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Friday, July 15, 2011


Say what you will about Yogi the Bear but he never killed anyone. You can’t say that about the bears of Yellowstone National Park. When we finally arrived there last week we started getting calls from friends warning us of The Killer Bear.

We were surprised to learn that two days before a California man had been killed by a mama Grizzly. When we asked if it was safe to camp a ranger said smiling, ” Of course. The bear was just doing what comes naturally”. He added that the man would have probably have been fine if he had just fallen down and played dead. His wife (who survived the attack) reported that her husband had tried to run from the bear (which is what I would have done “naturally”).

Everyone camping in

the park must sign a statement stating that they understand what they must do in order to keep from being eaten by a bears. This includes locking up your food and even your water.

We were encouraged to buy bear spray which looks like shaving cream but costs a lot more, fifty dollars

a shot.

We asked another ranger if the killer bear had been captured yet. She told us that the bear was running free about a mile south and chances of us being harmed by her were small. She added, “before this incident no one had been killed by a bear in the past 25 years.” I told Francesca I was going to do my Yellowstone hiking in the parking


Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks are next to each other. Grand Tetons has a couple of beautiful lakes and a line of jagged mountains lining their western shores. They look like a collection of Madonna’s 1980’s pointy bras lined up together. In fact, “Grand Tetons” is French for “Madonna’s 1980’s pointy bras”. Here Pi and I are testing Jenny Lake’s 52 degree water.

Yellowstone is hot. So hot that steaming geysers shoot up all over. Pools of blue, languid water invite you for a swim surrounded by warning signs that say, “jump in and you’ll be boiled alive”.

Despite the killer pools and the doing-what-comes-naturally killer bear there are many other animals in Yellowsotone who don’t kill people. We saw chipmunks, elk, wolves and a herd of buffalo blocking the road. We saw them from our campsites, on hikes or by roaming around in our Toyota.

On the last day I took my bride to see the most fantastic thing I had witnessed there 30 years ago, Mammoth Hot Springs. “I can’t wait to show it to you”, I told Francesca, “It’s like a gleaming, dripping wedding cake as big as a football field. When we rounded the corner to see it, the sparkling white wedding cake was no more. It was the grey corpse of the former natural wonder. The spring had died off twenty years ago leaving a smoking, hulking mass with little visual appeal. A ranger told us, “things change, geysers and springs come and go, this one’s been dying for a but new one will probably come up.”

The big attraction now in Mammoth Springs are the elk. They are everywhere chomping on the grass and posing for pictures. I almost got busted by a ranger for getting to close for this picture.

In a visitor center we noticed a pamphlet for an musical event nearby. We said, “To heck with the Killer Bear and her friends, we’re going to the Montana Fold Festival!”. To get there we followed the Yellowstone River north. We learned that it is the longest untamed (un-dammed) river in the U.S. Three hours later we were in Butte (not pronounced “butt”), Montana. The town touts itself as once being “The richest hill in the world”. It’s all about copper mining and they’ve pulled $45 billion of it out of the ground over the last 100 years. The land around it is scarred by huge, deep, mining pits.

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