Saturday, May 21, 2016

Surviving Yellowstone

A woman died today in Yellowstone because she was attempting to photograph an eagle and was hit by a car while walking across the road. Such a tragedy.

And you've all heard about the baby bison and the guys walking on Grand Prismatic Spring. You may not have heard, but my husband, TR (stands for The Ranger), told me someone brought a baby deer into a visitor center saying, "We found this." People are selfish. And crazy. And yes, well-meaning. Perhaps ignorant. I know, I'm sounding like a know-it-all and I really don't know it all.

You really should read DEATH IN YELLOWSTONE. Riveting stuff.

In the words of a former ranger there, "Everything in Yellowstone is trying to kill you." True story. Whether it's the wind blowing a tree down on you and causing your death or slipping off the edge of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, or burning yourself in a hot spring, or getting eaten by a bear...there are lots of ways to go in Yellowstone. But you can navigate your time there safely, usually.

For example, last week TR and I drove both of our cars there. You know what? We don't speed on park roads. We actually keep it at 45 mph max (some spots are slower). It's just not worth it. There are signs that suggest "slower traffic use pullouts" but I don't pull out and let people pass because 45 is the LIMIT, the MAX and I'm not going slow. It's different than allowing drivers to not keep the laws of the land and speed to their hearts' content on the freeway. There are curves, wild animals (you could buzz around a curve and suddenly be confronted with five bison in your lane or whatever), and idiot humans making poor choices. People need to remember to pack their patience. Yellowstone had 4.1 million (MILLION!) visitors last year. You don't get to ignore the rules just because you feel entitled to move to the front of the line or something. Nope. You get to just sit there in your vehicle and enjoy the scenery wherever you happen to be stuck in the park. I suggest you carry extra water, food, and amusements such as books and games that don't require a battery. Oh, and the cell service is not everywhere and not always reliable. Sorry if you're addicted to your phone 24/7.

A week ago today, TR and I hiked the Storm Point Trail. I photographed bear scat. There was all manner of scat on the trail. We clapped. We shouted. We carried bear spray. We prayed that morning for safety. There was a bison in the area. We moved around him with plenty of distance. We did everything we could to stay safe (except invite someone else to make a larger party of hikers). And we enjoyed ourselves immensely. We're not perfect and we might die in the great out of doors someday, but People...please practice safety rather than selfishness.

If you can't handle driving 25 or 35 or 45, stay home. If you feel enraged that you are stuck in a bison jam, skip the busy national parks this year. If you haven't matured enough to anticipate delays in the world's oldest national park during the centennial celebration and can't keep yourself occupied in your vehicle for an hour or two (or more...a bus tipped over once blocking the entire road and that road was closed for like seven hours causing 175 mile detours for some people, oh shucks), do your fellow humans and all the wild beasts a favor by not entering the park.

Try to think of those around you. It's not about YOU.

I feel sorry for the family/friends who saw that woman die today. But I feel really sorry for the person who hit her. I don't know if speed was a factor or if she just stepped into traffic without looking. But there are some folks tonight who are really hurting and suffering with mental anguish. Her death could have been avoided if all involved had been more thoughtful about their surroundings. It's not about you.


  1. I've been teaching my kids to have a healthy respect for nature because "nature always wins". We can enjoy it, but it can take us out in an instant if we aren't paying attention. Yellowstone awes and terrifies me. When we went the first time as a family, in 2009, Sophie was firmly strapped in a stroller and Jonah was on a kid "leash". I was still terrified they'd somehow go off the boardwalks into the boiling hot water! We didn't make it up there last summer. Who knows (with another MoTab tour interrupting everything this summer too) if we will make it up this summer either. It's on my list to take the kids when they can really experience it!

  2. Right? You can't be so afraid that you're terrified, but you have GOT to keep everyone safe. It's not people like you. It's the careless, thoughtless, and entitled people who think the rules are for everyone else. It's the people who think/say things like, "Well, I didn't come here to sit in a bison jam all day." It's the people who complain and lose patience (I don't know the circumstances concerning today's death in the park). I'm growing weary of people who break agreements, go back on their word, decide they don't have to keep a promise because they put themselves and their own needs first rather than following through on something a group of people agreed to do. Whether you like it or not, when you enter Yellowstone, you are suddenly on a "team" with other humans. You have to behave yourself and cooperate. Again, I'm not a perfectly behaved human either, but I sure try to follow through on promises. That includes obeying the law and taking the advice of those who wish to keep me safe. I could go on and on.

  3. And even on being on the same team as the other humans, if we aren't smart, we're on the losing team!

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  5. I have been amazed at all the news stories I'm reading about Yellowstone so far this season. People need to take a National Parks training course or something.

  6. I'm finally reading Death in Yellowstone. Yikes!! Good stuff but why does man think they can outwit nature? Makes me slightly terrified to take my kids there now that they are independently mobile but they have to see how amazing it is!