Oh how I have laughed at the Yellowstone stories. Those bloody idiots and their ridiculous notions of Wyoming terrain, wildlife, culture…bison selfies? Really? How can anyone be so bloody stupid?

And yet, ahem, over spring break…

It’s always embarrassing to admit that you’ve lived somewhere for ages (13 years) but have never gone to a local point of interest like Hell’s Half Acre or got up close and personal with a unique geological occurrence like the hot springs in Thermopolis. So, over spring break we decided to go to Thermopolis and stop at Hell’s Half Acre on the way back. No big. Just covering our Eastern Wyoming ‘to do’ list is all. Yes, my little guy got comfortable in the back seat telling me every 60 seconds that it was “only 93 more minutes to Thermopolis!….only 92 more minutes to Thermopolis!” and I got comfortable with Jim Morrison up front who for some strange reason kept singer louder and louder with each 60 seconds that ticked by.  Before we knew it, we were almost there.

Slacked jawed, gob smacked, stunned, bewildered–call it what you will, but stumbling upon the awe inspiring spiritual awakening that is Wind River Canyon metamorphosed a well acclimated assimilator and citizen of the world, explorer of pyramids, climber of Mount Sinai and, ahem, resident of Wyoming, into a—crawling down the road with angry traffic behind me while I took photographs of rock formations looking for all intents and purposes as though I had recently been the recipient of a ‘things may not have gone quite according to plan’ lobotomy —bloody tourist.  The shame; its insurmountable. But it gets worse…

In Hot Springs Park I may have said far too enthusiastically “Oh my god take a picture of that!” one too many times and far too loudly proclaimed that everything was “awesome” and “amazing.” But when the damn sun decided to show up and make me irritable, I even had a distinctly foreign tourist moment and felt the urge to explain loudly to my son that ‘although this American mineral bath house was quaint I came from a real mineral waters town and our bathhouse was built by the Romans during the Roman Empire, but you know… this Old West one was nice too’ obnoxious Brit abroad moment (sorry, Jungian fallen Empire defense mechanism I believe).  Oh, I haven’t got to the worst bit yet. Because then I saw the sign that said ‘bison this way.’ 

In my defense, said bison were on the other side of the little hillock (hill is going too far, this is a confession after all) when we began slowly driving up the one way road toward the bison lookout spot. I was going to get a photograph of some ‘buffalos’ without a fence in the background finally. I figured we’d cruise past, take a snap, and move respectfully on. Cos you know, we live in Wyoming; we know how to do the bison picture thing. Safety first people, safety first.

I swear they came out of nowhere. In seconds we were surrounded. Okay ‘surrounded’ may be exaggerating. There was like five, maybe six bison that all decided to crest the hill at the same time.  But, there were bison in front of us and behind us. Damn it. So enamored by the prospect of a day out, the lure of pretty things to shoot and click, new stuff, interesting stuff, Wyoming stuff, and within moments, I was a full blown bloody idiot tourist.

There was nothing for it but to keep calm and carry on. So after winding down the window to take a picture of the one closest to us but off the road and getting a full blown ‘Smokey Bear must have been out for the day because someone else had safety well and truly covered’ lecture from my eight year old and putting the window up again, I began to edge the truck slowly forward.  There was a rather large gentleman spanning the width of the road right ahead, ashamed to admit less than 20 feet ahead (I know! I know!) but with the rest of his gang coming up behind there was little choice but to keep going. After a few seconds of intimidating staring the bison made his way across the road and came to a rest  about 10 feet away. We crawled past at a respectful “we cool, we cool, everybody cool” five miles per hour.  Lesson learned, I snapped out of tourist mode just in time to complain loudly about the price of tickets at the dinosaur museum and to exclaim how much cheaper a geode could be had at the dinosaur museum in Casper.

Bloody tourists are everywhere and this summer will be especially bad in Wyoming. But Wyoming is just so amazing, there’s always a chance of falling into tourist mode ourselves. It can happen to anyone; even someone who complains about slow drivers and bloody tourists practically on a daily basis. It’s a beautiful state out there people, watch your back.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of West Winds Magazine or its affiliates.

Trish Popovitch