Heard around the West: ‘This is not the first time we’ve encountered a man in a bear suit’
Don’t get the big head, Big Ditch: Some recent visitors have complained on Yelp and TripAdvisor that the Grand Canyon is really not all that grand. The Arizona Star compiled some of the more jaundiced online reviews, including this one from Jorbi P. of Somerville, Massachusetts, who jeered, “Whoopity do, Grand Canyon. You were caused by erosion. You don’t have the coasters or dippin’ dots. Jeesh, can you say over-rated?” Barry G. of Seattle said the same in fewer words: “Ehh. I’ve seen better.” Paul B., location unknown, complained that he’d been “dragged here by the missus when I should have been playing golf. It’s just a hole in the ground.” A woman from Atlanta, Georgia, who goes by Iamtravelinpam, had a different beef, based on her desire never to leave her car: “They’ve built so many buildings that they’ve stolen all the beautiful views from the road.” Shane H. of Oakland, California, noting the discernment of “yelpers,” lowered his rating of the canyon from one and a half to just one star after judging it “more like Mediocre Canyon.” But Boston resident Frenchie takes the cake for being blasé: “(Grand Canyon) is about as disappointing as my trip to the Taj Mahal and Great Wall of China.” John Wesley Powell, who led the first recorded trip down the Colorado River in 1869, had a slightly different view, though some people today would likely knock him for seeming to gush: “The elements that unite to make the Grand Canyon the most sublime spectacle in nature are multifarious and exceedingly diverse. You cannot see the Grand Canyon in one view, as if it were a changeless spectacle from which a curtain might be lifted, but to see it, you have to toil from month to month through its labyrinths.”
Yet again, the natural world came up short, much to the disappointment of tourists to Yellowstone National Park, reports the Missoulian. Commenting on a visitor survey provided by Xanterra Parks and Resorts, one person wrote, “Our visit was wonderful but we never saw any bears. Please train your bears to be where guests can see them. This was an expensive trip to not get to see bears.”
If only those disappointed Yellowstone tourists had traveled to Haines, Alaska, on the Chilkoot River, they might have seen “a man who donned a fairly realistic bear costume,” reports The Associated Press. It was not clear what the ursine imitator hoped to accomplish by running around and jumping up and down, though he did get within three feet or so of a sow and bear cubs that were gorging on salmon. Before anyone could detain him, the man drove off, still wearing his big bear head. Unexplained as well was the comment by Alaska Trooper Megan Peters: “This is not the first time we’ve encountered a man in a bear suit.”
The numbers are staggering: Five major wildfires covering 438 square miles, known as the Okanogan Complex, were burning near the town of Omak, Washington, as August ended, and more than 1,000 firefighters were on fire lines, with crews coming to help from as far as Australia and New Zealand. And “only 100 miles is under control,” reports the U.S. edition of the U.K. Guardian newspaper. Yet an unlikely concrete dome just outside of Omak, which was turned into living quarters 15 years ago, lived up to its reputation as fireproof, surviving a fire surge with flames more than 12 feet high. Homeowner John Belles said he hosed everything down that he could, including himself. Once the flames got to within 50 yards, however, “there was nothing I could do.” So he shut himself in the dome and waited. It got incredibly hot in there, he said, and the fire destroyed the electrical junction box, but the dome — and its owner — survived unscathed. Meanwhile, thousands of people have been forced out of their homes, and the smoke is so thick that drivers have to use their headlights during the day. Matt Reidy, a former Forest Service ranger now working as a fire incident commander, recounted how he found a young couple still in their house on Salmon Creek Road. They had no clue that flames were advancing toward them, hidden by a ridge. When Reidy told them to run, “they picked up their belongings, just what they could hold, threw it in their car and they left. … Within minutes, the house was engulfed.” Reidy said he was amazed at the intensity and height of the home-devouring flames, which were whipped up by winds of over 35 miles per hour. As for his own family in Omak, Reidy said that this summer’s fires had forced them to evacuate three times.
Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, the column service of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared, email@example.com.
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