Today we again are exploring the wonders of Yellowstone National Park. The other tourists never cease to amaze me. Many are older, retired people like us. There are few children as they have all returned to school. The children that you see are pre-school age with a sprinkling of others on the weekend.
Tourists these days see things through the lens of a smart phone. Everyone has a cell phone camera in their pocket and is quick on the draw. Geysers are gushing and steaming and instead of pausing to enjoy the moment, cell phones appear. It is good to have pictures to help you remember an experience, but it is also good to have an experience to remember.
It is the norm to offer to take pictures of couples or families together. Often people come home from a vacation and find they have pictures of each other and pictures of landmarks, but no pictures together. Tourist protocol says that if someone takes a picture of you, you should then offer to take one of them.
I am amazed by the large number of international tourists. Often I cannot even tell what language is being spoken, much less what they are saying. There are an especially large number of Asian tourists, mostly families and extended family. In Nashville we do not have many tourists from other countries. Or Maybe I just do not hang out where the local tourists do.
Traffic in Yellowstone is overwhelming at times and this is not even the busy season. Speed limits are 45 mph, but many try to drive much faster. Slow traffic, i.e. people driving at the speed limit, must pull off the two-lane roads and let the dozens of cars lined up behind them go by. I hate to think of what might happen if any of the abundant wildlife tried to cross the road. Worse than the traffic is the parking situation at popular sites. Sometimes you have to keep circling the lot like a vulture until someone eventually leaves.
The park is amazingly clean and free of trash and any advertising. Directional signs are rustic wood. I did not observe anyone throwing rocks or coins into any of the thermal features, which is strictly prohibited by law. I’m sure it happens or they would not need to post signs telling you it is not allowed. You also see many signs telling you to stay on the wooden walks and not to try to walk on the ground around boiling hot springs or geysers where ground can crumble and horrible accidents happen.
There are some features accessible for those with handicaps, but many are not due to steps, steep climbs, or undeveloped pathways. I have never walked so much in my life, long paths to thermal displays or boardwalks around basins. When I start feeling sorry for myself, however, I can look up and see someone with a walker, cane, or brace and figure if they are doing it, surely I can.
Prices around Yellowstone are outrageous. Gasoline is expensive, motels are expensive, and food is expensive. It seems as if everyone is out to gouge the tourists because they can. The rule seems to be to charge as much as the traffic can bear. I know it is Yellowstone, but good grief.
You want to travel and see things. Unfortunately, so does everyone else. The popularity of parks threatens to destroy the very experience that everyone comes here for. Still, it is not the traffic and prices that will be remembered. It is the awesome wonders of nature, memories that last for a lifetime.