Over the course of the shutdown, the closure of the National World War II Memorial and its periodic, Bastille-style forcible reopening became a sort of emblem of the whole sordid affair. It helped that the memorial is close to most major newsrooms, and that the dirt being done to the aged Honor Flight riders—and the couples who’d planned to get married at the Jefferson Memorial, and so on—was so thematically rich. It also helped that the National Park Service is the only part of our government that every citizen actually likes. We were raised to expect our parks and national monuments to be well maintained, cheap to visit, spiritually renewing, and above all, open to the public—arrayed in their splendor, waiting for you to throw your sleeping bag in the back of the car and have yourself a wholesome American weekend sometime soon. Maybe not this weekend, no, or next weekend, when Mom and Dad are coming to visit, but definitely soon. Our intention to enjoy our public lands is as vague as it is fervent, and that’s why—for me, anyway—the best part of the parks’ reopening is the reopening of the parks’ Instagram feed, @usinterior.
I started following @usinterior sometime over the summer, and it’s become a staple of my escapist daydreams. Once a day or so, the good people at the Interior Department post a mouthwatering, blissed-out photo of one our protected treasures, the perfect postcard gem you always try to capture and never do. Here’s sunrise at Acadia National Park.
And the Northern Lights over Denali:
And an obscure monument to add to the wish list, Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs, in Arizona.
From time to time there will be a tiny hiker in the frame, dwarfed by the filed peaks and smoldering sunset like the settler in a Hudson River School canvas. The promise of @usinterior is that the tiny hiker could be—will be—you.
So it was inordinately gutting for us armchair trekkers when, on day one of the shutdown, the Interior's Instagrammer posted a sad-sack shot of the last RV leaving a shuttered Yellowstone, with the caption: “Due to the lapse in appropriated funds, all public lands managed by the Interior Department (National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, Bureau of Land Management facilities, etc.) will be closed.”
And it was inordinately uplifting when, yesterday morning, the feed returned: “We’re back!” the Instagrammer wrote. “We missed talking with you about America’s great outdoors & sharing photos like this one.”
We missed you, too, @usinterior.