Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Our National Parks are Not Disneyland!

One advantage of living where we do is that we can drive to Yellowstone National Park in about three hours, and Glacier National Park in just under four.

These parks are quite different from each other, and both offer a lot of natural landscape to explore. We purchase an annual National Parks pass each year so we can pop in and out of them as we please, without paying the entrance fee each time.

East gate, entrance fees, Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park itself is very diverse, with all sorts of different terrain and topography within its borders. In addition to Old Faithful and numerous other geysers, there are magnificent mountains,
sulphuric hot springs and mud pots, areas of fire restoration, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and all sorts of animals to see.

forest fires, Dead trees
A site of a previous forest fire.

Fumarole, Yellowstone
The geothermal features of Yellowstone are dangerously hot - stick to the walkways and be careful!

snow in summer, Yellowstone National Park
Adults and children by this patch of snow (in June)  in the Visitor's Center Parking lot and I saw it being used for several snowball fights!

Returning home on Monday after dropping my son off in Wyoming, my husband and I decided to drive through Yellowstone Park. We entered the park through the east entrance, which we had never done before.  Going home this way added a little bit of time on to our trip, but the scenery was well worth it.

Yellowstone National Park, East Entrance
Yellowstone National Park, East Entrance

Since our primary objective was simply to get home, our trip through the park this time was a quick one. Most of the photos I took were through the car window as we kept moving. Had we stopped though, I would not have gotten out of the car to photograph the animals unless it had been been safe to do so. I only had my iPhone with me, but a telephoto lens is a real plus for photography in the park!

Yellowstone, Bison
Zooming in and cropping my photos made the buffalo appear much closer than they really were.
Despite our hurry, we did stop briefly to wade a few minutes in a stream.  It was still early in the summer and a hot Monday afternoon so the traffic wasn't too bad; traveling through the park can be slow in summer.  It is good to remember that if you are taking your time to enjoy the scenery, driving an RV, or pulling a trailer it is polite to use the pull-outs and let others pass you periodically.

wading, Yellowstone

We were not really in the park at an optimal time to see many animals. It was midday, and the weather was hot and sunny.  Animal sightings are much more likely in early morning hours or closer to dusk, and no bears, moose, or elk were visible this trip. We did spot four bighorn sheep,  a pheasant running across the road, and quite a few bison throughout the park.

bison, Yellowstone National Park

The animals are wild and can be dangerous!

Unfortunately, the bison of Yellowstone have gotten some press lately. Twice already this summer, tourists have ventured too close to them with dire results. In less than a month, two people have been gored - click here to read a CNN News account. There was nothing wrong with these buffalo - they were just acting like the wild animals that they are. Buffalo may look cute and sort of cuddly, but they are powerful and fast, and not friendly.

We live in a world where there are many "simulated" types of environments.  Perhaps it is these experiences that have made people less cautious than they should be.  Make no mistake however; our National parks are not Disneyland! The animals you may encounter are real and wild. The park is their home. They are not there because they are safe for human interactions; we are simply fortunate that the setup of these parks allows us to observe them from time to time.

In some ways, the animals in our National Parks might even be more dangerous than animals of the same species encountered elsewhere. The level of socialization and exposure to humans experienced by animals in the parks may have removed some of their fear of humans, but none of their wildness. Remember to use common sense and extreme caution whenever you come across any of these animals.

Majestic Mountains

During our drive, my husband asked me, “Can you imagine never having seen scenery and mountains like this?” Having grown up just 40 miles outside of Banff National Park in Canada, I cannot. Mountains are amongst my earliest memories.  But every area - mountains or not - has its beauty.

We are so lucky there are places like our National Parks. It is wise to always remember however, that the purpose of the parks is so that we can experience nature with all of its wild unpredictability. They are quite different from a Disneyland adventure!

How many National Parks have you visited?  
Which one is your favorite or would you like most to see?

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  1. Your photos are gorgeous, Susan. Especially when you consider you took most of them from your car. Wow. As for parks, well you'll appreciate this little Banff story. We were about 20 minutes outside of Banff when my two were five and six. As we'd not spotted much wildlife my two were getting frustrated. Lovely mommy that I am, I had waxed on and on about all the elk, bear, moose etc that we'd see. We finally came upon a car that had pulled over to the side of the road and so I eased in behind it. My son, ever the eagle eye even at five - whipped open the car door before I'd stopped and bolted out! Before I knew it he was running up the grassy hill with his arms wide open yelling "Bear! Bear! Bear!" OMG. A huge black bear was grazing on the hill and blinking at my son. I have never run so fast in all my life. Grabbed him just as the bear lumbered off up the hill. Needless to say we had quite the "this isn't Disneyland' chat after that ...

  2. We have a lot of National Parks - for which I am grateful.
    Very different from each other, and all beautiful.
    It is a magical world isn't it?
    Kelly's bear story is horrifying. I apparently did much the same - when two bulls were fighting. Sometimes I am amazed at just how many of us survive to become adults.

    1. Two bulls?! Yes - it is amazing we live to tell our tales!

  3. Beautiful pictures Susan! When we visited Glacier NP we were photobombed by big horn sheep. I still haven't made it to Yellowstone yet, but it's a must do on my list. I can't imagine not seeing the mountains every day!

    1. Yellowstone is very different than Glacier, and I like both of them a lot, each in their own way. From what I have seen in the photos Lana, your views are spectacular!

  4. I've been to most of them and it is so hard to pick a favorite. I love Yellowstone and have been several times. I would love to go back to Glacier National Park and Acadia National Park in Maine is also a favorite.

    1. I would love to explore Acadia as well Rena - it would be amazing to be there in autumn for the fall colors!

  5. I haven't been to Yellowstone yet, but I'd love to go and see all its beauty! Your photos are gorgeous. I love visiting state parks, but I'm not sure how many national parks I've been to. I need to make a bucket list for pretty parks!

    1. Both Yellowstone and Glacier are worth the effort to get to them Kim. I feel lucky being able to enjoy them as much as we do.

  6. Different and infinitely better! Our family has spent many happy times at both Yellowstone and Glacier. (Glacier adjoins Waterton at the Alberta/Montana border. Yay!) Husby and I even honeymooned in Glacier! Love these parks!

    1. When I was growing up in Calgary, it was Waterton we would visit - and I always felt a thrill when we would take the boat trip into the US. As a dual Canadian-American, I always loved the fact that these two parks seemed like one park with a shared a dual-Nationality as well!


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