Coping behavior

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 10:28:50 04/27/17

In Reply to: Welcome back to Montana! posted by MO Pat E

Hi Pat,

Thanks for the congrats!

You nailed it on the recipe for crowd avoidance. I have a long history of adjusting to increased crowding in recreation venues.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, I observed the slow gradual increase in population along the Colorado Front Range. At some point in the early/mid-1990s, that trickle became a torrent. My mind is a bit foggy on the fine details, but I remember that many of the in-migrants were fleeing California. It seems there had been an aggregation of both political and climate disasters that were driving people to search for somewhere else to live. I remember there had been a lot of big fires, which inevitably led to floods and landslides, because the vegetation that helped hold the hillsides in place had gone up in smoke. There had also been so big earthquakes. It was kind of a convergence. Also, other western cities, particularly Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tucson, had been growing like ragweed for a while, and got to the point where the explosive growth was taxing their civic infrastructure and even the road system's ability to handle the traffic.

As the wave of development engulfed the Colorado Front Range, the I-90 corridor, west of Denver, became choked with traffic during ski season rush hour, so the commute to ski areas became very painful. The trailheads in the mountains started filling progressively earlier in the day, and those that had rarely filled, started filling. We coped with these developments by altering our start times, and simply going earlier in the day. That worked for a while, but eventually got untenable. That's when we moved to Montana!

I actually developed and delivered a multi-media interpretive slide program about crowd avoidance in Yellowstone, while I was a volunteer at Rocky Mountain National Park. It was part of the offseason series where we did programs on other national parks. Part of the strategy is to simply get started on the trail before the hordes show up. If you go early and go farther, the effect is relative solitude. By the time you reach your destination, and turn around, those who started later and didn't go as far, are also turning around a few miles down the trail. It can provide the impression of a very uncrowded park.

Of course, Yellowstone is much more conducive to off-trail hiking than many other national parks, so we use that to our advantage also.

I am recalling a gorgeous sunny summer day, when it wasn't exceptionally hot, back in 1997, when we were hosting some friends from Colorado in Yellowstone. We were looking for a place to eat lunch on the north side of Dunraven Pass. We parked at one of the higher pullouts above Antelope Creek, and simply walked up the hillside above the road a short ways. We found a comfortable place to sit amongst the balsam root, lupine, and other flowers, and chatted while a stream of traffic and intermittent critter jams materialized down below us. The topography of the hillside hid the road from view, so we had lots of privacy, and the sound of the road was muted. Pretty nice.


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