Yellowstone – The World’s Largest Petting Zoo

If you’re an “outdoor person”, a trip to Yellowstone National Park is probably at the top of your adventure list. To visit Yellowstone Park has been a dream of mine since I was old enough to attend movies with curse words, without parental supervision.

Yellowstone is the world’s first National Park, mostly located in Wyoming, and only about 3% in Montana.  The park sits on top of the largest super volcano on the continent. The last explosive eruption was about 640,000 years ago, but I am not sure how long that is in geothermal terms. Does 640,000 years mean we are due for another massive volcano eruption tomorrow or what? I was naturally a bit nervous about going as I pictured myself sitting at the top of a peak, enjoying a nice cliff bar one minute, and flying through the air with my butt on fire seconds later.

I was determined to make my outdoor dreams come true anyway. My girlfriend and I finally saved up enough cash, and took off, on a trip of a lifetime. Getting there was a separate adventure, but that’s a story for another time. We finally entered Yellowstone National Park. We couldn’t believe it.

We were like two kindergartners, all giddy and laughing at anything and everything.  We drove past herds of Bison, through fields and meadows, and along one of the many rivers that flow through Yellowstone.  Large birds of prey circled around the towering mountains. The scenery was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It was pure fairy tale material.

The whole initial experience driving through the park felt surreal. It was as if we were driving in a different time period, a period dating back to beginning of creation. I expected a tyrannosaurus to suddenly emerge from behind one of the mountains and start chasing us. Sadly, our imagination and excitement gradually started morphing into cynicism.

Let me explain. We sat in a line of cars without moving for nearly half an hour because a man jumped out of his car and left it in the middle of the road to take a picture of a squirrel. A squirrel!!! That’s only the beginning. Every year one or more people get killed by Bison because they try to pet them.  Bison are the most dangerous animals in the park, despite their fluffy and lazy appearance.

A few years ago, a woman attempted to place her child on top of a grizzly bear and take a picture. Somehow they were both spared by the bear. The bear’s killer instinct must have been dulled by the woman’s stupidity. The list of brilliant acts is endless. My personal favorite is the guy who jumped into a beautiful 200°F geyser and scolded himself to death.

These types of things can really skew your perception of a gorgeous place like Yellowstone National Park. It was hard to face the facts, but we had to admit to ourselves that Yellowstone was basically the world’s largest petting zoo during the warmer months of the year. But, take away all the annoying tourists and you’ve got one of the most unique places on the planet. Half of the world’s geothermal features are found in Yellowstone. The park is also the largest remaining functioning ecosystem on this side of the globe.

I am very lucky to have been able to experience it. Would I ever come back? Sure, maybe during the winter while all the geniuses are at home, watching the Ken Burn’s National Park specials.

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