Overall, I was more enamored with Grand Teton National Park than Yellowstone, but perhaps that is just because of all the hype surrounding Yellowstone. Or maybe it was because we went in the wrong season and hardly saw any buffalo or other wild animals, but Yellowstone just didn’t match my expectations. It didn’t help that there were sooo many people everywhere which made it feel much more like a commercial zoo than a communion with nature.
Middle Geyser Basin is the perfect example. While it is an unreal sight, the boardwalk was absolutely packed (at midday on a Friday) and everyone was in a hurry to get the best selfie and move on. With as much as people pushed past each other without a care, I’m surprised that more people don’t lose their balance and step off the boardwalk onto the steaming ground. This was the worst stop that we had in terms of people, but then again, this was our last day in the park. We got out just as the weekend crowds rolled in.
National Parks are meant to give us respect for the beauty and the power of nature, but the more technology we bring into them, the more respect we seem to lose. C and I consciously decided not to buy bear spray for exactly this reason (sorry Ramona!).
While in the park, we saw people with bear spray who were way too confident in approaching bears and conversely, people without bear spray were afraid to even go hiking. We didn’t want to be afraid of the bears, but we also wanted to maintain a healthy respect for them. I felt that if I strapped on bear spray every time I went outside, I would be constantly worried and looking out for bears when I wanted to just enjoy my surroundings and not be afraid of them (read “The Wrong Things” for more perspective on fear). It seemed, though, that most of the visitors with bear spray felt just the opposite.
While in the parks, we saw a black bear and a grizzly bear. In both instances, masses of people tried to get as close as possible to get a good picture. As if the camera lens made the bear a harmless exhibit. The Associated Press just wrote an article about this type of stupid behavior (click here to read it).
On the Jenny Lake trail (which is actually in Grand Teton NP right next to Yellowstone), some hikers warned us of a bear ahead, one person said it might be a baby bear. Craig smartly, immediately turned around since a baby and momma bear are the last thing you want to run into on a trail. I cautiously went forward and saw about 20 hikers, off-trail, inching closer and closer to the presumed bear for a good picture. I stood on the wooden bridge at a safe distance from the mass of people. Surely, the bear would attack them first if it got scared. The bear seemed to be completely indifferent to all of us, though, as it meandered across the stream in front of me. I’ll admit, I also wanted a picture of the bear – and you can kind of see it in the quick iphone photo I snapped. But not having bear spray, I knew that I would have no defense against a bear if I pissed it off. I guarantee that the hikers who were pushing towards the bear without a care had bear spray. As if having the spray gives you a right to annoy the bears.
The second bear we saw was a grizzly in Glacier park. And I mistakenly got way too close for comfort. Check back next week to read more about that.
All that being said, Yellowstone is certainly still a park worth the visit, even if you don’t get to see many wild animals.
Old Faithful was neat, but we enjoyed walking around the boardwalk and hiking up to Observation Point – Geyser Hill much more since it allowed us to get away from all of the people. It’s a moderate trail that only takes 1-2 hours, and we were very surprised at how few people went on this hike. We only saw 3 other groups on the trail up to Observation Point. Old Faithful is visible from most points on the trail and the boardwalk, and I much preferred seeing it erupt from further away since we could admire the phenomenon without thinking about how commercialized it all is. The trail also goes past Solitary Geyser which has a small eruption every 7 minutes or so.
Another boardwalk we enjoyed was West Thumb Geyser Basin. There were still quite a lot of people there, but it didn’t seem as hurried or selfish as Middle Geyser. People were taking their time and enjoying the views. Be careful not to lose your hat to the thermal waters like the one hiker in the picture (the group is trying to rescue the hat by using their hiking poles… I would probably just buy a new hat).
Coming up in my next post: My favorite attraction in Yellowstone. Check back later this week! If you have been enjoying these posts on our National Parks road trip, please consider donating to our GoFundMe account. Blogging about these experiences takes a considerable amount of time, and while I enjoy it, I also enjoy getting paid for my work. 🙂 We are only $300 shy of our goal and as we are nearing the end of our trip (and I finally have some time to write), a flurry of blog posts are about to hit you. Thanks for your support!