I am sitting at one of the overlooks in Badlands National Park. I am enjoying the peace and quiet as my camera is taking a time lapse photo. A large 16 passenger van pulls into the overlook. Out of the van pills 16 tourists. They all start chatting to each other loudly. There went my quiet and then one of them walks in front of my camera and stands there to take his picture. I couldn’t believe that the guy had the whole overlook to take pictures and he had to stand in front of me. In that moment, I really wanted to push him off the cliff. I didn’t, but it was thought for a second. The incident did remind of all the things that annoy me in National Parks. Over the last eight years, I have been to 31 of the 59 National Parks of the United States. I have seen and experienced a lot of things in the parks and here is the list of things that annoy me the most.
Feed the squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and other wildlife
This one bothers me to no end. All animals in the parks are wild animals and they should stay that way. Feeding animals teach them to rely on humans rather than their natural instincts. Human food isn’t good for the animals either.
I will never forget sitting on a wall after finishing my Narrows hike in Zion National Park, Utah. A squirrel spies me and starts waddling over to me. Waddling! Not a normal walk, a fat person waddle. He was fat on people food that is high in fat and sodium.
Remember the phrase “A fed bear is a dead bear.” Park service doesn’t have any choice but to put larger animals down when they get used to being fed by humans.
Get really excited and run towards animals
They might live in the park and are used to seeing people, but they are still wild. Other than the animals mentioned earlier, they are not friendly. They are disturbed by loud noises and anything that could be perceived as a predator. When you see an animal, control your excitement. If you disturbed the animal it will run off.
I was at the Fossil Exhibit Trail in Badlands National Park. I noticed two male Bighorn Sheep walking in the badlands opposite the trail. I slowly and carefully start working my way out into the badlands to get a better angle to take pictures. I am moving quietly and cautiously as not to disturb them. I am about half way to my goal when I hear a yell from the parking lot, “Bighorn Sheep.” Two boys sprint about 100 yards from the parking lot to the top of the hill. In the process, they startled the sheep and they ran off. The boys turn around and walk back. “Aww man, they ran away,” the younger boy complains. So much for people like me getting to enjoy the wildlife.
Be loud in a campground during quiet hours
Quiet hours are given for a reason. It is not unreasonable to ask for quiet between the hours of 10 pm and 7 am. In the outdoors, sound carries. No matter who sneaky you are, I can still hear you running your generator during quiet hours.
Complain about the bugs
Really, you are surprised there are bugs. It’s nature they are part of nature. It is annoying to get bit by mosquitos, but there is no need to remind everyone every 3 seconds. Also is it really necessary to scream every time you see a spider (I will give the girl who scream bloody murder when she found a tarantula in her shoe).
Use your iPod as background music on hiking trails
Most hikers want to listen to the sound of nature as they hike. I don’t care how great your taste in music is. I don’t want to hear it while hiking. The sound carries and the entire trail can hear your music. Your music is scaring the animals I hope to see off and ruining my hike.
Wear a bear bell while hiking the most popular trail in the park
This might reduce your chances of seeing a bear but it increase the chances of a fellow hiker killing you. Bears don’t like people as such they tend to avoid popular trails. Wearing a bear bell on these trails is redundant. I have never run into a backpacker wearing a bear bell in the backcountry. Everyone I have asked about them don’t worry about it. Instead, we pay attention and try to make noise by talking to each other. The real key is not to surprise the bear and if you do back away slowly.
Some recent experiments by hikers in Katmai National Park, Alaska have shown that the bears ignore the bell. I will admit that a 1982 study in Glacier showed that the only people who were charged by bears where no wearing a bear bell that year. The only point I would consider wearing a bear bell would be solo hiking in the Alaska backcountry.
Walk in late to a park ranger presentation and talk over them
Park Ranger presentations are like movies. Everyone is there to listen to the park ranger talk. Often the ranger is speaking to a crowd of 20-30 people without a microphone in an outdoor setting. It can be as hard to hear the ranger as is. Being late to the presentation is the same as being late to a movie. Enter quietly so not to disturb the other who are trying to learn about the national park.
Pull into a lot late at night where someone is using a telescope and shine you headlights on them while asking what they are doing
Using a telescope to look at the stars is an amazing experience. National Parks are some of the best places to look at the stars. Astronomy enthusiasts will drive hundreds of miles with thousands of dollars in telescopes. They scout out their viewing location hours in advance and can’t wait until dark for the fun to begin. Usually, a pullout far from the visitor center and other light sources. It takes upwards of 30 minutes for the human eyes to adjust to the darkness. Pulling into the pullout where the telescope has been set-up and shining your headlights on us ruins the night vision.
Come to an overlook with someone enjoying the peace and quiet and disturb them.
When I want to sit and enjoy the sounds of nature, I pick an overlook off the beaten track. It is usually far from the main tourist area. I pick it because I want somewhere with no people. I want to hear the sounds not other people talking. Please do not pile out of your car and yell at each other.
Stand in front of someone else taking a picture
Very rarely is there only one spot to take a picture in a National Park. Some people have a need to stand in front of other people to take their picture. It seems that no matter how big the overlook is the best photo stop is always in front of me.
What have you seen people do in National Parks that annoy you? Comment Blog or use the hashtag #59USNP to let me know.