The "leash law" for pets in national parks is intended to protect pets, wildlife and park visitors from undesirable encounters, but even following the letter of the law can occasionally have an unexpected outcome. Perhaps that's even more likely to be true when the situation involves a cat on a leash.
The following story, sent to me by a reader, provides a good example.
In the early 1980s I visited Grand Teton National Park on a three-month journey west. I traveled with two cats in a full-size van, camping along the way. My feline companions were house cats, and road travel was something they didn’t love, but they adjusted. Charlie was the more adventurous of the two. He didn’t mind a leash, and his deep, groan-like voice, characteristic of the Siamese, would holler continually during our entire walk when we stopped for some exercise.
One day we stopped at an empty parking area for a hiking trail at Jenny Lake, and Charlie was aching for some new scenery. The trail was narrow, winding and wooded, and one side afforded lovely views of the lake and Tetons beyond. Along the opposite side of the trail, both up ahead and behind us, the foliage was thick and obscured visibility.
Charlie dove into that walk with a lot of energy to work off. His loud, long, groaning meows broke the still silence of the lakeside trail as we began our hike. Back in the parking lot, a couple arrived to take some photos. I heard their faint voices behind us, and walking a cat is very slow exercise, so I was waiting for the people to get closer so I could gather up Charlie and make room for them to pass.
Time went by, but the other people weren’t catching up with us. Charlie and I walked on, and they still weren’t catching up. I continued to hear the same faint voices, but I noticed they were now more like whispers, rather than faraway voices.
All at once I heard an outburst of laughter right next to us, behind the thick foliage. The couple had heard the sounds from Charlie and had been stalking quietly through the bushes in hopes of seeing the “big cat” making all that noise! The man’s camera had been poised to catch the wild animal on film before it bounded away!
One moral to this story: you can’t always believe your ears, even in the Great Outdoors.