Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Day the Sun Went Out

Sunday 24th July

Had a bit of a lie in but got going around 8am heading for the same coffee place in town.  The young guy recognised me, and his opening greeting was “Hey, I was just reading about some guy in Hong Kong reckons he’s proved time travel is not possible”

I’ll miss this place, especially when I’m next sitting in my local coffee shop knee deep in dirty cups and napkins.

We started the day just inside the northern entrance at Mammoth Hot Springs and then headed to what is probably the second most photographed attraction in Yellowstone after Old Faithful; Grand Prismatic Spring.  The steam emanating from this extraordinary 370 foot wide hot spring glows just above the surface in reds, yellows and blues from algae and bacteria living in its 170 degree waters.

From here we saw the massive Yellowstone lake for the first time as we drove around the western edge towards the eastern entrance along the Sylvan Pass.  In the far distance over the Absaroka mountains, we saw smoke coming from the Shoshone National Forest.  The evidence of the 1988 Yellowstone fire is quite obvious as trees stand dead stripped of leaves and bark with new small young trees emerging  from the hillsides.  Apparently 36% of the trees were destroyed in the fire.

The smoke was coming from quite a way outside Yellowstone and at the time we had no way of knowing that it would soon engulf us for over a hundred miles and finally as the ash rained down on the car, the sun disappeared from the sky.

Monday 25th July

I’ve never been a runner. Jo and I go to the gym regularly where she runs, and I am happy on any form of rower, cross trainer stepper etc, but I have never been comfortable with running.  I tried it once many years ago and choose a dark night in the middle of winter for my first attempt at being a bona fide jogger.  My inexperience led me to close my front door and immediately run as fast as I could in a random direction.  After around 90 seconds my breathing became so heavy that I imagined my sleepy village lane neighbours would be cowering in the corners of their houses praying that the ogre outside would not get in.

As I knew I would be away from the gym for a while I decided a few weeks back to learn how to run.  With some excellent guidance from my friend Chris, I got to grip with the basics, most importantly, pacing and got up to 5k in a short time.   I know this may sound a bit pathetic to most, but for me it was a real personal achievement which allowed me to complete an early morning 3k run at 7732ft along the shore of the Yellowstone Lake.  Beats the treadmill at David Lloyd any day. 

Some souvenir hunting followed including the discovery of Hot Tamales, a cinnamon jelly bean type chewy sweet which become slightly dangerous if eaten more than one at a time.

Our next destination was The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, an area of canyonland in the park with two giant waterfalls where we saw Ospreys nesting.  It was from here also that the Ribbon lake trail starts, the spot where a hiker was killed earlier this month. The trail was sealed off.

As we came out of here a temporary road sign flashed a warning to 'Stay in Car, No Stopping for Half Mile'.  It didn’t say why, but we knew. 

We stopped a little way past half a mile and waited in an empty pullout by the side of the road.  We scanned the nearby area with our binoculars and once again it was Hot Tamale time.  As Jo doesn’t like them it was a solo effort.    We never found all the Hot Tamales that I dropped when we spotted some cars emergency stopping up the road.

We drove over and parked the car.    Just across the field was a mother grizzly and her two cubs, most likely the same we had seen yesterday.  We couldn’t have wished for a better end to our final day in Yellowstone. After an hour or so, we started our journey to our next stop, Thermopolis.

Soon after we exited the park at the eastern entrance, we saw the smoke from a Shoshone Forest fire hanging low in the sky. For the next hundred miles or so the sky was dark and the ash floated all around us. When the sun finally disappeared we stopped the car and got out to take a photo.  The ash rained down on the car.

In Thermopolis, we encountered a mosquito so large, one of the locals was running around the town with it clutched in his hand, and he was screaming. 

Thursday, 28 July 2011

If You Go Down to the Woods Today

Friday 22nd July

Last night we ate dinner at Signal Mountain.  Reading the guide we book at the table, we learned that this is where some grizzlies are known to hang out so we set this as today’s early morning destination.  Armed with our coffee we drove up the 5 mile narrow road to the top, our eyes seeking any movement in the forest on either side.  At the top the mosquitoes were waiting for us, and like some group of annoying early morning car boot sale bargain hunters, they attacked us before we’d even got both feet out of the car.

We saw Blue grouse wandering around up here and an incredible view across the valley floor and Snake river.   No sign of grizzlies so we made our way back down to refuel and get some breakfast supplies for our drive to Yellowstone.  Some people in the gas station said they’d seen some bears that morning.


There is no exit  from Grand Teton as it leads straight into the southern entrance of Yellowstone.  We were immediately in forest and driving along the eastern side of the Lewis river.  After eight or so miles we stopped to look at Lewis Falls and the view back along the river with the Tetons in the far distance. 

From here we continued north east through forest, canyons and along shimmering rivers to the Upper Geyser Basin and the infamous Old Faithful.  

Before our trip started we had read many accounts of the heavy traffic in Yellowstone in Summer, but we had not noticed this at all. In fact for most of the time we could drive around the roads and not see a single car in front or behind us.   On turning into the car park, we realised why; they were all here in the Old Faithful car park.

An enormous newly opened visitor centre leads us through to Old Faithful and a sign helpfully indicates the next anticipated eruption.  On average it erupts every 90 minutes and we had just 30 minutes to wait.  What we didn’t appreciate is just how many geysers there are here and many of them erupt quite frequently.   Old Faithful was impressive and strange.  The powerful bluey white plume spurting anything from 3500-8500 gallons of water up to 180 feet in the air.   


It had been a long day so we soon headed north again to out next hotel in Gardiner, Montana just outside the park north entrance.    

Saturday 23rd July

This morning we found a great coffee shop in Gardiner and our conversation with the two guys behind the counter ranged from Andre Agassi, through Richard Dawkins to the anthropological traits of northern hemisphere Homo sapiens. 

Hey, I ordered a latte.

Our plan today was to drive to the far north eastern part of the park to Lamar Valley with various stops along the way.   We drove through Blacktail Plateau, a seven mile road which follows historic trails used for hundreds of years crossing the high plateau.

The abundance of yellow flowers, lush grass and cloudless sky made the perfect summer day vista.  It also helped that we were completely alone to enjoy this together with a lone buffalo and timid inquisitive marmot.     At the end of the trail we saw the Petrified Tree some, 50 million years old.

Our next stop was a creek just before the Lamar Valley to see herds of buffalo and their young across the Lamar river.  One of the most exciting things to see is cars suddenly stopping by the side of the road, or sometimes driving straight off onto the grass.    This happened a short time after, but as we slowed down we saw it was just another lone bison around 100m away.

We were wrong.

It was a grizzly bear.  A young male, eating his was through grass and sage plain.  We grabbed the binoculars and camera and sat beside the road watching him meander about, roll around, scratch of course, but mainly just eat.    He seemed completely oblivious to our presence and a Park Ranger was with us ready to move everyone to their vehicles should the bear move closer.


It was a fantastic experience for us and one that is not ever guaranteed in Yellowstone.  We stayed for an hour before driving out of the north east entrance and lunch at Silver Gate where all buildings must be either log or rustic architecture, as deemed by state building law.

From here we spent some time exploring the Beartooth Highway and drove back via Cooke City a small gold rush town. We drove back through Lamar Valler and our grizzly (yes, he’s ours now) was still there so we stayed another hour or so.

Our next stop was Hayden Valley roughly in the centre of the park.  When we arrived, there was a large group of people with spotting scopes.  When we spoke to them they told us they were waiting for the wolves which had appeared across the valley the two previous nights around 8pm.   Incidentally, it is illegal to imitate a wolf in Yellowstone National Park.

We covered ourselves in deet and braved the armies of mosquitoes which had deployed to our immediate vicinity.  The wolves didn’t arrive but we did see a bison swim across the river.

We decided to move on after an hour and stopped a short way up the road.  In the far distance we saw some movement.  Through the binoculars we saw a mother grizzly and two cubs.   They were very far away and the light was fading fast, but we were still compelled to watch them for an hour. 

We think we also found something more exciting than driving around Yellowstone National Park on a gorgeous Summer day.

Doing it at night.

In the darkness of the wilderness with just the narrow beam of our headlights to light up the creatures of the night, we saw coyotes, voles, antelope, hare and possibly a bobcat.  We were actually glad at this point that we didn’t see another bear. 

Monday, 25 July 2011

Grand Teton National Park

20-21 July

Our first night in Grand Teton National Park was interrupted in the most spectacular way to the sound of howling coyotes at 230am, and our first real understanding that despite our comfy hotel bed, outside the door was a real wilderness.  

We finally awoke at 530am for another early start grabbing coffee from the lodge lounge before heading off to our morning destination of Oxbow Bend, a viewing area over Snake river.  Not the most original name for a river but those Native Americans told it like it was.

Here we saw elk across the lake, pelicans, Uinta ground squirrels and views of the Tetons reflected in the river.

From here we headed to Jenny Lake and the start of our first hike of the trip. We grabbed a takeaway breakfast where I resisted such fare as cheese and peanut butter crackers, and chicken in a biscuit (yes, I said biscuit).  Our hike lead us around Jenny lake for around 2.5 miles and up to a waterfall and a view over the lake at Inspiration Point.

About halfway around we saw a large pile of droppings by the edge of the lake; really fresh and really grassy.  This is where I told my first lie of the trip.  Jo asked me what I thought it was. We agreed on some sort of deer.

They were actually Grizzly bear.   This was only revealed later when we overheard some other walker talking about the “Fresh Grizzly Crap” on the trail.

We saw pika, a small gerbil/rabbit type mammal, together with butterflies and Golden Mantled ground squirrels.

About halfway through our walk a small lone child, about four years old wandered by carrying a bag of food.    We weren’t sure whether the food was to distract the bears, or a side dish to the child main course.  Either way the parent didn’t arrive until a good few minutes later accompanied by three other children with bags of food.   Another walker had already run after the child and we asked the mother if she was missing a little boy carrying a bag of food. “What did he look like?” she said.  “A bear snack” I wanted to say but resisted, wondering just how many of her lone children did she think were walking around bear country on their own with bags of food.

We arrived at Inspiration Point and fantastic views of Jenny Lake, and followed the same path back to complete our 6 mile hike.

From here we drove south to Jackson, a winter ski resort and summer tourist town where we spent the afternoon exploring.  On the way back to Jackson Lake Lodge we saw a few lone Bison, and finished the evening counting mosquito bites and studying our new companion, the Mac's Field Guide to Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks Mammals.

Thursday, 21 July 2011


I resisted packing until the last minute, though I had performed a dummy run a couple of weeks ago. 

My Variavalistaphobia detailed earlier led me to load up a suitcase with everything I thought I was going to take and place it on the bathroom scales.  I actually could not look directly at the readout as if my suitcase had been on some Christmas binge and I was fearful of immediately seeing how much it now weighed.   I tried to see the display only in my peripheral vision, slowly moving my head to tease the numbers into focus.   I think it is timely that I am now on holiday as I obviously need to get out more.

As it turned out I was under the 23kg allowed.  For security reasons I did not reveal how much I had spare as I knew certain others on the trip would feel that this space belonged to them.  Moreover, I wanted to use this leverage to acquire snacks, treats and other such niceties that at that moment did not belong to me.

It didn’t turn out like that.

From the next room I heard the sounds of someone beginning to pack.  Not some practice drill where things can be slung and draped, but the real thing.  Where the very foundation of physics would be challenged and personal property dissembled into its crudest subatomic particles.  There was simpering but also there were sounds too confusing to make out.   I didn’t ask any questions.  Needless to say my spare capacity disappeared in the blinking of an eye.

Jo’s Dad took us to the airport and our flight to Newark was uneventful.  A long security clearance meant we didn’t get to our overnight in the Holiday Inn until 0130am.  

Our alarm went off at 0430am. I still cannot see properly.

We flew from Newark to Denver and from there to Riverton, Wyoming in a 19 seat Beechcraft twin prop plane.  Although the pilots were 14 years old and the inside of the plane looked like someone had cut and shut two Hillman Imps, the journey was fantastic and not in the least turbulent like one of the child pilots has warned it might be.

The flight took us north across the endless farmlands of Denver, flanked to the west by the Rocky Mountains.   We set down in Riverton and were driven in the plane directly to the door of the airport building.   We were told to collect our baggage inside and this bizarrely just involved someone lifting a case off the plane, walking 5 feet, and pushing it through an oversized catflap, where we collected it inside.

On the other side was our first brush with the nasty side of the Western USA.  The Nissan Cube.   We’re not car people.  We like to be comfortable and have an engine size to suit the roads we’re on but this car actually made us flinch when we saw it, and I’m not certain Jo didn’t actually make a gagging sound.   

She sensibly returned to the Hertz desk and we were given another far more suitable saloon car.  I wanted to take a photograph of the Nissan Cube but couldn’t quite bring myself to do it.  Please look it up and I hope you agree that it wasn’t the car for us.  Jo is utterly convinced Nissan could only every have made one and it’s thankfully still sitting in the Hertz car park at Riverton Airport.

From here, an easy one road drive to our first national park; Grand Teton.  The land became greener and lusher as we approached and soon after we saw the pine forests, the incredible Teton mountain range came into sight.  One can read accounts and look at photographs galore but you only really understand why people want be somewhere when you yourself are surrounded by it.   
We stopped briefly at a viewing point and headed on to the park entrance where we bought our Interagency Annual Pass ($80) which we can now use to get into all parks in the USA for one year.

We’re sitting here now at Jackson Lake Lodge with a glass of wine and the sun is just about to set over the Tetons.  We are watching the moose, mooseing around in the Willow flats and we can tell you the mosquitoes are very very hungry.

Monday, 18 July 2011

When Cats Attack

Negotiations have been underway for almost 12 months now. 

I think I want to get a cat. My wife thinks she wants to get a cat.

She wants a cat that looks like one on the TV.  I want one that talks.  She is worried that I will experiment on it, and she is probably right.  Not in a Nazi Death Camp way, but more discovering the whys and wherefores of cats of which I know nothing.    She knows I will take photographs of it and post them to social networking sites and feed it meals in individual courses. 

© 2011 Laura Palmer

Part of the reason we do not yet have a cat is that we have sensibly said that nothing should be decided until after our trip. Another reason is because of the cat next door.

Our neighbour's cat came in through our open back door a few weeks ago and we took the opportunity to practice our cat parenting skills .  We stroked it, which I'm told is good.  We fed it milk, which I'm told is very very bad.  It survived, but when we asked it to leave it attacked me.  It also returned a few days later whilst I was out, and attacked my wife.

We subsequently named the cat, "Cats Attack", short for "When Cats Attack".   For some time after we were convinced that noises outside were in fact Cats Attack trying to break into our house to continue the unprovoked violence. It would stare at us through the conservatory doors and watch unflinching as we ran around checking that all windows and doors were secure.   

This put all cat negotiations on hold whilst we considered where we had gone so terribly wrong and began to ponder the nature/nurture debate.  Was this cat a product of its upbringing or was it simply pre programmed with this aggression from a long hereditary line.  What were the chances of us bringing our own devil incarnate into the family home, disguised as a fluffy ball of meows.

However, out of the blue with no prior warning, Cats Attack was gone.  A SOLD sign had appeared outside his house and just yesterday a large van came and took him away.  Of course the van was actually for the house contents, but he must have been in there somewhere.

I'm glad that we don't have the worry of leaving a cat while we are away and I know it's the main reason some people don't ever have pets.  I am sure negotiations will commence in the near future but it is still a big responsibility for us and recent experience shows that despite our good intentions we may raise a cat that terrorises the new neighbours.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Promises Promises

I've gone and broken that promise I made to myself.  

Not the one where I won't shout at the TV or steal my wife's end of term chocolates, but the one where I said I would never under any circumstances look up the recent sightings page of the Monterey Bay Whalewatch .

Because now I'm wobbling a bit with excitement. 

Some months ago I checked what we might expect to see in August by looking at last years sightings, but knew that 2010 was a very exceptional year so didn't want to simply expect the same in 2011.

Our history with whales has been a bit meh.

In 2004, my wife Jo and I were in Iceland searching for whales and I  made a bit of a fool of myself.  On boarding the boat we were given a briefing and told that if we spotted anything to just point and shout out its position relative to a clock face with the front of the boat being 12. This was so everyone else was made aware of the possible sighting.  

I saw something almost immediately but got confused as to where I actually was on the boat.  However, I took my duty of informing the rest of the passengers very seriously, and with the gusto of a Wimbledon line judge I squealed out about 3 random numbers at the top of my voice, repeating the last one and adding "O' Clock" to qualify it.   

I think most people just looked at me rather than in any direction I may have indicated.  I was not taken seriously for the remainder of the trip and though I continued to spot things I had no option but to petulantly announce these with a loud tut and the indolent raising of one arm. 

At the end of the trip, we had been rewarded with only half a dozen or so White Sided Dolphins.  I have a fond memory and a photograph of Jo, a solitary figure resolutely clinging to the boat railings outside whilst everyone else had long given up hope and had taken shelter from the sub zero temperatures.

Again, in 2005 we flew to Cork for the weekend in search of Fin Whales off the South West coast of Ireland.  After four and half hours in waters where for the most part the horizon was above us, we caught the most fleeting glimpse of a Fin as it came up five metres away from us. 

Despite spending most of the time kneeling over the side of the boat, I confessed I would have done it all again.  However, we did feel disappointed.

Actual Painting of Our Cork Trip
Then in December 2006 we were in Monterey, California. Whilst we had seen the odd Gray and Minke from land off the coast of the Big Sur, we were looking forward to getting much closer.  Sadly it was not to be and we didn't see a thing on our boat trip.  Our schedule meant we were due in San Francisco the next day so there was no opportunity for a second try.

We left forlornly clutching our rain check tickets and vowed one day to return.

Well that day is 10th August 2011, 

and because I looked, I know the Blue Whales have arrived,

and there's quite a few of them,

and they're 100 foot long. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Valsalver Manoeuvre

I can't hear out of my left ear and I'm panicking a little. 

I will spare you the unsavoury details only to say that I feel like I've fallen asleep under a Mr Whippy ice cream dispenser which was activated during the night filling my ear with a swirling slurry of earwax.  Sorry I really never had any intention of sparing you.

My worry is not because I think it's permanent, or that I fear for my wife's sanity now she has had a glimpse into life with a deaf me; but because I don't want my eyeball to explode. 

It's a common fear apparently and it nearly happened to me on an airplane as I descended from 30,000 feet.

It was that moment when you say to someone next you that you don't feel well and you can see the mild alarm in their eyes as they struggle to decide whether to say those few substantiating words that could send you plunging into the abyss.    

"Actually, you do look a bit pale"

Due to a blockage somewhere, pressure was building up in my sinuses and it had nowhere to go.  The pain above my left eye increased so much that I actually stopped thinking. I reached in several seconds a mental state that monks atop mountains spend forty years staring, wearing orange and ringing bells trying to achieve.  And I couldn't feel my legs.  

I was convinced my body was shutting down, preserving resources and directing blood flow to vital organs.  My eye began to water so profusely as if some clever bodily function was preparing me, damping down the site of the imminent explosion, or perhaps lubricating the area allowing the soon to be redundant eyeball a speedy exit from its socket.   It was of course neither of these things; it was just me crying.

This is when I attempted what I later learned to be the Valsalver Manoeuvre.  We've all done it at one time or another I'm sure, and it involves breathing out quite forcefully whilst the mouth is closed and the nose is pinched shut thus "popping" the ears.  Clearing the sinuses and ears in this way allows the pressure to normalise and hopefully relieves the pain.  It certainly brought the colour back to my face and distracted me somewhat as I continued to exhale as hard as I could believing my effort should at least match my level of pain.   In fact I didn't believe I would feel any relief until I had actually inflated my own head.

Finally, the airplane landed and I was able to speak again, wiggle my toes and generally recover.  Whilst some pain remained it did disappear within ten minutes or so.  

As a footnote, I am told that the Valsalver Manouevre can damage the eardrum and should only be used as a last resort.  Swallowing, yawning and sucking on those sweets you are sometimes offered before landing are much safer alternatives but not as much fun to watch someone attempt.

Half a bottle of eardrops and 30 minutes of aural douching in the shower have not remedied my current impediment so I have booked an appointment for syringing.  The old method of using a giant stainless steel syringe is now discouraged due to the number of eardrums that were perforated. The latest method involves a plastic probe which shoots pulses of warm water into the ear canal washing the offending flotsam and jetsam into a container one is obliged to hold underneath the ear.  Indeed if I had to wash out someone else's ears I would similarly, and at the very least, expect them to join in.

Once this procedure is completed and I board the airplane with my four bottles of nasal spray, I can rest easy knowing that I have every chance of surviving the flight unscathed.

Sunday, 10 July 2011


I have a fear of overweight suitcases.  

I'm not sure where it started because I can't actually remember a time when I had an overweight bag.  I have never
found myself, like others I have witnessed, shouting at my wife whilst decanting innumerable shoes into hand luggage at the check-in desk.

It just seems so illogical to me that I could be financially penalised, and perhaps my fear is born more from the frustrating exchange that would ensue if I were ever asked to pay a fine for being a few measly pounds over the baggage allowance.  

I imagine my calmly reasoned arguments would fall on ignorant and disinterested ears.   These carefully honed and factually correct assertions developed over a number of years and played out over and over in my head, would carry, somewhat ironically; no weight.

The check-in person tells me my suitcase is two kilos overweight and I respond firstly with my "I'm really thirsty" contention which goes something like this... 

I'm two kilos overweight you say? Well you know, I'm really thirsty and I was just about to drink two litres of water but if I don't do that right now, I'll be two kilos lighter than I was planning to be when I get on the plane,  so I reckon that makes us evens!

Blank, slightly bemused expression, and some slight twitching and herferrs from the people behind me in the queue.

It's simple mathematics I say....

No response.  So I reluctantly offer the slightly more hackneyed, though again in principal, factually accurate;  

Six months ago I was 25kg heavier but decided to go on a diet and now here I am 25kg lighter so surely that must count?  If I hadn't bothered and turned up with my BMI practically hanging over the edge of my trousers you'd been carrying a whole extra suitcase right there.

Of course, that's the crux isn't it.  That's why we get really upset because we see the person heavier than us at the check-in and think; they're getting their excess baggage for free.  The airlines cannot charge heavy people more, and rightly so; it's discrimination.  

Whilst the arguments coalesce at some point, I can simply make a bit more effort and take less in my suitcase; problem solved.   

This is just her hand luggage
I believe the airlines' main argument is that more weight burns more fuel which is true, but then so is my claim about how heavy I am/was/could be.  A moot point indeed.

As far as I know there hasn't been a word coined for "Fear of overweight suitcases", so using standard nomenclature I made up my own, and like a significant majority of the phobias we hear of, it isn't a real fear that anyone suffers from, just a word to describe it.
That being said, I'm still going to pack a really heavy clown in my suitcase.  

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Humans vs Bears

Bears can run faster than Usain Bolt.   

This unsettling fact made me seek out official advice on dealing with bear encounters.  As our USA national parks trip approaches, and it was reported that a mother grizzly bear munched on a hiker in Yellowstone yesterday, I felt it was appropriate to learn what I could about bear safety.    

I found the following;

"Avoid carcasses."  I tend to do this wherever possible anyway, so I feel the risk from this is somewhat low.

"Allowing a bear to obtain human food even once often results in the bear becoming aggressive about obtaining such food in the future"    I am just the same with biscuits, so I understand the importance of not letting them get their paws on them in the first place.

"If a bear attacks...." well that depends on what sort of bear it is.   The most up to date advice with grizzlies is to hold your ground and freeze as it may be a bluff charge.  I can imagine it would be very difficult to hold your ground with a bear charging towards you at 30mph, a bit like not stepping out of the way of a Fiat 500.  It seems grizzly bears are pretty bad at climbing trees so they rely on aggressive behaviour to protect themselves and their cubs.

If it does attack, the advice continues; "curl up facedown on the ground and don't move."  I think at this point I would be wishing I had a packet of HobNobs.  

With black bears, the authorities recommend not dropping to the ground but fighting back with whatever weapons are at hand.  This could include carcasses but heavy rocks and large sticks would be more effective.  It doesn't mention punching them on the nose, but I think I may be confused with sharks, or maybe lions.

The next piece of advice.   "Colour cannot be used to identify whether the bear is a grizzly or a black bear."   Jeesh.    

So as this creature is charging towards me, I have to decide in the blink of an eye whether to play dead or start a punch up with it.  I'm not sure I could even punch an animal, but do accept that my survival instinct may well have already kicked the shit out of my Buddhist tendencies at this point.

A handy grizzly and black bear comparison diagram found online shows two seemingly identical bears and one's got a bit of a hump.

So overall the advice is to avoid bear encounters which is of course very sensible.  Whilst it is terribly sad for the family of the man who died I like to think that as they were in a relatively isolated part of the park, they must have been experienced hikers.  The kind of people who respected the natural order of things but were just unlucky to surprise a mother bear with her cubs.   It makes a great news story, but if bears could write headlines, just imagine what they would say about our impact on them.

By the way, don't hit lions on the nose.  I think I must have got that from the Wizard of Oz, so not recommended as a real defence technique against real lions, unless of course they are cowardly ones.


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