There has never been a better time to visit Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. The summer crowds are dying down, the dog days of summer are behind us, the elk are in rut, the bears are about to hibernate and the wildfires are blazing. That’s right folks, Lacey and I are getting an earful on the daily from our respective parents about the dangers of this trip, why we need to be careful and the best ways to go about doing it. (Nevermind we’re almost 30 years old and smart enough not to chase after wild animals.)
So I thought I’d do a little research. What exactly are the dangers lurking in these unassuming national parks? How can we protect ourselves? Here’s what I found: A little common sense goes a long way.
See a bear off in the valley? Don’t go running after it with camera in tow. Is an elk camped on the side of the road leisurely munching grass? Take a through-the-window shot and keep it moving. Does that big bison look like he couldn’t move fast enough to harm a fly? Think again.
First off, the National Park Service is almost as worried about our safely as our parents are. It kind of mars the park image when someone gets mauled. So Yellowstone has put together bear safety videos and Glacier has its own safety page chock full of information. My takeaway:
- Avoid an encounter with a bear. Hike in groups and make a lot of noise. Lacey and I intend to sing. It’ll be a karaoke hike.
- If you do encounter a bear, know how to react, If it charges you, you need to defend yourself. If you just startle it and it starts acting a little like its trying to make a big show, just back away. Don’t try to out-alpha it.
- Know how to use your bear spray — and what it’s limitations are. Its not insect repellent, as the park service is quick to point out. Think of it more like super-mace. You don’t want it anywhere near you.
Yellowstone also provides a nice elk safety video — basically don’t walk up to them or park your car next to them.
So, Toni and Sandy. Your daughters are armed with cutting edge National Park safety technology. I think we have a 99 percent chance of survival in the wild, wild west.