As you may or may not know, I just spent a week in Yellowstone National Park. I learned a lot about geothermal features while I was there. I’m sure you are aware there are several such features in the park including Old Faithful and a lot of other features that aren’t Old Faithful. Nobody ever talks about those other features.
Another prominent feature of Yellowstone National Park is the bison. There are, at last count, somewhere around twelve billion bison within the boundaries of the park. After five days, you get a little blasé about them.
On our first day, we stopped for a picture whenever we saw a black lump in a field that might be a bison. By the time we left, we wouldn’t even slow down unless there were playing hopscotch or whist or something else that went beyond the typical behavior of standing in a field and chewing on grass while surrounded by two hundred other bison.
I’m not saying I never grew tired of seeing bison. Because I didn’t. At some point, however, seeing bison became the equivalent of watching Adrian Peterson play for the Vikings. Sure, it’s impressive. But is it really making much of a difference?
I’m on vacation this week so my column will be a bit short. However, much like last year when I was visiting National Parks for my Spring vacation, the other people in the parks had ample opportunities to piss me off. So I’ll probably just focus on that.
Use a Trash Bag or Get Out
About twenty years ago, I visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with my wife, mom, and brother. At one stop, we stepped out on to pitch black lava floes that had covered the highway on their way out to the ocean. In the distance, we could see where an active lava flow was pouring into the Pacific. It was amazing.
As I walked across that pitch black lava rock, I glanced down and saw a cigarette butt. And another. And another.
So I started to pick them up. By the time I left that part of the park, I’d filled a large plastic bag with trash.
Every time I go to a park, I bring a bag and fill it with trash. If I’m there for several days, I might fill several bags. And there is never a shortage of trash.
I’m not talking about a hat that blew off in the wind. I’m talking about candy wrappers, kleenex, and scores of cigarette butts. Nobody drops a cigarette butt by accident.
If you throw butts on your kitchen floor, that is your business. I’m not telling you that you can’t smoke in Yellowstone. I’m telling you that a fumarole isn’t more impressive with your finished Marlboro lying on the side of it. If you can’t respect that, you should do the rest of us a favor and stay in the car.
Other People Want to Look at That Thing Too, Asshole
Hey, guess what? If you are at Old Faithful and it is erupting for about 90 seconds and you are sitting on a bench and there are people standing behind you, don’t stand up and block their picture so someone can take a shot of you standing in front of the geyser!
If you wanted that picture, you should have found a different place to watch the geyser. Because when you block the view for other people, you are really saying that you don’t give a flying fuck if they want to see the geyser because it’s really just there for your enjoyment.
Not that you are enjoying it because your back is to the fucking geyser.
Stay on the Path or Die
In Yellowstone, the ground around thermal features is quite brittle. If you walk on it, you could break through and find yourself in water that is near boiling. There are signs all over the place telling you this fact.
There’s also the simple fact that the ground around these features is made of very soft rock and when you walk on it, you crush it. Unless you are a complete idiot, you should realize that the terraces at Mammoth hot springs are a lot more impressive than your footprint.
If you need a picture of yourself standing really close to a geyser, try Photoshop. You will look at that picture a couple of times. If you cook that leg off, you’ll have something that lasts a lot longer but is that really the souvenir you were looking for?
The Reason There Are Signs Telling You to Stop Being an Idiot is Because a Lot of Other People Have Already Been Idiots
Here’s a picture of a sign with a warning that should not have been necessary.
At the bottom of the sign, you are told that removal of this sign could cause injury to others. Because they won’t know there is a BEAR nearby. Probably a mother bear with cubs, given the time of year. Exactly the kind of creature you don’t want to encounter.
So why do you suppose they have to tell you to leave the sign alone? Because someone has removed one of them before.
Whoever did it probably thought it was funny. Won’t it be hilarious if a hiker is mauled by a bear because I took away the sign that might have saved them?
No. It really won’t.
If Someone is Taking a Picture of Something, Don’t Walk in Front of Them
I’m not a birder specifically but I like to figure out what animals I’m watching. Frequently, that means I’ll try to take a picture of the bird I’m looking at to identify it later.
For those unfamiliar with birds, a lot of them are fairly skittish and if someone does something like walking in front of a photographer, they’ll fly away.
I think that what most folks at these parks fail to understand is that the park isn’t there for them. It is there for everyone.
That means when someone is trying to take a picture, you can give them five seconds to get the shot. How hard is that really? Unless there is a geyser erupting right now, the odds are you can wait five seconds to look at the next hot spring. I’m sure it looks really cool because they all look really cool.
Trust me, I’ve taken pictures of every single one of them.
But those pools don’t change too much in five seconds. So let me take a picture of a damned bird, OK?