Thursday June 21 – Cultural Diversity?

Monday we decided to go hiking with Jim and Betty. We had to select our trail carefully because we’re both still trying to adjust to the altitude. We chose a trail that runs from the road just outside Fishing Bridge out to the lake and then into some old growth forests back toward Fishing Bridge. Very interesting, very flat, and very easy. Just right for us.

Later we drove to West Thumb, one of the older sections of the park. Jim tells us it used to be a central area from which visitors would obtain transportation to other sections of the park. Now it is the Yellowstone equivalent of a wide spot in the road. The old infrastructure is largely gone and now the area contains a parking lot, a Yellowstone Association shop, some bathrooms, and a boardwalk.

The boardwalk is intended to be the only means by which pedestrians are permitted to walk from the parking lot, around the numerous hot springs, bubbling pools, mud pots, and geysers, to the lake and back. Signs abound, warning of the thermal danger to humans and the risk of inducing ecological harm. The boardwalk is about 4 feet wide and in good repair, with a railing in many places and occasional placards that explain the geology of each spot. It’s a very interesting area with enough geological cool stuff crammed in to make it look as though Disney had a hand in it.

It is still a well-travelled area and by no means remote, but we didn’t feel crowded and there was plenty of room to meander. Just as the boardwalk began to turn away from the lake, a pair of birds darting in and around conjoined hollowed out tree stumps caught Mary Ann’s attention. We still don’t know what the birds were but they were fascinating to watch and Mary Ann and Betty stood shooting photos for a good ten minutes.

One of two birds that caught Mary Ann's attention


As we finally turned away from this activity it hit light a bolt of lightning. Cultural diversity. We didn’t actually hear stampeding footsteps, but as I review the scene in my mind I clearly hear them now. Like a scene from a cartoon where a bus pulls up to a quiet area and deposits a crowd of 60 who trample an area, shoot some photos, then reboard the bus and are gone, the diversity was upon us.

It began with the Asian woman jumping down off the boardwalk, past a warning sign, and stopping inches away from a steaming hot pool. With her camera hoisted in front of her face she was oblivious to the shouts from bystanders and her also-Asian companion. Finally someone got her attention and she smiled and nodded as she was told via various random sign language methods that she could be scalded if she stepped off the boardwalk.

As we turned to continue on our way we were almost overrun by the rest of the manifest. They were upon us, three and four abreast, making no effort to make way for anyone to get by. I understand “excuse me” and common courtesy do not necessarily translate and that this is a purely cultural issue, but was surprised and dismayed that the group had apparently not been warned about the need to remain on the boardwalk.

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