I’ve had the privilege of visiting Yellowstone twice in the last three years (Summer of 2016, and 2014), and I’ve come to realize that the only animal in a cage there is the humans–we have also marked ourselves as the most dangerous predator there.
I’ve witnessed and encountered Buffalo, Elk, Bear, Bighorn Sheep, bats, and small ground critters, but none cause more havoc than humans. For starters, the bathrooms there are the most disgusting I’ve ever come across in a National Park. Humans seem to take on the spirit of the wild animals and leave traces of their excrement everywhere, fully marking the territory. No wise owl, or ferocious bear would go near a pit toilet. I for one had to hold my breath and stomach the many gag reactions that inevitably occurred once I felt the need to breathe again.
Park Rangers there morph from stewards of the land to buffers between wildlife and domesticated humans as the people exit their cages, otherwise known as cars, to take a closer look at an animal in its natural habitat. And if the Park Ranger isn’t there to tell a mesmerized visitor to back off, crazy things have been known to happen. Reports of over turned cars because someone thought it was ok to pet a Bison, or a baby Buffalo ride along–the couple thought they were rescuing this baby from its scary habitat and put the baby bison in their car to deliver to the National Park Services. Later, the poor bison was put down. I don’t know what possesses the human to do silly outlandish things when they look nature in the face, but don’t be fooled, the rangers are there to keep the humans in check, not the other way around.
As you drive through the park, you might feel as if you are part of a herd in Yellowstone migrating through the park in masses of people, participating in the jamming of traffic. Suddenly the tables are turned and you’re the spectacle at a zoo: a moving exhibit on four wheels. The animals are wild–yes–but have free range to do as they please, even if it means stopping traffic or scarring the bejeezus out of you as one comes up to your windshield for a sniff.
Upon exiting the park last summer, I vowed never to stay there again. It was too crazy, too hectic, and did not feel as if I were part of my natural surroundings. “Hikes” were on boardwalks, and everything had a ten to forty minute wait.
Grand Tetons holds so much more promise and is far more diverse in terms of flora and fauna, with jaw dropping back drops of jagged peaks, and a pristine lake. There are far fewer people, and it is just as wild as its neighbor, Yellowstone. While it doesn’t have the hot springs or geysers that tempt the stupid few to test them out with their lives, it does have the peace you normally seek when entering into a national park.
While I will stay in Grand Tetons for future visits, I might make a day trip into Yellowstone to visit the immaculate Visitor Centers chalk full of information about the animals and the park, but I will never again stay there. My hope for the future of that park is that it will follow suit with Zion NP and become fully accessible only via park buses–separating the wild humans from the natural beauty of the park and giving those crazy visitors a Park Ranger to instruct us in moments of brave, but purely stupid moves.