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National Park Is Full Of Life Despite Closing Due To The Coronavirus Pandemic

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We're going to spend a few minutes now in Bryce Canyon National Park. That's in Utah. Typically, visitors flock there this time of year as winter melts into spring. But Bryce, like other national parks, is closed due to COVID-19. So we got in touch with park ranger Peter Densmore. He is the visual information specialist at Bryce, sharing photos, videos of the park's deep, red canyons and towering, rocky hoodoos on social media. But we asked him what the park sounds like right now without the hum of hikers and tourists.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS CHIRPING)

PETER DENSMORE: Spring comes late here at 8,000 feet. We're still kind of in what feels like the tail end of winter. You're not quite sure whether or not to start fully celebrating spring or to be braced for a snowstorm.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS CHIRPING)

DENSMORE: We're coming into the breeding season, and so the birds are coming in with beautiful plumage, as well as their most complex songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS CHIRPING)

DENSMORE: I'm personally waiting for the hummingbirds to return. Once they've returned to the park, it's safe to begin really celebrating spring and summertime.

(SOUNDBITE OF UTAH PRAIRIE DOGS SQUEAKING)

DENSMORE: Utah prairie dog - they make quite a lot of sound, too. And often, what we're hearing from them are these cheepings (ph) and squeaks, often of their alarm calls.

(SOUNDBITE OF UTAH PRAIRIE DOGS SQUEAKING)

DENSMORE: If you take the time to observe these colonies, you're going to find your attention drawn to things that you might not have noticed but the prairie dogs certainly did - maybe a coyote, a red fox or a golden eagle or some other raptor above.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS CHIRPING)

DENSMORE: Visitation is usually on its way up. Spring break, beginning in March, usually signals an unofficial beginning to our season. It's surreal not to have our visitors here. And understanding the history of the National Park Service and our national parks, I've found that you can't ignore the fact that their existence has been so dependent on, often, individuals, you know, that were transformed by these landscapes to the point that they engaged in advocacy for them or made other remarkable acts on their behalf that - without which, we might not even have them as national parks today.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS CHIRPING)

DENSMORE: Being outdoors has really just provided a sense of stability in uncertain times. I actually feel kind of a unique pressure to step up to this moment and try to provide people a window into this place. I'm thinking of a Mary Oliver quote - that the world's otherness is antidote to confusion, and standing in that otherness can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS CHIRPING)

KELLY: That's Peter Densmore, ranger at the currently closed Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUTUAL BENEFIT SONG, "TERRAFORM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.