Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park by Lee H. Whittleseythis book has a fantastic title. i love the word-choice of foolhardiness, and i thought i would really enjoy reading a book about people doing stupid things and paying for them with their liiiiives. which i think makes me a bad person, but since a lot of these deaths take place in the 1800s, there is enough distance that it makes it less of a character flaw in me, and more of an abiding interest in historical circumstances. is what i am telling myself. but lee h. whittlesey is not gong to be stealing the crown of king of narrative nonfiction from erik larson anytime soon. this doesnt read like a book anyone would want to curl up with - it is more just a sort of social archive - a list of things that have happened within the park with no authorial voice or unifying thread.
there are basically two points. one: nature is wild, and yellowstone is not disney. it is not and should not be retrofitted to play nice with the tourists. and two: dont be an idiot.
this is a breakdown of the chapters, and ways people have died in yellowstone, in my own words:
avalanches and freezing
gas stove explosions and structural fires
carbon monoxide poisoning
so basically, it is another book that assures me that i should never ever leave my house. ever.
i am not someone who is overmuch impressed with the majesty of nature. nor of the majesty of architecture, for that matter. when i find myself in distant lands, my first thought is, where is the closest bookstore? and food!! gimmie exotic food! so the thought of going to a place to just be inspired by natures vast canvas - i can see how people would dig it, but i am not one of them.
and while dying from many of the ways listed in the above chapters can be avoided by a sane person (yes, a photo of your toddler sitting astride a bear would be adorable, but usually you are just going to end up with a picture of the day your kid got torn to ribbons by your foolhardiness) and (do not jump into a hot spring with a temperature of 202 degrees F to rescue your dog because your eyeballs will boil, your skin will slough off of you, your last words will be that was a stupid thing i did, and your dog will still be dead), still there are many potential deaths over which you have no control. and why?? because people are idiots. you would think, wouldnt you, that being in all that open space would somehow be safer than living in a city where people push people off of subway platforms and mug people at knifepoint and get into scuffles on the sidewalk because people werent meant to live that close together, but you would be wrong. people will find a way to be idiots no matter where they are, and these two situations are illustrative of that:
In two such other cases, deaths can be attributed to persons on the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone purposefully throwing or accidentally dislodging rocks that fell onto persons below.
In the near-darkness at Eagle Creek campground, just north of Gardiner, the two saw a yellow tent belonging to Shannon Weatherly, 28, and a male friend. Schultz and Keys said later they thought the tent was a bear, and Schultz fired into it. His bullet struck Shannon in the head, killing her instantly and terrifying her friend.
so you could be doing all the right things - camping where you are supposed to be, enjoying a nature hike with your water bottles and granola treats and BLAMMO! some stupid kid throws a rock from way up above you and your head is caved in and bleeding into your thermal shirt. or you could be sleeping off your long day of respectful nature-observing and BLAMMO!! someone thinks your TENT is a BEAR. which i guess means it should be shot?
people are stupid. how we managed to evolve enough to build airplanes and bridges is beyond me.
your risk of dying in an indian battle or stagecoach accident are, admittedly, slim, but lightning, falling trees, earthquakes… you cant prevent this shit from happening.
but some of them. some of them, you can prevent as long as you are not a fool. like eating plants in yellowstone. seriously, why?? why??
like water hemlock.
do not eat this.
Six children found the plant growing along a stream and ate greedily of it, thinking it a parsnip.
but i guess its hard, because what kid doesnt go just crazy for parsnips, right?
My own rules for eating plants in Yellowstone are threefold: never eat wild mushrooms, never eat plants that resemble wild carrots or parsnips, and more generally, never eat any plant unless you are positive of what it is by virtue of specific training.
my own rules are way more simple: pack twinkies.
oh, and dont be terrible at being a boy scout:
The scouts of troop 63 stopped at the outlet of the lake in order that leaders Layne Reynolds and John Bishoff could locate their assigned campsite. Imprudently, the party had not brought a map along, but they nevertheless decided that their camp lay directly across Shoshone Lake, probably an hours paddling.
what boy scout troop doesnt bring a map?? seriously - thats just be prepared 101.
and while this book was mostly very dry and plodding, there were occasional refreshing bursts of awesome, which is my word for ewwww!
Mr. D.E. MacKay, a sixtyish gentleman from New York, jumped from the careening vehicle at the first hint of danger. Unfortunately for him, he landed hard with his feet far apart, and the force drove the bones of his legs up into his body and lacerated his bladder. Then the caroming coach fell foursquare upon him.
he is later described as having been telescoped against the rocks.
and i will just leave you with this - further proof that ladies with little dogs are usually the worst at taking responsibility for anything and although this makes me sad in my doggy-love parts, i still think the doggy ended up in a better place than being owned by this nightmare of a human:
May I release my dog from his leash? she asked. No, maam, said the ranger deferentially. Its strictly against the rules.
There seem to be rules against everything one wants to do in this park, she said with a petulant frown. Now what possible reason can there be for not allowing my dog a little freedom? Poor Von has been tied up all day!
The rangers strict training kept him from saying what he wanted to, but his face reddened at her tone. He began, Lady, there are bears around here that might…
She did not give him a chance to finish the sentence. Oh, if thats all that worries you, Von wont hurt the bears!
She reached for the snap on the dogs collar and unleashed him before the startled ranger could utter another word of protest.
The dog headed straight for an old black bear mother sitting at the edge of the forest some fifty years away, her two cubs above her in a tree, lying on two large limbs. The old bear sat there calmly, her front legs braced in front of her, not seeming to notice the dog that dashed madly toward her. She even inclined her head slightly the other way as if to show just how little this canine creature interested her.
The pup charged right up to the bear, fully expecting her to run. She sat motionless and he slowed for a quick turn to keep from running into her. At exactly that instant the old bear went into action. Quicker than a cat she struck out at him and with one blow of her paw sent him spinning with a broken back. Then she called her cubs down and hurried into the woods.
It happened so quickly that not one of the spectators moved for a few seconds. Then everyone rushed to the side of the dying dog, his owner protesting tearfully, Why didnt you tell me? I cant understand why such terrible beasts are allowed to run at large. Why arent they put in cages where they can do no harm?
ugh. hate her.
special thanks to brian for sending me this book/knowing what a sicko i am, and reinforcing my resolve to never go anywhere. ever.
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So, what's the story about the trees? - Yellowstone National Park Forum
But with some satellite sleuthing, the emerging warm spot has finally been discovered by Dr. This thermal area is the newest addition to a family of many thousands of geothermal features at Yellowstone that are often mercurial and occasionally hyperactive. Sign up for the Science Times newsletter. Its discovery not only helps scientists better understand how the park is evolving, but it cements the notion that there really is nowhere else like it on the planet. This type of activity might be unusual for other volcanoes, Dr.
Book an Adventure or Call Now! And if the Big Wild group is there to hear the tree fall, our strategy is to prevent our guide or clients from being in the landing zone at the inopportune moment! How do we do this? In , about half of Yellowstone National Park was within the perimeter of one of the 7 or 8 named wildfires, though only about half of that acreage burned hot enough to kill most of the trees. Now, thirty years later, many have fallen but millions still persist as snags. Many wild species benefit from an influx of dead wood into the system.
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As a first timer to Yellowstone, but a many a time visitor to US National Parks, what exactly is the story about so many fallen trees. In previous visits, passed so many burned and man felled trees for Forest management purposes, eg, Yosemite and G. Canyon North Rim. Most have fallen I expect due to heavy laden snowfall However I've seen may more that have been purposefully cut down. Fallen trees, as if landslides on a mountain side
Lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, whitebark pine, and limber pine are found at higher elevations. Douglas-fir forests occur at lower elevations, especially in the northern portion of the park. The thick bark of Douglas-fir trees allows them to tolerate low intensity fire. Some of the trees in these forests are several hundred years old and show fire scars from a succession of low-intensity ground fires. In contrast, lodgepole pine trees have very thin bark and can be killed by ground fires.
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