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.

Advertisements

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.

Athletic apparel catalog models must die

It’s that time of year when Troy and I start planning the vacations we will take. On the agenda this year, kayaking in Congaree National Park  in South Carolina, possibly a quick trip to kayak in the 10,000 Islands in late March, a trip to Yosemite in June for a week to hike (and die) and then Zion National Park in September where I am determined to hike the Subway before I keel over and hang up my hiking shoes. I am trying to talk Troy into kayaking the Na Pali coast in Kauai in July but Troy is not jazzed about it. With all these impending trips, it’s time to start ordering outdoor clothes for the season.

If you ever want to feel totally inadequate, a quick scan through the Athleta catalog should do it. Exhibit A:

Seriously? Who is this chick and why is she trying to scratch the back of her head with the sole of her foot?

Let’s look at this. This woman has an ass you could bounce a quarter off of. I hate her and I don’t even know her. She’s probably really sweet. I tried this pose tonight and all I got for my trouble is a badly pulled hamstring and a bruise from where I fell over and hit the dining table. Fortunately, Troy had already gone to bed when I tried this.

Sure, she can do this, but if she had a 40DD chest, it would add a little challenge.

This woman is perky even upside down. That’s unfair to the rest of us. Someone needs to hold her hostage and force-feed her twinkies. I started to try this one but was greeted by four very curious dogs who are not helpful yoga partners. I gave up and poured a martini. Fuck it. I’m wearing a rash guard and khaki shorts this year.

Penis rock, Arches

Some things need no explanation

You will not find this in any guide book. If you look to the right (of the you know what), you will see the famous Double Arch in the Windows Section at Arches National Park. Oh sure, I know you claim you were looking at the arch the whole time, but we all know where your mind is. Pervert.

Detour to Bryce Canyon

I was awakened before dawn by a determined husband who wanted to get on the road. Since I was groggy and without caffeine and riding shotgun, I had time to ponder all kinds of things I have never thought of before, like where would I go in case of nuclear war?  I also noticed the incredible numbers of giant boulders strewn across the sides of the canyons and I did give some thought to what I would do if some mega-ton boulder came tearing down the mountain while we were driving our trusty CR-V around the hairpin turns below. I really want my last words to be something pithy and not Holy Sh- followed by permanent silence.

Bryce Canyon turned out to be a small park filled with German people and also Japanese people. Also really old people, some of them German. German people stand out because they look tall, Aryan and unwashed with serious hiking gear. German lesbians abound. They are all sweaty and serious about hiking and smell like it too. Seriously, I have video. Japanese people are all tiny and carrying cameras and, apparently, the fashion in Tokyo this year requires that Japanese citizens wear painted on jeans which are so practical on a desert hike. Anyway, we (the royal we) decided to hike the Victoria’s Garden trail, then hike to the Navajo loop trail and do the Wall Street hike. For some reason, Bryce attracts old, slow annoying people who want to loudly talk to each other about where to meet. Why they would want to do this hike is beyond me because the trails in this park are evil for people who have bad joints, which I assume all old people have. The descent was endless and I knew my knees were taking a pounding and although I am old, I am not old people old. More on this later.

I looked at lots of hoodoos and have concluded the reason they made Bryce Canyon a national park is because it is full of penis-shaped rocks and someone thought it would be hilarious to name one of them after Queen Victoria. Whoever did the signs for Bryce Canyon also has a sense of humor because the signs they have don’t match any known direction of any existing trail, nor do the park maps match what was actually constructed, so you have to take it on faith that you are going in the right direction. That led to a so predictable spat between Troy (who is always right) and me (who is also always right) about which way to go. Fortunately, I was right. Someone please note this for posterity. This park has convinced me of the absolute rightness of my proverb that you should never marry a man with a butt smaller than yours. Had I married someone lazier and larger, I doubt seriously I would have an Icy Hot patch taped to my left butt cheek.

As to the hike itself, I suppose it was stunning. What I saw when I wasn’t doubled over in pain was spectacular. Wall Street is a narrow canyon with towering walls above that you walk through. It’s a good thing you start out walking, because by the end of the trail, I was close to crawling. I know I said on day 1 that I have discovered I hate hiking. This is not precisely true. I hate hiking at high elevations. In fact, I’ll be bold and declare I hate mountains. To do anything at 8000 feet that is remotely strenuous becomes much more so just by virtue of elevation and by the time I was crawling out of the canyon, I could barely breathe. Tiny dwarves with little knives were stabbing my legs repeatedly. I think an appropriate punishment for anyone on Wall Street (say the CEO of AIG) is to have to climb out of Wall Street in Bryce Canyon on a hot day with no water wearing a suit. That’s a 500 foot climb over .3 mile at 8000 feet.  Take that you over-privileged trust fund larvae! Tonight, I would sell what is left of my miserable lawyer soul to be able to touch my toes without screaming.

Tomorrow we hike the slot canyons at Antelope Canyon. My secret fear is that my chest will not fit through the slot canyon and I will end up stuck between canyon walls and Troy will have the camera.

Postcard worthy without the pain of hiking to see it

And also:

Seriously, a sandstone buttplug?