Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Yellowstone, Red Face, Purple Feet

We are in the middle of our epic family road trip adventure to Yellowstone National Park (Motto: America’s Hot Tub, with Bears).

Everything hurts as I write this – my back, my face, my knees, my feet, my wallet – everything. 

Yellowstone is the nation’s largest national park, covering ninety-eight percent of the lower forty-eight states, and much of Canada. On our first day in the park we entered through the South Gate, which is in Arkansas, and exited though the West Gate, located on the Oregon coast.

One thing you don’t realize about Yellowstone until it’s too late is that the entire park is above thirty thousand feet in elevation. Not only is there very little oxygen to share with your fellow hikers, but there is way too much sun.

Yellowstone is tricky, however, and fools you into forgetting about the sun by giving you late June temperatures in the low teens and sixty mile per hour winds.

In addition to a wicked sunburn that hurts my face, I also can’t feel my feet anymore. Besides sitting in the car for forty-eight hours, waiting to make a left turn into a particular geyser’s parking lot, once you find a parking spot a few days later, the geyser is still six or seven hours away on foot. They should really warn you that flip flops are not the way to go.

I tried to suggest wider roads and drive-thru geysers to one of the rangers, but he said something about fragile geothermal areas, blah, blah, and I tuned out.

I also suggested to another ranger that they put the geysers on a more regular schedule to make planning your day easier. I mean, Yellowstone boasts eighty percent of the world’s geysers, and the only one they have on any kind of a schedule is Old Faithful. And they can’t even seem to nail the time down on that one to anything closer than a twenty-minute window!

As far as all the other ones go, you walk three hundred miles to see the geyser and it might not even geys! That can be disappointing for the kids, and lead the adults to wish that each geyser had a bar, which is another suggestion that the rangers seemed to dismiss a little too quickly. I’m not too sure about these people.

In addition to all the geysers, they keep quite a few animals in the park, not the least of which is the grizzly bear. I’m not sure why they think keeping dangerous bears near all the human tourists is a good idea, but then I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, based on how the rangers dismissed all my reasonable suggestions for park improvements.

My theory is that they keep the bears in the park to boost sales of bear-repelling pepper spray. Bear spray is like really industrial strength Mace, and comes in a pressurized spray cannister the size of a soda can. I’m not sure how much Mace costs, but bear spray retails in the park for a little under five thousand dollars an ounce.

But you can’t put a price on the safety of your family, and by “you” in this case I mean my wife. I can put a price on our safety, and it’s well below five thousand dollars an ounce, but my wife strongly disagreed. And she strongly disagreed with that look. You guys know the look. So now we own bear spray.

Thankfully, the bear spray cannister remains fully charged after our first day in the park, which is much more than I can say for myself or any of my lobster-red family.

Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to go ice half my body and apply heat to the other half. I’ll catch up with you after we get done with our National Park adventure. Hopefully I will still have a full can of bear spray that I can sell to you, cheap. I’ll let you have it for the low price of only three thousand dollars an ounce.

See you soon,


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