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

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?

The Zion Travelogues

Day 1:

I am in Zion, which sounds like it should be some sort of Mormon paradise. However, it is paradise for people who hike. Also German people.  I hate hiking. This is a recent discovery.

We arrived at 11 pm last night after 16 hours in the car. We had intended to spend the night in Page AZ and drive in today, but unbeknownst to us, Page AZ was full of French people and they took all the hotel rooms. Bastards. Troy said I was babbling. Probably.

I awoke this morning (early) because Troy wanted to get an early start. As an aside, I insisted on breakfast and impeded Troy’ progress. We rode (with German people) on the shuttle (no cars allowed in Zion). We went to hike Emerald Pools. I swear it was the Bataan death march. The book classes the hike as “easy”. Uh huh. The hike was 2.3 miles long straight up and then straight down the mountainside. See below. All my training hikes at Warner Park meant nothing because I failed to consider altitude. My lungs were on fire. My legs shook. And that was just at the trail head. It was hot. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that if I die, Susan will try to get my earrings.

Here is what I learned today:

1) I am a creature of the inside. Hiking is hot and exhausting. They make videos so you can see what it looks like up there.
2) Girls who like to hike are earthy, perky things with washboard abs. I hate them all.
3) Sweat runs into unladylike places and then begins to chafe you. Then the flies come for you like buzzards.

Tomorrow, Troy is hiking Angel’s landing. I have no interest in or ability to manage that trail. I will stay at the hotel and guard the croissants.

Day 2:

Troy got up early to hike Angel’s Landing. Had I been more alert, I might have done more than mumble incoherently as he left as that trail is seriously and insanely dangerous and it might have been my last chance to say something sweet to my soon to be deceased husband. Instead, I pulled the blanket over my head and went back to sleep.

I woke up at 7, showered and admired my bright red forehead. Guess I missed a spot yesterday with the sunscreen. I also stared at my wadded up swimsuit on the bathroom floor I had been too weak to pick up after I returned from the hot tub last night. I note that a tankini seems like a good idea in principal, but in my case, all I got was massive cleavage and a swimsuit bottom with a disturbing tendency to roll down. I vote for a one piece next time.

I decided that lumbering along the river was a good idea to stretch my muscles. I ended up on a trail that went a good distance into Zion. Since it was early, all I saw were a few people and massive piles of horse crap, one of which greatly resembled a hoodoo formation I expect to see in Bryce Canyon tomorrow. Troy had the camera with him so I was unable to impress you with a photo of horse crap. Eventually, my legs seemed to be functioning and I grew tired of dodging bikes, so I went back to the hotel. One really excellent thing about being in a national park where hiking is the order of the day is that no one expects you to look good while you wander through the towns outside the park. I look like someone you would avoid on a street corner for fear of getting panhandled, but no one seems to notice my slightly mincing walk or oddly matched t-shirt and shorts. Bored, I did what any sensible tourist would do and I went shopping for jewelry. I bought a really sweet turquoise necklace that cost slightly less than Troy’s camelback backpack. Guess who will get more use out of their purchase?

Having spent money, the only thing left to do was return to the hotel and wait to find out if I was newly widowed. Troy stumbled in around 12:30 and I had the great satisfaction of knowing he was in the same pain I was in yesterday. I did make some sympathetic noises and got him both Gatorade and lunch. I am a nice wife no matter what Troy says.

Troy lounged around until I finally prodded him that we should go see something seeing as we are in Utah and while the hotel ceiling is fascinating, we could see it anytime. We decided to drive to Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park to see pink coral sand dunes. It was about 50 miles to the park and we arrived and stared at slightly orangey sand dunes. There was a German couple there (of course) and no one else. We took some pictures and went back to Zion.

Tomorrow: Bryce Canyon. This is high elevation territory so I expect to pass out in the parking lot. Give me sea level any day. On the plus side for Brenda, this park lacks the dramatic cliffs from which Troy could push me so I will likely survive another day. The bad news is that the Narrows remains closed due to high snow melt runoff so Troy’s plan to drown me on the hike through the river bed has been thwarted. Since the hike through the Narrows is one of the main reasons we are here, it would suck to not be able to do that hike.

Troy has put together some video of his Angel’s Landing hike which has been uploading on youtube for 45 minutes thus far. In the meantime, to hold you for the time being while we wait, here’s a picture some old man took of Troy at the top. Points will be given for the best caption. I am merely irritated that an old man could do that hike while I would have died 20 feet in.

Troy at Angel's Landing

So, so close to the edge