YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyoming — Getting from point A to point B has never been easier.
Travel is truly a miracle that way. But getting to Yellowstone has its own set of challenges.
First, even if you fly, you’re still going to be driving.
Lots of driving.
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This park is huge. Bigger than the state of Rhode Island and, for the most part, the posted speed limit is 45 miles per hour.
There’s also traffic. Not as bad as, say, Maumelle Boulevard but, then again, the boulevard’s not so bad when you’re stuck behind a wandering bison and you’ve put the rental in park while you wait as the bison goes its shambling way.
There’s also other kinds of animal jams.
An elk, perhaps, or excited birders peering off into the sky with their binoculars and spotter scopes.
There’s also the occasional bear. If you’re lucky.
We were lucky that way as a younger and smaller brown bear was by the side of the road, enjoying a creek and rapidly growing crowd.
The park emphasizes safety. The thing they say the most is don’t disturb the wildlife. And don’t approach the animals you might see.
That didn’t seem to register to the teenagers and tourists who went rushing toward what appeared to be a mildly amused bear, who, for the lack of a better word, seemed to be relieving itself.
Needless to say, if you’re close enough to see a bear using the bathroom in the woods and there’s no wall, fence or barrier between you and it, you’re too close. Far too close.
There’s a helpful mnemonic in these bear encounter situations:
Black, fight back and Brown, lie down.
Black bears tend to be smaller and intimidated by humans. So make yourself some noise and be as big as possible. A bear bell can be handy and if you bought or rented bear spray, now would be the time to think about using it.
Brown bears, on the other paw, are better known as grizzlies. They’re big, strong, fast and can be especially aggressive if they feel threatened.
In the fight or flight world, black bears are likely to run while brown bears are likely to attack.
The actual advice park rangers give if you meet up with a brown bear is run away as fast as you can and if you can’t, hit the ground. Stomach down, spread your arms and legs to keep the bear from flipping you and hope you’re wearing a backpack to lessen the damage.
Praying might also help.
With that in mind, is running towards a brown bear, selfie stick in hand, a good idea?
No. No it is not.
It is, in fact, the worst possible idea.
We scanned the local news that night and the next morning to see if Yellowstone had any reports of a bear mauling.
If they did, we didn’t see it.
Travel isn’t the only miracle these days.