Leave nothing but footprints.
Take nothing but pictures.
Kill nothing but time.
As I crested the hill to Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon NP, no small feat at 8,000 ft. elevation, a red trinket attached to the safety fence drew my attention away from the beauty below. It was a love lock, a small token of affection of a couple who came and left, but who were not content with the Instagram snapshot and the Facebook post. Instead, they wanted all those who came after to know they existed, that they mattered, that they found each other, and that they had made their way with a cheap, etched, made-in-China lock to this spot on earth that looks down on the million-years process of destruction, erosion, and weathering that is Bryce Canyon.
Another visitor watched me take this photo.
“They must think it’s Paris,” he said with the wry disdain of one who treasures our natural spaces. A kindred spirit. I nodded in agreement.
In the two days my husband and I spent exploring the park, we noted people climbing over barriers, sidling up to fragile canyon edges, and losing hats to the wind. (Thankfully retrieved, due to the ingenious use of two trekking poles.) We saw plastic water bottles down ravines, and even a disposable diaper that was wound tight and had somehow found its way over the edge and down a hill, yet not out of view of passing visitors. I was left to wonder how the park rangers deal with the detritus of a population who relishes the easy access to once remote places and who can’t seem to stay attached to their belongings. Keeping the place clean can’t be an easy job.
Visits to our national parks are up. It’s a great feeling to share in a common wonder and appreciation of earth’s processes or marvel at the way the sunlight glows between the spires and hoodoos of the canyon, yet it’s been said that our national parks are being loved to death. We can slow the impact of being one of thousands of visitors each year if we each start by having a little respect and by committing to leave no trace. Hold onto your hats, stash water bottles in a backpack or leave them in the car, and for goodness sake, save your love locks for Paris. Our children and grandchildren will thank you.