Monday, September 12, 2016


The Big Hotel at East Glacier Park, MT

This morning I rose to a computer diatribe from Tony Bynum about Glacier Park, not attacking the mountains but attacking the park management’s dim-wittedness in “pimping out” the scenery that is considered by some to be Nature’s Cathedral, if not the dwelling place of much that is Holy.  The Blackfeet on this side and the Flathead Salish people on the other side, would agree.  The Badger-Two Med is adjacent to Glacier Park.

Read Tony’s blog entry, which is excellent and full of "fabulous photography" (not his) before you read my own dour and cynical opinion.  Just yesterday I was doing some transcribing and came across a post of mine in 2011 which was a mild version of Tony’s post.  I was bugged as usual by the Hallmark version of the world, all pretty pictures, because some relatives had just visited.  Rather than seeing the awe of the mountains or even considering the huge under-continent forces of tectonics that threw up this range, all they could say was,  “How beautiful it is!”  After five minutes of that, back in the car and “Where can we buy something? A souvenir.”

Susie McMasters of East Glacier used to talk about the “Windexed world” of people with money and leisure who could afford to remove all the flyspecks of reality.  This is the essence of promotions.  And porn.  Beyond that, the politics of today are based on the number (not the quality) of votes and pimping for numbers is exactly what gets any federal agency what it needs.  This is as true for Indians as for mountains and they know it.  Indians can grow the number of voters the old-fashioned way: babies.  Mountains dress themselves like brothels in red velvet sunsets and spangly lakes, juxtaposed with log chateaus or clever bright minimal tents.

Perhaps you thought all those rather Nordic pretty people hiked in to the fabulous locations the rest of us must walk to.  (There are rarely any “minority” people in the Park.)  In fact, models probably came by helicopter in the same way as the whirlybird flights that hype the Grand Canyon — or did until there was protest.  

I’d like to see how many crew members there are, adjusting equipment, standing by with warm robes for the naked.  I hope they have rescue equipment for people paralyzed by hypothermia in ice water without flotation jackets.  Maybe Tony could get some photos of the photo shooters, the same as he takes pictures of oil wells on the rez.  These adverts need permits from the big shots at park headquarters.  EXPENSIVE permits since the American public won’t fork over enough tax money to maintain the bridges and trails. 

I’ve never liked those guys.  In the Sixties when Bob and I stopped work long enough to visit the Big Hotel, maybe to see a bronze sculpture customer, we were always challenged by the “butler” AKA concierge, who thought we in our work clothes spoiled the ambiance.  After all, the model was European aristocracy gone to ski in Switzerland.  

In those days Indians weren’t allowed.  Now the policy is to hire Indians, but only because of the political pressure.  Otherwise — in those days — the help was all blonde Minnesotans, usually relatives of Great Northern employees.  It was only the advertising portraits of Blackfeet that made their tipis on the lawn acceptable.  Then they got to eat the dining room leftovers.

Scenery as brothel began in the SW where they helicoptered new cars to impossible places at the top of spires left by erosion.  It was super-spectacle mixed with Outside magazine and spiked with PlayboyLeni Riefenstahl implying super powers by editing diving events.  Brain fucking with power and privilege because that’s what sells.  Gorgeousness that defies danger, the erotics of adrenaline.  National Geographic.  Very middle class 19th century justified with science, which is far more palatable in my view, but only appeals to a certain educated clientele not spacing out on weed and brew.

I’m thinking of the jokes about finding grizz scat with the bear bells of avid hikers in it.  What about bear scat with string bikinis in it?  Just where on a string bikini does one keep one’s can of bear spray?

Or there could be jokes about summer in the mountains, which comes in hour-long intervals through the six week summer we have on the “flats” of the high east slope.  As I sit here typing, Logan Pass has snowed shut.  (Sept. 12)

Tony is vulnerable since he IS a photographer and he DOES use the enhancing mechanisms of tech.  He’s probably even used a helicopter now and then.  But that’s not the same thing as massive millennial invasion. 

A few years ago the idea of stacking rocks, balanced, originally done by bored herders in high places, took on some kind of New Age significance and the grounds of East Glacier’s Big Hotel were covered with little rock towers to the point of infestation.  Eventually some new thing or beverage grabbed the imaginations of the vulnerable and someone had the job of going around with a wheelbarrow to remove them all.  

No doubt this photog frenzy will end, maybe after injury or even death.  But in the SW the sandstone was left with permanent damage.  Of course, Instagram also will end like all the other transient internet platforms.  In fact, some of this excess may be a feverish effort to grow numbers.

Here’s the link to Tony’s story with all the evidence.  Including his bad spelling.  (He’s a little dyslexic.)

Glacier National Park Destroying Itself from the Inside - Instagram and the Parks Reckless Social Media Program

If this were not about one of the most important public resources in America, and I were not compelled to help protect it, I would have dismissed it. This piece is controversial. I'm prepared to receive some backlash, even ridicule and name calling. That's okay, but before you make your comments - AND PLEASE MAKE THEM - consider this. This is not about me, I'm the messenger. This is about a current social, and resource management issue, one that if not dealt with aggressively now, will metastasize to the point where it will gobble up more time and resources than can be deployed by Glacier National Park to deal with them (if it hasn't already). Nip it in the bud now, and there's a chance to put this cat back in the bag. I'm alone in writing this. Whatever errors you find, grammar, spelling, even facts, etc., are mine. Please don't let them get in the way of the message.

Here's the heart of the problem, GNP is pimping the park though it's Instagram feed, and NOT using the powerful social media platform to educate and teach users about the Park. It is also not going after the bad actors. Instead, it's teaching people that it's okay to be reckless, inconsiderate, unsafe, and down right destructive. But why?

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