Should Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin Be a National Park?

Boulders overlook the badlands of the McCullough Peaks as the sun rises over the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
Boulders overlook the badlands of the McCullough Peaks as the sun rises over the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming.

Driving along Highway 14/16 between Cody, Wyoming and the Bighorn Mountains for most people can be an excruciating experience. Mile after mile yields very little difference in landscape interest as the full stretch offers only a bland, sparsely populated high desert environment with only a small badlands hill sporadically placed across vast distances. As a result, many people would wonder why I would even bring up protecting an area so void of interest. Hidden beyond the main highway, however, is a completely different landscape obscured by its deceptively barren foreground.

Why The McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area?

A paint mustang stands in the high desert of the Bighorn Basin in Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
Paint Mustang

The drive along the highway brings you parallel to the McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). As mentioned, from the highway, it looks like nothing more than a wasteland waiting to be rescued from the oil and gas industry.
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Why Humans Have Become Dangerous to Earth

A large bull bison stands in a grassy field in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
A large bull bison stands in a grassy field in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

It is an unavoidable consequence of living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. We frequently hear of someone getting too close to an animal and subsequently gored, causing severe injuries. Many onlookers consistently watch the patience of other animals tested to the brink as tourist after tourist almost seem to take pride in pushing the limit of how they can push the temperament of one of the native species, even if it is a one-ton animal. After all, that makes the bragging rights that much more "impressive." Often people are completely oblivious to the health and concern of the animal itself, surrounding it as if it were a decoration set out by one of the park employees for work.

Upon observing this behavior, people often ask, "What on Earth are they thinking?!" The simple answer is, they’re not.
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The Trophic Cascade from the Gray Wolf

The Canyon Wolf Pack alpha pair lead their pups along a ridge near Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
The Canyon Wolf Pack alpha pair lead their pups along a ridge near Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park.

I won’t waste your time in discussing political agendas and biases for and against the gray wolf. We all know that it is a controversial species that many feel is not at all welcome in nature, despite the fact that it has been an integral part of that very nature for tens of thousands of years. Virtually all of the biases against these mystical creatures comes from a simple misunderstanding of their very nature. In previous posts, I have discussed at length why more wolves are needed across the country and dissected the bias from both standpoints. One key factor I have never laid out in full detail, however, is the trophic cascade of events that happens once wolves reestablish a healthy presence in their chosen environment.
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Understanding the Misunderstood Grizzly Bear

The grizzly bear nicknamed "Blondie" searches for food in an open field in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
The grizzly bear nicknamed "Blondie" searches for food in an open field in Grand Teton National Park.

Predatory animals have the unfortunate consequence of being sensationalized as ruthless, vicious killers lurking behind countless trees and bushes. Their threat is consistently exaggerated in television and movies, while systematically ingraining a sense of wraith and mercilessness in the minds of would-be victims. Grizzly bears especially are often stereotyped as abusing their size and power upon anyone who encroaches on their territory.

Fortunately however, this holds about as much weight as a horribly written Hollywood movie. While grizzly bears can certainly be dangerous, the last thing they, or any animal for that matter, want to do is start a fight. Consider that when your next meal is always uncertain and thus, you never really know when you can replenish your energy, the last thing you would ever do is unnecessarily expend that energy fighting another healthy animal.
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Free Roaming Photography Welcomed by Global Arts

Grizzly Bear #610 of Grand Teton National Park walks along the ice waters of Oxbow Bend with her three cubs as they search for a meal. (Mike Cavaroc)
Grizzly Bear #610 of Grand Teton National Park walks along the ice waters of Oxbow Bend with her three cubs as they search for a meal.

I was recently told by someone that the above image should be in a gallery. As it turns out, it will be! I was recently approached by Global Arts Gallery in Lander, Wyoming to display my work. This will be my first so I am very excited to have up to ten works on the walls of the space. I am also shooting to have everything ready to go by June 1st, but timing will be tricky so at the moment it is more of a one-day-at-a-time process.

The work will be a sampling from some of my favorite pieces over time and will showcase my favorite subjects: predators, large prey species, and of course, night.
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The Paintbrush-Cascade Canyon Loop

A dramatic sunset casts a pink glow over the North Fork of Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
A dramatic sunset casts a pink glow over the North Fork of Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Whenever planning a backpacking trip in Grand Teton National Park, or any national park, always check with that park’s Visitor Center to inquire about any necessary permits. A free permit is required when backpacking in Grand Teton National Park.

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Distance (loop): 19.2 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Best time of year: Summer, Fall

For those with limited time, but want a true excursion into the Teton Mountains, there is no better journey than the Paintbrush-Cascade Canyon Loop. Both canyons deliver tremendous views of both the backcountry of the mountains and overlooks of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Though the scenery is only a sampling that the Tetons have to offer, it is a tremendous representation of the magnificent mountain terrain.
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Categorized: Hikes and Backpacks, Wyoming
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