Beating your kids in national parks

As always, B2BNL is always on top of the National Park deaths.  If I don’t post it fast enough, one of you is always thoughtful and sends me an email asking why I haven’t posted the latest dead guy.

Today, we have a new twist for bad things in national parks. Apparently, some sick  jerk took his young grandkids to Grand Canyon and then force-marched them without water for 20 miles and beat them when they dropped in 108 degree heat. In court, he said it was for their own good because they were “overweight”. Here’s a newsflash: how about some simple exercise and maybe no Twinkies?  I’m just sayin’ that rather than a brutal 20 mile march up Bright Angel trail, maybe taking the grandkids out for a nice game of touch football and then no fast food might be a better idea.

I don’t have kids (unless you count the dogs and Troy), and I do confess that there have been plenty of times when I wanted to kill someone else’s child in a public place, but the Grand Canyon is not the place to take out of shape fat kids with no water on a hot day hike.  Out of shape people without water die in this park. One out of shape guy without water dropped dead on Bright Angel trail earlier this week.  This is not for sissies:

I stole this picture from Wikipedia because I have no business being on this trail taking pictures in my current condition.

If you want to toughen up someone and get them in shape, get a crosstrainer, put them on it and yell at them.  Don’t take them to a national park and torture them.

I think he is trying to kill me for sure

We are heading to Zion National Park in less than two weeks so that I can attempt to finish the hike that quite literally broke my neck. This is where I broke my neck in 2009:

Canyons are excellent places to kill unwanted spouses

Because my stubborn streak exceeds my intelligence, I am going back to do it again, this time (hopefully) without all the injuries. Currently, there is very little Troy can say to me because I hiked out of a canyon under my own power with a badly-damaged neck. Any time he complains about pain, I just tell him, “Yeah, but I hiked out of the Narrows with a broken neck.” This tends to quiet him down.

Just some cool scenery (Emerald Pools) where Troy won’t try to kill me because there will be witnesses.

Of course, Troy is driving out alone because a) I hate driving 26 hours anywhere and b) he is going to take his time on the way back so he can attempt to kill himself  do Blue John Canyon. For those not in the know, this is the remote Utah canyon in which Aron Ralston cut off his own hand to free himself. I am flying out to Vegas and will meet up with him. Troy booked my flight. On 9/11. I told you he was trying to kill me.

Wildlife on parade: things not to fuck with

Summertime is the time that hordes of tourists head to the national parks to enjoy wildlife. The key modifier in the term “wildlife’ is ‘wild’, meaning not tame. Mr. Badger does not want to be petted. Trust me. As you travel in late summer, here are some things you may see and some handy tips.

1. Elk.

Big elk hanging out in Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk are generally fine to be near. Except in the rut. “Rut” is defined as ‘an annually recurrent state of sexual excitement in the male mammal’. Think of it like going to a bar at 2 a.m. on drink and drown night and getting between two drunk guys fighting over a bleached blonde in a tube top. You want to be nowhere near an elk during the rut as they will hurt you. These are big animals and they are not Bambi. The rut gets ramped up by August.

2. Grizzly bears.

Grizzly Bear in Yellowstone sitting on a log, contemplating dinner

Grizzly bears do not want to be bothered by you. They do not want to maul you. They will, however, take time out of their daily schedules to maul you if you fuck with them. The most dangerous place to be is between a Mama grizzly bear and her cubs. This is why the tourist died in Yellowstone this year – he inadvertently violated rule number 1: do not fuck with Mama Bear, even if by accident. Bear spray is a very good idea.

3. Polar Bears.

I have no pictures of polar bears taken by me. This is because I have never been close enough to a polar bear to take a picture. I do not want to be near a polar bear, and certainly not close enough to get a clear picture. The Coke ads aside, polar bears are hard-core predators. Polar bears will seek you out and try to eat you. It doesn’t help that their habitat is disappearing. Avoid the polar bears. Also, do not climb over the enclosure at the zoo to pet the polar bear. He doesn’t like you and he is not smiling at you.

4. Black bears.

Black bear Mom and cub minding their own business

Black bears are generally shy and will avoid you. They are not inherently deadly and they aren’t out to eat you. They can kill you if you mess with them. The same rule applies to all bears in the lower 48: do not mess with Mama and cubs. (See special rule for polar bears above which is basically stay the fuck away from them). I have seen morons in Great Smoky National Park throw things at Mom and cubs to get a better picture of the cubs. This is a spectacularly bad idea. Also, these people deserve to be mauled. Alas, they rarely are.

5. Bison

Where does a bison go? Answer: Anywhere it wants.

Bison are big. Really big. Bigger than the car waiting for it to cross the road. Do the math – that’s 2000 pounds plus. It would be a really good idea to not get in their way. Every year, someone in Yellowstone gets it because they think this is a big woolly cow in the field. Not so much. Bison do not want to be messed with. True story: a tourist in Yellowstone wanted to get a picture in front of a sleeping bison. It was laying down and she thought the picture would be better if the bison was standing. So she kicked it so it would stand up. The bison killed her. Bison 1, stupid tourist, 0. Bison also have a rut season and you would be well-advised to stay the hell out of their way then.

6. Snakes

A water moccasin on the trail

Snakes do not want to be fucked with. Most people get bitten because they are not paying attention. Do not stomp through the underbrush in a pair of flip-flops. If you come upon a snake, do not fuck with it. This means in very basic terms, do not get a stick and poke at it. If you lived in Africa and did this, you would die quickly because their snakes are lightning fast and mean business. Pay attention to where you are and don’t mess with them. Unless you are a herpotologist, odds are you couldn’t quickly identify any poisonous snake other than a rattle snake.

7. Badgers

I have never stuck around long enough to take good pictures of a badger. I don’t have a good enough lens to take them from far away either. Badgers are not friendly and they do not enjoy being disturbed. Think of them like you would your Great Uncle Elmer who hates everyone and would like to hit them with his cane. Badgers are small, but they have sharp teeth and they can haul ass when they want to. Badgers will stick up for themselves and size of the opponent has no bearing on what they will take on. If you happen to cross paths with a badger on your way through the back-country trail, get to steppin’. To get a sense of what I’m saying, check out the video of Mr. Badger versus the Bear.

8. Fire Ants.

I don’t have a picture of these either because every time I get close enough to a mound to take a photo, the bastards swarm out to sting me. Also, ant mounds are boring. Fire ants suck. They are aggressive and they will swarm out in defense of their colonies. For those north of the Mason/Dixon line, you have no idea how fortunate you are. Best line of defense when hiking is wear hiking boots and avoid their mounds. Wikipedia has some pretty pictures of what you will look like if you get swarmed.

9. Alligators.

This alligator is lazy, but he will bite morons

Alligators generally do not want to bother you. They are like middle-aged women in Vegas – they want to soak up the rays by the water during the day and at night, they’re out looking to get lucky. Alligators will not mess with you unless you mess with them or unless you are stupid enough to enter their world. If you’re on land, they are big enough to eat you if you venture too close, but they generally are only after your dog. Do not let your dog go to the water’s edge in alligator areas to play or drink. Don’t be stupid – do not swim where alligators are. Alligators will eat you if you are an idiot. The grim reaper report of fatal alligator attacks is here. Note how many deaths were attributed to people swimming where alligators lurk.

Other animals I would not want to fuck with: killer bees, sharks, wolverines, minks, seals, snapping turtles. If it falls in the animal kingdom and you are alone with it in nature, decide if you could take it bare-handed if you had to. If the answer is either ‘no’ or ‘not without a boat load of collateral damage’ then do not mess with it. Keep in mind that even the smallest animals can be quite vigorous in their defense of self. The Russians did not fare so well in their battle against kung-fu hamster. Size is not everything.

** All photos here were taken by Troy, many in the process of him trying to kill me.

The Grim Reaper Report: National Park deaths

I have noticed an uptick in people who find this blog with searches for people who die in various national parks or as dinner for a shark or grizzly bear. Y’all are clearly a morbid, bloodthirsty bunch. This morning, these searches found this blog:

Searching for dead people

As a public service, for those of you with morbid curiosity wasting time looking for information on people who have died in National Parks and how, here’s where you need to go:

Yellowstone deaths

This bear in Yellowstone did not eat us as we stayed a long way away. If you surprise a bear with cubs, you can expect to be dispatched to the hereafter. Note the grainy picture which denotes long distance away from danger.

 

Yosemite deaths

3 people just died here. We didn't, but we stayed behind the rails.

Zion National Park deaths

This is why people die on Angel's Landing. It's 1200 feet off to one side and 900 on the other. I'm not insane enough to climb this, but Troy was. He's alive.

Grand Canyon deaths

Death Valley National Park deaths

Mount Ranier National Park deaths

Great Smoky Mountain National Park deaths/statistics

People die in Great Smoky Mountain National Park every year. Mostly because they are stupid. Waterfalls are dangerous.

 

Acadia National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Channel Islands National Park

Biscayne National Park

The water at Biscayne National Park is crystal clear. You can drown here or be eaten by a shark. According to Troy, who has to my knowledge, never set a toe in the ocean.

Big Bend National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

I did not drown, fall off a waterfall or get eaten by a mountain lion in Rocky Mountain National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Troy hiked all 19+ miles of this trail in Grand Teton without dying

Badlands National Park (click on the compendium for details by year)

The Badlands are named that way for a reason. Troy survived it. Because he's not an idiot and took water and knew where he was. Also because I was not there for him to argue with about which way to go.

Canyonlands National Park

Just past the arch is a drop of over 1500 feet. Don't go to the edge and pose.

Haleakala National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Sequoia National Park

Kings Canyon National Park

Denali National Park

Sadly, there’s no statistics kept on who had it coming. Darwinism may be at work in many of the deaths.

For those of you even more determined to track down who met their fate in the form of being dinner for a wild animal, here you go:

Mountain lion attacks

Black bear attacks

These baby bears are adorable. Mom is pissed off. We stayed a respectful distance away.

Grizzly bear attacks

Polar bear attacks

Shark attacks

Killer bee attacks

Snake bite deaths

You’re welcome.

Big, freakin’ trees – Upper Mariposa Grove

Texas is always arguing that everything is bigger in Texas. Suck it, Texas. California has you beat by a mile.

Big freakin' tree

Seriously, these are big-ass trees. The kind that make you say Holy Sweet Baby Jesus when you see them.

I would sweat bullets in an ice storm living below these

I don’t know why I am writing a post about trees. Except they are huge.

100 feet up, the first branches.

The best place to see them in my opinion is Upper Mariposa Grove in Yosemite. Fair warning: the hike is hard, steep and long and it’s over 6500 feet in elevation so you’ll suck wind 100 feet into the hike. It’s the kind of hike that makes you question why you started in the first place. After the Grizzly Giant tree, you won’t see hardly anyone on the trail. Because it sucks to hike that steep a trail. Jean’s Pain rating: 7 out of 10 for steepness, lack of oxygen and the occasional old lady with a hiking stick who makes you look bad.

Troy hiding in a sequoia tree

Yosemite Bingo: Passenger Fun

Traveling is frequently very annoying. Traffic, crowds, weather issues – they can all totally screw up an otherwise pleasant trip. It is my lot in life to ride shotgun as I am never the one driving and I suffer extensively as the perpetual passenger. Troy complains that I am way too aggressive behind the wheel (doubtful) and that he is the sensible one (this from the man who would scream at someone holding a rocket launcher for cutting him off). Apparently, I must have been drunk* when Troy and I married because I missed the part in the vows to always let Troy drive. But I digress.

For those moments when life sucks in the passenger’s seat, I invented National Park bingo. Playing is easy. Print your card and observe.  Mark off the spaces as you see the items in question. When you get an entire row, casually lean over and then yell loudly in your husband’s ear “Bingo!”  When playing solo, you win when your husband nearly drives off the road so you can lecture him about his lack of driving acumen.

Your bingo card:

 

 

All of these things can be found at Yosemite National Park

Happy hunting.

* It was Vegas. And also, I was drunk.

 

 

Another day in paradise: Sequoia National Park and King’s Canyon

It just wouldn’t be a Harrison vacation unless the weather sucked and in keeping with tradition, this year’s California trip did not disappoint. Or, actually, it did disappoint, and the weather sucked. While Tennessee baked mercilessly in 100 degree heat, northern California could not buy a ray of sunshine. Troy and I detoured from Yosemite for a day to see the giant sequoias that populate the aptly-named Sequoia National Park. Sadly, they were hard to see.

A canopy of giant trees or the poster for the next Twilight movie: Sequoia shrouded in fog.

Giant sequoias are giant. It’s hard to define giant until you’re standing next to it. Rest assured, these are big fucking trees. Even if the fog was so heavy you couldn’t really see them.

Troy standing inside a fallen sequoia at Grant's Grove in King's Canyon National Park.

Perhaps you missed the white stuff on the ground. They call it snow. In June.

General Grant Tree. In snow. In June. Guess that's why it's called the Nation's Christmas Tree.

I desperately wanted to make a snow ball and hit Troy in the face but he said if I did, he would wrestle me to the ground and shove snow down my cleavage and then I would be really wet and cold.  Having some experience in ignoring threats like this to my peril, discretion won out and I stayed (reasonably) dry. Every giant tree is named after a Union general or other Yankee. I suppose this is because the trees were set aside during Lincoln’s tenure, but it could also be because Yankee generals really wanted to have something long and giant named after them to make up for other shortcomings. Sequoias have really soft, spongy bark and they make crappy wood for building anything because it splinters. Lincoln had to save them from wholesale slaughter because, even though they could really only be used to make pencils, our ancestors had the social conscience of fleas and would have cut them down to make mulch because they could. I am amazed sometimes that we survive as a species despite ourselves.

Troy and I at the world's biggest tree (General Sherman) which we could not really see and now neither can you. This is a crappy vacation picture to be sure.

We finally decided to drive to the far side of King’s Canyon National Park and were rewarded with sunshine and warmer temperatures. We saw no one. This has to be the most deserted park we’ve been to. This would have been a totally awesome place to see Bigfoot, but I was again denied. No ‘squatch for Jean this trip. Just a waterfall:

Grizzly Falls, Kings Canyon National Park. I don't know why they call it that. They have no grizzlies here.

Yosemite: The Uphill Death March

Yosemite is a beautiful place. Waterfalls, lush meadows, young European men on holiday- it’s a feast for the eyes. The most famous of hikes in this very famous national park is known as The Mist Trail. Aside from the insane climb to the top of Half Dome, the Mist Trail was the trail Troy wanted to hike. I do not understand what it is about my very competitive nature that mandates that I attempt to kill myself following Troy on hikes I have no business doing, but there was no way in hell I was not going to go.

To begin with, the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls climbs about 1000 feet or so over one-and-a-half miles.  Simple math shows this is pain in the making. It’s short, but steep, and at the end, it’s evil. Steps carved straight into the granite cliffs next to the Merced River which tumbles over Vernal Falls.

There's a happy rainbow to cheer you as you break your ass on the granite steps

Vernal Falls is pretty:

Vernal Falls

Had I only been less stubborn, I would have stopped here at the footbridge looking over the Merced River up to Vernal Falls:

The Merced River

I was not smart enough to stop here. As usual. It will be days before I can walk without pain. As usual.

Real men of genius: Yosemite dancing man

Yosemite is pretty awesome for people watching as you have this odd amalgamation of Europeans who seriously hike, Japanese tourists who seriously take pictures, old people on tours, American families on summer vacation and so on. You do get to meet some odd characters. Today, I salute you, Mr. Yosemite Dancing Man. It takes gigantic balls or a complete lack of shame to dance at your own personal rave without any music for the rest of us to hear at a very busy bus stop. Sure, the bus was packed and all, but you didn’t let a lack of room or the terror of little old ladies who were afraid you might fling your sweat in their direction stop your awesome groove, you just kept right on dancing next to the driver. I’m not sure what awesome drugs you were taking to rave out like that on a random Thursday afternoon, but your excellent dance moves earn you a huge shout out. Rave on my friend, rave on.

Yosemite, Day 1: I look like a drowned rat

Mark Twain once said the coldest winter he ever spent was summer in San Francisco. I get this now. It was 59 degrees here yesterday. In June. The only good thing about this was an unexpected benefit for my fellow travelers as this means it is too cold to show off my extremely white legs in shorts as they will have to be encased in long pants.

Yosemite is not quite what I expected. I saw the news before I left about the sheer volume of water spilling over Yosemite’s very famous waterfalls. I was stoked to see them  as they have said it is a once in a generation chance to see that kind of volume. I was not prepared. It is loud. Jet engine loud. These are very, very big falls and pictures do not do them justice. I’ll try with a short video:

What this all means is that I got soaked. Drowned rat kind of soaked. The kind of soaked that when your hair finally dries you look like Chaka Khan on a bad hair day. I brought a change of shoes but not clothes. Planning wisely is not my strong suit and I would have sucked as a boy scout.  Good thing I was never required to be prepared.

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