September 18, 2012 by Deborah W. Trotter
The dawn of the day in 2007 that we found the bison was also the dawn of the day of another event of greater significance for the Park: the opening of the new Visitor Center. As we floated down the Snake River that morning, our guide Mike told us that the VC was being dedicated in a couple of hours. And among the VIP’s who would be speaking was Vice President Dick Cheney.
It seemed very odd that that was our fourth day in the Park, and yet it was the first we had heard about the new VC opening. And we had heard nothing about an appearance by the VP. Had the event been shrouded in secrecy?
We were excited to have the chance to see the new Visitor Center on thefirst day it would be open to the public. By the time we got there, it looked as if we had barely missed the dedication festivities, but cleanup was still going on. The parking lot was closed, occupied by rows of white folding chairs and sound equipment, so we parked across the street at the old Visitor Center, now closed for good, and walked to the new one, past a lot of Park Rangers.
There were hardly any people inside, and the facility was gorgeous. A floor-to-ceiling window wall brought the mountains inside, and the interior included the artistic and creative use of wood, concrete and natural stone. There were lots of informative displays on the walls, embedded in the floors, and on tables. One of my favorites was the huge 3-D map of the mountains and lakes that gave us an eagle’s-eye view of terrain we had hikedthrough on that visit and others. Of course, we also had to check out the brand new bookstore and souvenir/gift shop.
When we left the Visitor Center and walked back across the road to the car, we passed more Park Rangers, some on horseback, others just standing around in groups. Too many Rangers. More Rangers than this Park could ever support or need. But I didn’t think too much about it until one of my kids said, “Mom, those guys aren’t Park Rangers. “ “Why do you say that?” I asked him. “They have buzz cuts,” he replied!
I don’t think it’s written anywhere that Park Rangers can’t have buzz cuts, but the familiar look for male Rangers is often a little more relaxed or even mountain man-ish. And these guys seemed just a bit detached from us visitors, watchful, as if they had a purpose other than what their uniforms would suggest. My son’s comments made me realize that they just didn’t act like Park Rangers.“They’re military. Or Secret Service,” said my son. And I’m sure he was right. Brought in because of the VP’s presence and dressed to blend in with the scenery. Or not. Just as in the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, trust the kid to voice the obvious!