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Don't be a Stupid Tourist: Do's and Don'ts in Yellowstone

Updated on June 18, 2012
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As a hobby, Stefanie likes to write in her free time about things she cares about. She lives in Utah and enjoys camping and fishing.

Montana Mountains
Montana Mountains | Source

Carelessness

In this hub on Yellowstone, we'll be discussing the do's and don'ts of tourist destinations, and teach you how to not be stupid on vacation.

For some of us, this concept is particularly difficult. We know who those people are; they're the people that we get mad at even though we're trying to enjoy our vacations. We yell, scream, honk, use the finger, cry, complain, holler, bitch, moan, etc. but it doesn't help anything, does it? Maybe running them off the road would help? Well, it won't, so don't do that either, even if you really want to.

Buffalo Stare-Down. Is it safe to ride Motorcycle's through the park? Sometimes. This time, probably not.
Buffalo Stare-Down. Is it safe to ride Motorcycle's through the park? Sometimes. This time, probably not. | Source
On the way to Morning Glory Hot Pool.
On the way to Morning Glory Hot Pool. | Source

Geysers

Geysers, hot pools, fumaroles, and other types of thermal features are very beautiful to look at, and very unique.

Don't be stupid around these. I know you're reading this and either are thinking I'm an ass, or you're thinking you're not stupid. Third option? You're recalling a story about someone who did something ridiculously stupid on vacation.

We've all seen the videos on "When Vacations Attack", and you never think it will happen to you. It will happen to you if you keep thinking like that.

Back to the thermal features in Yellowstone (and elsewhere, for that matter..) the water is scorching hot most of the time. I say most of the time, because not all of them are boiling hot. People tend to think that because they're not boiling, it's a natural hot tub. Wrong. The ones that aren't supernova-ly (inventa-word?) hot are the ones that are probably the highest acidity levels. This means that if you stick your hand it, it will act like battery acid, (or worse) and the skin will be removed from your bones like a chicken wing. If you think I am joking, Google it. I won't put those kinds of pictures on here, but we have seen it time and time again here.

Also, keep a leash on your kids when around Thermal Features. The only way you're getting to a hospital within an hours time is by helicopter, and that's going to be a really painful wait. Granted you get there faster than if you were to drive, but if you pay attention to the signs that say "don't touch", you wouldn't have to be in that situation.

Let's talk about the thermal features that have no boardwalks. Don't go near these. The reason there is no boardwalk is because the ground is too fragile in these areas and a boardwalk would probably melt (it's that Treks plastic now) or fall through the fragile crust. People think it's just so great to take their entire family of ten people (not including parents..) out to these hot pools that are no where near a boardwalk.

This reminds me of a story I was told two days ago. My next-door neighbor (Robbie) told us when he was on his way out to West Yellowstone, Montana (31 mi. from Old Faithful), he saw a man and his two children; a boy and a girl probably about 2 and 4 years old. They were standing 6 inches from a boiling hot, steaming pool of water off the road and nowhere near a boardwalk. That crust is so thin, if your feet slide in, you may as well say your prayers. The little boy and girl were not holding hands with their dad, weren't on a "kid leash" and weren't supposed to be there! You guys may think I'm overreacting because, "Oh, we may damage the thermal features of the park! Hug a tree!" (I said that in a British Accent in my head for some reason). Nope, that's not it, I'm no tree hugger. You may think I seriously care about your safety. Nope, that's not it either. Kidding, I do, but who do you think has to see your Zombie-looking body after falling in? Our Rangers here are some genuinely great people, and they'll have that image in their heads for the rest of their lives. They've seen it before, but it never gets old. I mean that in the respect that they don't like seeing it, especially with children.

Not only do the Rangers and EMS (they're one in the same here) have to see your flesh melting off of your bones like some stinky rib tips from Famous Daves, your kids are going to see that and will remember that forever. That's gross and sad. So, don't be stupid. If you see anyone else close to any pools, putting their hands in, leaving children unattended or even taking a dog on a boardwalk, call a Ranger, yell at them or flag down any person that has a Government license plate on a vehicle. Coty, my maintenance man here in Old Faithful, drives around constantly for work. He's always looking out for people and making sure they're being safe. That isn't his job to do, and he knows he doesn't get paid to keep people safe, but he genuinely cares for the safety of others for some reason. I care less, but if I didn't care at all, you wouldn't be reading this from me.


Isa Lake next to Grand Loop.
Isa Lake next to Grand Loop. | Source
Firehole Canyon Drive along side Grand Loop Road and Firehole River. Drive safe!
Firehole Canyon Drive along side Grand Loop Road and Firehole River. Drive safe! | Source

Driving in the Park

When driving in Yellowstone, it’s very easy to get distracted. I cannot begin to tell you how many people have driven off the road this year, let alone all of last season. The road in Old Faithful can be confusing if you’ve never been here before. Once you take the exit off of Grand Loop to go toward the actual Old Faithful area, it loops around and goes from a 2-way to a 1-way road with 2 lanes. Please don’t drive into oncoming traffic, like a lot of people have done. If you miss your turn, don’t back up or turn around. It all loops around and ends up at the same place, so it’s not worth your car, life or someone else’s life.

I was on my way to the post office the other day, and noticed a car sideways across both lanes. The speed limit is 35mph, but I was probably going about 40, which is totally fine also. I noticed the person was backing up to turn around, and then they started driving towards me. Before they got to me, they turned. Apparently they missed their turn, and there’s only two turns on that whole one-mile road, but like I said, it loops around and you either end up in the East parking lot, or you end up in the lower area. The entire area of Old Faithful is like a mall parking lot, without the mall. After I slowed considerably, the person was so busy talking they didn’t notice me driving right for them. Don’t be a stupid tourist.

Another short story, last year Coty, my fiancé, received a call that the head ranger needed some assistance blocking the road because a full-size motorhome had driven down the wrong direction of the road, and when the driver noticed, he tried to take a left and turn back onto the correct way. He drove over a large dirt patch that dips down, and the back of the motorhome was stuck on the asphalt and the front of the motorhome was stuck in the dirt where it meets the road.

It’s easy to get distracted in Yellowstone, but if you follow the signs, and pull over and park at the side of the road (in pullouts), then you should have no problem. So many people get looking to the left or right, and don’t notice the sharp turn ahead.

We aren’t in full swing for the season yet, and we have had many accidents already this year. Head on collisions are easy to do, especially when not paying attention. There’s nowhere for the other driver to go unless he or she wants to just drive off the road into trees. That would really ruin a persons’ vacation.

Our friend Corey visiting from Utah demonstrating what not to do in Yellowstone.
Our friend Corey visiting from Utah demonstrating what not to do in Yellowstone. | Source

Manners

I know you’re probably thinking you have manners, and I’m sure you do. Some people seem to forget them when on vacation. I have been pushed, cut in front of in line at the grocery store in West Yellowstone, ran into, flipped off, honked at, yelled at and even saw a man release his flatulence right next to my fiancé and walk off. He didn’t speak English, so all Coty said was, “Ooooh, good one!” He’s a man, what can you do? I just found it rude. When that man released his gases, it was inside the Old Faithful Lodge (Not the Inn) and it echoed. There were probably about 100 people in there, and it was “Library quiet”. Funny, I know, but very rude.

I was brought up that flatulence was something you did in private, never around anyone. I was taught it is degrading to do that around someone. Nobody wants to smell what your intestines reek of, and it embarrasses people. I can handle it, my man is gross (and so is my dog), but I still get on to him about it, and I don’t do that in front of anyone. Treat others how you want to be treated, and respect will get you respect back. I’m not perfect by any means, and I am no delicate flower what so ever, but don’t crap your pants around me, please. I don’t need to smell your Bratwurst and Sauerkraut you had for lunch a week ago.

Also, don’t cut in line. I will probably knock out the next person that cuts in front of me, but with my mind, not my fist.

These Bison may not have manners, but you can! August Rut 2011, males fighting over a lady.
These Bison may not have manners, but you can! August Rut 2011, males fighting over a lady. | Source

Don't Pee on the Floor

According to Classic Travel USA (ClassicTravelUSA.com), they tell you a few Do’s and Don’ts but I am going to modify them for you.

On Vacation:

Do – Go with the Flow; Don’t go on the bathroom floor.

ClassicTravelUSA tells vacationers to go with the flow and to remember things are different where you’re visiting, and probably not what you’re used to. Do your research about where you’re going, and check out the culture beforehand. It’s like visiting New York when you’re from Kansas. It’s faster paced, and you won’t be used to it. Visiting Yellowstone is slower paced, but then we get those people that just want to go, go, go and those are the people that run into me constantly. The “bathroom floor” portion of this is just that. Don’t do any sort of number of bathroom habits on the floor. That’s just gross, and it happens every single day. You know who you are.

Do – Know what to bring; Don’t bring bath salts.

ClassicTravelUSA tells us to make sure we don’t delay our flights or travel by bringing prohibited items with us. If you have bear spray, ship it to yourself. If you’re going to West Yellowstone, ship it general delivery to yourself and pick it up when you get here. If you’re not flying, you can bring it with you and nobody will care. Leave the drugs at home, this is a place of tranquility and stinky tourist farts (or maybe it’s the stinky thermal features?) and don’t want your crazy, hallucinogenic drugs here, and I’m sure you’re not –that- guy. A large abundance of alcohol will do just fine, and please don’t go on the boardwalk if you’ve been drinking.

Don’t -- Over plan; Do leave room to do all the stuff in my Secrets of Yellowstone Guide.

If you over plan, you’ll be stressed about sticking to your plan and stress everyone else out also and you’ll be running around like a chicken with its head cut off and you’ll be so overwhelmed, you may just forget where you are and forget what you were doing. Don’t forget what you were doing.

Most Importantly: Have a good time, and stay safe.

Bison after the last picture where they fought. He felt the need to come up to my window (we were stuck in the jam) and show me his bloody nose. My windows were up, don't worry.
Bison after the last picture where they fought. He felt the need to come up to my window (we were stuck in the jam) and show me his bloody nose. My windows were up, don't worry. | Source

Final Thoughts

Also, a tip about Wyoming: Before you decide to be a jackass (I’m sure you won’t) and go all road-rage on someone here, or shove someone, or do anything remotely stupid towards another person at all, Wyoming is an open carry state. That means any person can carry a firearm openly, and not have to consult the government about it or let them know they have a firearm. You’re not going to get shot here, but just assume everyone carries a weapon, and you’ll be forever safe and maybe a bit paranoid. Most people do only for the purposes of wild life. Coty and I have two guns here that never leave the apartment because they're backup. We've never had to use them, and I'm sure we never will. I'd rather have them and not need them than need them and not have them, if that makes sense. We have never had a gun problem here, except, well, last year, but that was an employee's husband and a long story. You're safe here.

If you want up-to-date information about Yellowstone or traveling, follow us on Twitter @GrovesTravels, or you can follow my personal Twitter, @StefaGT.

Recommended Equipment

This equipment are scopes and binoculars I have seen people carry through out the park. I have had the chance to look through a scope on a tri-pod and could see a wolf cub eating bison meat about 8+ miles away. The owner of the scope was letting everyone look through it, and said it would let you look about 16 miles away.

I find this to be necessary because not everything is right next to the road, and you don't always want to go hiking or looking for trouble. You're a human in an animal home, they have the right-of-way here in Yellowstone, and we shouldn't make them feel invaded upon by going to their Wolf Dens, or Bear Caves. This equipment will let you view everything you need to from the side of the road. Expensive, a little. Worth it? Definitely. You can also take pictures through your scope, or just get a scope that has a camera inside of it. There's also night vision and thermal scopes, monoculars and binoculars that I would love to have. Still trying to save up the pennies for that one.

Leica APO-Televid 65 Angled with 25-50x WW ASPH 40132

12 X 36 Is Ii Binoculars With Optical Image Stabilizer

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