The National Park Service Welcomes You, Maybe

Last summer our @NatlParkService account was famous for warning people about bears in National Parks. But we’re not just about bears. And you tourists are not just about trying to pet bears.


Please do not kick the bison.

This whole thing about “Are you safer in the woods with a man or a bear” – you know that’s a pithy commentary on today’s society, right? Indeed, we might even say a commentary on the history of human relations. What we might not say is that it’s safe to be in the woods with a strange bear. A bear you already know and trust, sure, maybe. Maybe you already have a solid, trusting relationship with a bear: From your career in the circus, or your time as a zookeeper, when you spent all day pulling thorns out of bear paws. Or maybe you’re a park ranger on vacation, Sarah, but even then you understand that Bob was just never going to be a safe choice in a relationship; I mean, his male friends all call him “Gropemaster” and the first thing he ever told you about himself was that he had a tower of empty White Claw cans 20 levels high. But the point is, the whole thing is a sad joke women instantly recognize as a truth about this crazy world we call Yosemite. You know that, right?

Do not bring your Dad Band to the park. Do not play recordings of your Dad Band in any park, national or otherwise. It frightens the animals. It frightens everyone. Every living thing, including the grass.

Please do not stick your hand in a boiling hot spring. Unless you do that at home. If that is how you are accustomed to getting spaghetti out of the pot at home, by all means, you, sir, absolutely know what you are doing, and who are we at the National Park Service to tell you that sticking your bare hand in a volcanically-heated, bubbling 198°F hot spring is going to harm your bare flesh.

Speaking of bare: Once again, please do not attempt any physical contact with bears. This includes playful tickling, lustful sex, or dentistry.

If you decide to take a cute picture of your three-year-old feeding a hot dog to a bison, just turn yourself in to the authorities now. (We are the authorities.) Your toddler’s finger will not grow back.

Speaking of fingers: You do not play the guitar as well as you think you do. You might think you’ve “still got it” but if you think about it, if you ever had it to still “got” you would not have have spent your career as an Enviro consultant and then an accountant for your cousin’s car dealership when you failed at consulting. Just stop. We do have caves; play your gitbox in one of those. Maybe the bears will welcome you.

Only you can prevent forest fires! It’s strange that a bear knows this better than you do. It’s weird that you even have matches. Who uses matches anymore?

That thing under your car is called a “road.” It is designed specifically to accommodate motor vehicles. If you do not see a road under your vehicle, you are in a ditch, bear’s mouth, or 198°F hot spring.

Our national parks contain many fabulous lakes that are not 198°F hot springs. However, if you decide to take a moonlit skinny dip with your loved one, we recommend you not leave you clothes on the path, where other campers might find them and walk off with them. (True story. I brought them back when the shouting started.)

There are many natural herbs in our forests and canyons. Some have been known for centuries as sources of healing, even enlightenment. There are also many poisonous plants, and sometimes even poison ivy. If you want to make yourself tea from any of these, we can’t stop you. We have also given up warning you about water quality, or that some of that water is 198°F. Please do not hog the outhouses.

Speaking of outhouses, another reminder: Do not invite the other members of your Dad Band to jam with you around the campfire. It might seem harmless to you – even “fun” – but there are children sleeping within 400 square miles. And spouses that are already having second second thoughts about what retirement with you home every day might look like.

If you see a 1,000-foot drop with no guardrail, please do not walk over it. Again.

There has been an uptick in tornado activity this season. If you decide to race a tornado, please “bear” in mind that it will require a road. Our research suggests that it is less terrifying to die from kicking a bison, in that a bison attack is quick, whereas a tornado death involves being flung a mile through the air to eventually land atop a MacDonald’s or in a 198°F hot spring.

Please do not kick the bears either.

You know what? Maybe stay home this summer.