I was 6 years old with waist length blond hair tied up in two pigtails traipsing around Yellowstone National Park topless. I wasn’t trying to be sexy, I just hated wearing clothes when I hiked. The solitude in Yellowstone provided me a stark contrast to our populated life back in Ohio. My parents took vacations every summer to different National Parks showing my brother and I the beauty of America. We had PB&J picnics in Yosemite Valley gazing up at El Cap as my Dad told me to never be a rock climber. We visited the Sequoia Giants and Redwoods, sat for hours waiting for unpredictable geysers to erupt in Yellowstone, scrambled around rocks in Mesa Verde, and explored the Fiery Furnace in Arches. My Dad had 2 rolls of film that my mom would take to the grocery store to develop. We’d wait a week and finally get our photos back to relive the week in paradise.
There wasn’t an internet to post our photos to, I hiked naked without seeing a soul on our epic 2 mile jaunt that took all day, and no one was taking selfies.
Now, we’re living in a very tumultuous day in age of “pics or it didn’t happen” mindset. With the grandeur of our National Parks, it’s easy to want to capture the beauty and take it home with us. But at what point does this go too far? People die every year in National Parks from sheer stupidity more often than not for the glory of a 4×6.
There have been several articles written about how we are “loving our National Parks to death”, this one is a particular informative read. For the past 6 months Alex and I have been traveling the American West seeking nature, solitude and that awe-inspiring happiness we find in the places that are truly WILD. Strangely enough, it usually doesn’t come from our National Parks.
Alex and I have long sense given up visiting those seemingly pristine places that are ingrained in our eyes from seeing so many photographs. I probably will never sit at Glacier Point in Yosemite, will never go back to Delicate Arch in Arches, be smushed in between fellow tourists on stadium bleachers waiting for Old Faithful to erupt in Yellowstone or doing yoga poses at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Call me callus, but it’s not the same as it once was.
Now before anyone has a conniption, I too believe that every one who wants to visit a National Park should be able to partake in the beauty. What has had me in funk for the past 6 months trying to give National Parks a 100th chance is the utter disrespect from many of the visitors. Below are a few experiences we’ve had in National Parks.
- When we were hiking up Bright Angel trail from our Rim to Rim hike in Grand Canyon, a group of people were hooting and hollering in the natural amphitheater for the last 3 miles to the Rim. They could be heard literally all the way down the canyon almost to the river. As many of the hikers had already logged 15+ miles, this disturbance was a bit more than annoying. It went on for over an hour. Why? Who knows.
- On the precarious trail up to Angel’s Landing in Zion where hikers need to hold on to chains so they won’t topple down the sheer cliffs, there was one group more concentrated on getting GoPro footage rather than staying safely on the narrow precipice. To make matters worse, they were holding up the single file trail on both sides by getting “the perfect shot” with 20-30 people on either side waiting to pass.
- In Yellowstone, the stupidity and ignorance is the worst of all (my opinion of course). I called Yellowstone “home” for 2 summers so I had my fair share of those face palming moments. It feels like the majority of the visitors are most interested in the Yellowstone Trifecta – running up to a bear to take a picture, taking a bison selfie and putting a finger in a hot spring. I’ve seen all three too many times to count.
- While hiking the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton, we found one to many toilet papers flowers. This directly correlates to novice backpackers thinking it’s okay to take a crap, use a handful of normal bath tissue, throw a rock on it and go on their merry way.
- In Rocky Mountain, we were hiking the semi-popular trail up to Sky Pond. For the entire way, our ears were ringing with some arrogant hikers thinking they need a soundtrack to their life blaring terrible music.
And let’s not forget the people outwardly defacing our National Parks that have thankfully been caught in the act.
- The four idiots stomping all over Grand Prismatic Spring filming a video for their even more idiotic fans. Their charges are yet to be determined. Read about their stupidity here.
- The two tourists who put a baby bison in the back of their car because “they thought it was cold”. They were slapped with a measly $110 ticket. Here is more information.
- The wanna be artist who graffitied 7 (maybe more) National Parks with acrylic paint. She received a two year ban from all National Parks and 200 hours of community service. Read more about her amateur art here.
- The drone pilot who crashed his drone into Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone was fined $1,000 in addition to $2,200 in restitution fees. Read about his blunder here.
We have a very obvious problem here of stupidity, arrogance, selfishness, inconsiderateness, and general lack of interest in what the National Park System is all about. Yes, everyone has their own right as United States citizens to visit these beautiful areas. However if the current theme continues another 200 years, what will we see on the bicentennial of the National Park Service? I fear we will see only more pollution, carelessness, deaths creating more boardwalks and railings, and a glimmer of beauty for a land that once was.
“The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased; and not impaired in value.” – Theodore Roosevelt
There. The rant of the year is over.
Now, we’d like to hear your thoughts.