This day is starting out strangely. I am holed up in my tent waiting for the rain to stop. I don’t mind riding in rain, but it is 40 degrees out. I don’t mind riding in cool temperatures, but I don’t have the proper gear with me to handle hours of cold rain. The rain is supposedly going to back off by mid-morning so I am marooned in my tent until then. In the meantime I will tell you my impressions of Yellowstone.
I have spent the past four days meandering slowly through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. I expected to see beautiful things and interesting wildlife and my expectations were met. But there was one thing I did not expect and when I started exploring Yellowstone, I was taken aback.
Yellowstone is creepy.
Really creepy. Aside from the now normal, “Bear and Wolves Crossing” signs, every bathroom in the park was draped with the many ways that Yellowstone wildlife could kill me.
Bears and wolves are in a special, “Super Dangerous” category.
But meeting up with moose or bison could also be fatal, according to the reassuring signs in the restrooms.
But the wildlife was nothing compared to the dangers of the geothermal features. Most of Yellowstone is located on a caldera and portions of the caldera have a very thin crust. Signs warn that merely stepping on innocent-looking portions of earth could be fatal. And of course, the actual geysers, mudpots, fireholes and whatever else are also dangerous, filled with boiling water. At least one spring is so acidic it will dissolve skin.
Then, after telling me these things they expected me to walk around the boardwalks to view the danger up close and personal. Which I did, of course. I mean everyone else was doing it and they weren’t dead yet. So I joined the throngs of people and tempted fate by leaning over the railing to get a good look at what hot magma can do to water. The steam and the stench of sulphur overwhelmed my senses. Yellowstone, I decided, was very bizarre.
I saw one guy step off the boardwalk and walk right to the edge of a mudpot, smiling widely for a photo. I shuddered, wondering if I was about to see a tragedy unfold. But an older gentlemen yelled at him to get back on the boardwalk and when he made it back to safety, I cheered silently.
Yellowstone is a tourist trap in the fullest sense of the word. Once you enter the park you are trapped: surrounded by many dangers. To escape the labyrinth, you must navigate through high-volume traffic, large masses of people, unpredictable wildlife and boiling hot water, all while traveling on unstable ground.
Honestly, it was loads of fun.