he could explore it for the rest of his life and never find all the secrets that the 10 million acre park held. It was a massive wilderness, pristine and untouched, and it would always stay that way, no matter how hard the humans tried to invade it. Because people like Hunt had cared enough to preserve it, to turn it into a national park and ensure that a piece of the natural world would always remain.
He begrudged even the necessity of the roads, hotels, restaurants, campsites, and small shopping complexes needed to keep the tourist population happy, although he had learned to come to a sort of peace with the necessity. The tourists were what kept the park going, and if the geothermal section of the park needed to become nothing more than one more city to keep the rest of the park pure, he could accept that trade. For the people who chose to come seek out the Rangers and get a backcountry permit were few and far between. In some ways it was a shame. It was those people who chose to go see the pure, pristine beauty of the park that would best preserve it. It was those who traveled around in a motorhome large enough to allow twenty people to live with a relative level of comfort, only able to fit on the widest of roads and guzzling the gallons, who didn’t care about anything beyond their own entertainment, that left the mess behind.
But Hunter had worked in the park for long enough, become enough a part of it, that he no longer had to deal with such things. His home was the backcountry office, the animal research facility, and the small ranger cabins hidden back in the wilderness, where rangers could be sent for months at a time and only see those few backpackers who chose to travel the park’s extensive trail system. It could be lonely, but Hunter felt more alive in those places than he did anywhere else in the world, with the rushing river, the wild wolf, the soaring eagle, and the pure god of nature to keep him company.
The sun finally crested the rim of the mountains, even though the sky had long been lit by its bright rays. Hunter Chase took a deep breath, eyes closed, arms spread, and head lifted to the sky.