We Visited a National Park and a Ranger Brought Up Lynching
What should have been a carefree road trip turned ugly in an instant
While gearing up for my college graduation, my friends and I were struck with the idea of taking the Great American Road Trip. For the months prior, we began a planning spreadsheet. We would begin in Arizona and from there, cover much of the American West: Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico, before winding up back in Arizona. Our plan was ambitious, expensive, and to many of our friends and family, rife with potential dangers. So, with a grain of salt, we heeded their warnings and set off with our backpacks and degrees.
“Yeah, that bear would have lynched you girls had you gone down there.”
We were about two weeks in when we crossed from Montana to Wyoming, where we planned to enter Yellowstone National Park. On this first day at Yellowstone, we were determined to see geysers at Black Sands Pool, which is slightly over a one-mile round-trip from the Old Faithful Visitor Center. While the National Parks Service (NPS) has made it quite easy for many of the major sites to be accessible by driving, we found it was often more fun and more convenient to leave the car parked in one area, hike around, and return to it at the end of the day. The park ranger on-duty then encouraged us to exercise caution. Over the last few weeks, a bear had been spotted near there, and this was one of the worst times of year to encounter them because many had just recently given birth. Bears with cubs were hyper-protective, but often dubbed hyper-aggressive.
When we reached the trail to Black Sands, it was expectedly deserted. Not too long after we began walking, another park ranger who we had met earlier came down the path on his bike. We exchanged pleasantries and decided that he would be the perfect person to accompany us forward to Black Sands and provide some additional security. But he sternly declined both our idea and invitation, urging us to follow him to begin the switchback that returned to the main pathway and visitor center. We had walked but 10 feet when he put a hand up to stop and silence us. Beyond the turn, there was a bear with her two cubs.