I heard a rustle in the bushes and immediately tensed up; what if it was coming after me and would attack without reason? I imagined big fangs and sped up my strides. Suddenly I heard a noise above me, I stopped; looked up and wondered if I should run for cover.
Everywhere I looked there was another sign reminding me I was in peril, my life was on the line, and it was no one’s fault but my own. Welcome to the terrifying National Parks of America.
I picked up my pace again trying to keep one eye watching my back and one acutely aware of what danger lie above me. However, I had to slow down as I got to the edge else I may catapult to my death. Instead, I inched up to it, and carefully peered over the edge worried that my improper shoes or a sudden movement may send me to my doom.
I can eat a rat, pet a live tiger, sleep with mice, drive a motorbike in Saigon, but my recent trip to the National Parks in Arizona and Utah had me terrified of every step I made. There were a lot of dangers in National Parks that I had no idea existed!
Proceed At Your Own Risk in our National Parks
I felt like the atmosphere of the parks was super negative everywhere I turned; don’t do this, avoid that, no this, can’t that, watch out, danger, warning!!!!!
I had to keep reminding myself that I was actually in Mother Nature’s wonderland.
I understand, the national parks are trying to keep people safe – and that’s great. However, I couldn’t help but think about my time spent in other developed and under developed countries and comparing the cultures of safety. The differences really stood out to me on this trip through the National Parks.
America’s Safety Culture – a Country of Warnings
After spending the summer in Europe, I had forgotten about our ‘safety’ culture that exists in America. It seems that you can’t make any steps in the US without being warned about how ‘insert name here’ is not responsible for your actions.
Is America More Dangerous than Other Countries?
No, of course not. All of these warnings we see in America are due to our litigious culture.
According to “Why We Sue”, America has developed a litigation culture rather than an enforcement culture. In Europe the tradeoff generally goes the other way: they have more rules and tighter enforcement of those rules, which means that private litigation is less necessary.
The National Parks have a very real fear of litigation and the possibility of someone suing them for negligence. Therefore the parks have to put in place all of these signs even if I think so many of them are common sense.
It’s likely I wouldn’t have even noticed them if I hadn’t been traveling abroad so much. But when you leave the US for a while and come back, you notice things you didn’t before.
Warnings about falling seemed to follow me wherever I went. Whether it be about boulders falling from above or me falling down into the Grand Canyon. I wasn’t sure which way to look any more – up, down…it was all doom and gloom…and possibly death!
Then there were the animals. Lord only knows what furry or slimy perils awaited you in the parks. Snakes, lizards, and squirrels…yes squirrels. Whatever you do, watch your step and DON’T feed the animals! The photo of the disgusting squirrel bite warning on the back of one of the park shuttles was the icing on the terror cake for me!
And All the Other Dangers
Then there was the simple constant reminder about everything else that could go wrong – kids throwing rocks, items stolen from your car, wearing the wrong shoes, and you may even be struck by lightening!
Visiting the National Parks is Worth it!
Luckily despite all of the ominous warnings at every turn, it didn’t take much to make those terrifying warnings disappear from my head – I just had to look at this.
PIN IT FOR LATER!