Over Tourism in Wild Places

adventure of the week, Caribbean, colorado, europe, Florida, United Kingdom, United States, wyoming

While we had started the day as one of maybe three or four boats in the canal system doing tours, numbers quickly increased about an hour and a half into the tour. Not only did the additional boats make the canal more crowded, but larger groups of snorkelers, with what seemed like less instruction, swarmed the area. To add insult to injury, a large group of kayakers also flooded the scene trying to catch a glimpse of the now frightened young manatee.

We were snorkeling with manatees in Crystal River, Florida in what had been established as a nature preserve among the outskirts of the city. We had showed up at 6:30 a.m. so we could truly enjoy the animals at a calm and less-crowded time. We were lucky until 9:00 a.m. when the crowds arrived.

My group was instructed to return to our boat at this time, trying to allow others to see the animal, which we had been lucky enough to encounter, but back on the ship we saw the problems with popularity.

Much like the rest of tourism sites the world over, manatees and other wildlife encounters are having a moment in the limelight, that also means that areas get overused. While our selected tour company has been working for decades to create a more sustainable experience, even pairing with the University of Florida to restore sea grass in the canals due to climate change, they can’t control the populations of tourists that come into the area. While most companies will limit sizes of groups, a lot do not, and that means more money for the company, but not the best situation for the animals or natural areas.

While manatees and their habitats are cared for and many of the springs have been closed in the past, there often isn’t a way to monitor or control the use in an area in times that are open to the public. Even the boat captain informed us that when other canals close to public use more people descend on Crystal River and other areas for things like kayaking, snorkeling, and paddle boarding. This makes already operating tours more crowded, and the animals are more consistently with people.

Florida is not alone in their wild tourism boom. Many National Parks in the United States, State Parks, reserves, and other areas of the world are feeling overwhelmed with tourism. The animals that rely on natural areas are no doubt losing habitat and safe areas to exist. We lose wetlands and hidden areas for animals to escape into. While traveling opens our eyes to so much, are we also killing that which we love?

As humans we have developed around 75-80% of the land in the world, with a large portion of that happening in the last century. Blame overpopulation of humans, and development, and consumerism. All of those things have tipped the scales. In the last 50 years or so travel has began to greatly impact the story as well.

My grandparents would lament trips to Yellowstone in the 1970s and how crowded it was. Today they would be shocked that the 2.5 million visitors they were part of then have swelled to over 4.1 million annually since 2015. On one hand it’s great that more and more people are in love with the wild open and stunning landscapes that lucky people have known and loved since childhood, on the other hand, the droves have a negative impact on the landscape. Sometimes it is misinformed tourists “rescuing” a baby bison, other times it is litter that kills animals who eat it, sometimes the amount of people alone are the problem.

As in so much of what I write, and my actions, I attempt to be mindful of what my actions and words do to those places and people around me. In caring for the natural world I love, I think it’s important to acknowledge my own negative impact in the environment. I love visiting wild places and animals in a way to better appreciate and love the world I live in, but my existence changes the landscape. However, I know there are ways to help.

  • Go in the off or shoulder seasons – I despise heavy crowds at Disney, the beach, and anywhere else. Living next to Rocky Mountain National Park, I avoid the park from May to October because of the swarms of tourists that are in the area. I follow this practice elsewhere, and I make a heavy effort only to visit places when numbers are lower. This decreases the day to day pressure of areas, city or wild, to make it better for every living thing.
  • Research companies and their values – For any animal or wild tour I do a lot of research before selecting a company. This is rooted in concern for animal welfare and concern for the environment. For example, when we went dog sledding, I selected a company that adopts dogs for their tourism work, and then finds home for the dogs when they retire. All the dogs we met were well fed, happy, and totally goofy. However amazing the experience was, their welfare was absolutely vital for our selection. I have also learned bag things about companies and will not visit them again after a visit, such as the Cayman Turtle Farm. Mistakes will happen, learn from them, vow to do better.
  • Talk to experts, read work from experts – Signs in National Parks are there for YOUR safety as much as for the animals. Listen to rangers and experts when they tell you not to leave toothpaste in your tent, or to stay on the trails. There is method to the madness and it keeps things nice for everyone else.
  • Vow to Fight Animal Cruelty – do your research on this, and ask a lot of questions. While it may seem like dolphins are happy with swimming excursions in a pool, the truth is that the industry is soaked in blood (I don’t say that jokingly). Elephants are a prime example, and there is a lot of debate on what are acceptable versus cruel interactions. You won’t be perfect at this, just ask questions, do research, try to understand the complexities.

Happy Travels!

North Country

musings, Travel, United States, wyoming

The drive to my parents’ home is far from a thrilling one. Three and a half hours one sits in one direction. About 230 miles. Northward we go. The car sits in cruise control at 80 mph and we listen to audio books or favorite road trip songs and we go. We travel along swaths of interstate where you can see no one for miles. We pass ancient stone features and the occasional exits that resemble towns. It’s desolate.

Compared to Colorado it’s vast nothingness. It’s open rolling hills dotted by specks if cows, sometimes domesticated American Bison, sometimes horses. This time of year it’s all the color of straw. Last years’ grass turning into remnants before bursting with new life. It’s not much.

Cheyenne Frontier Days – Adventure of the Week

adventure of the week, History, musings, Travel, United States, wyoming

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A few weeks ago I got invited to join in on a work event to the Cheyenne Frontier Days. While I had my hesitations, as playing Wild West is not really my forte, it ended up being a great day out of the office.IMG_4723.JPG

The Cheyenne Frontier Days are one of the longest running annual events in the west, and it has been putting together its annual shindig since 1897 when it started as a meet up and spin off of the Wild West shows. Think Buffalo Bill Cody.

Today, much of the same traditions hold. There is a rodeo which showcases the insane talent of bull and bronc riders, barrel racers, and roping professionals. All of these are sports that bring me too much anxiety to watch often. Also all sports I have watched more often than I would like to admit having grown up in the middle of nowhere, Colorado Mountain Town. Think South Park.

Beyond rodeo antics the area is home to a wide variety of artisan goods such as jewelry, leather working, trinkets, and odds and ends. Further afield a massive carnival blows full steam with endless treats of deep-fried havens, and dizzying rides. There also seemed to be a lot of trash bins to handle this combination.

Late night brings in country and rock music, such as Nickelback and……other people I have no idea about.

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I spent my day wandering with two work friends talking about the art we saw and trying on hats, overall just having an enjoyable and laugh-filled day.

However, beyond all of the typical Western American novelties and goods there was a unique and special feature to the Frontier Days, an Indian Village.

This Native American haven provided probably the most authentic presentation of the peoples of this area circa 1890s. The artists selling pottery and jewelry presented their history through dance, music, and living in tee-pees (common for plains native peoples) for the duration of their time at the Frontier Days.

There I found friendly and warm pottery makers, and jewelry designers, all with laughing kids in tow, or older kids learning a traditional craft. There is where I sat and enjoyed some great traditional dance and story telling from beautiful matriarchs grinning in pride at their children and grandchildren. It made every moment of the day worthwhile.

I truly enjoyed my shenanigans at the Frontier Days, and maybe the day-drinking buzz and a party bus helped with the journey. But overall the people I spent the day with made it a memorable and delightful experience.

Next year it starts all over again, come and check out the west!

Happy Travels!

Adventure of the Week – Casper, Wyoming

Travel, wyoming

Casper, Wyoming is an intriguing Wyoming town. Wyoming as a whole can seem like a lot of nothing for endless miles, yet Casper offers a mid-state stopping point for road trippers and locals. As one of the biggest in the state, and the city boasts some impressive features for visitors.

#northern bound #Wyoming #casper #roadtrip

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Arepa Barn – Gluten Free Heaven

Allergen-free eating on the road, food, musings, Travel, wyoming

note: this restaurant closed in 2018

ArepaBarn

It is rare in this part of the world to find a restaurant that is catered to a specific type of regional food. Though it is increasing and improving with Thai, Ethiopian, Moroccan, Mexican, Chinese, Korean etc. becoming more and more common in Colorado. However, an hour North, into the Wyoming landscape, there is less and less diversity and more and more meat and potatoes.

This diet has served the people of Wyoming well for the last 150 years or so. It meant survival and energy to get through tough summers and tougher winters. Yet, as time marches on, more needs and tastes are requested and the landscape becomes that of new needs and peoples.

My parent’s recently stumbled upon a certain gem of Casper, Wyoming. The Arepa Barn in Casper, Wyoming is a beautiful story of an immigrant family from Venezuela sharing their passion for food in a local eatery. On top of the restaurant being a fantastic reflection of Venezuelan eats the entire place is Gluten Free!

 

Having an entirely Venezuelan restaurant us a great treat in most of the United States, having one that is completely Gluten Free, or any restaurant that is totally Gluten Free, is a divine treat.

I visited this temple to Gluten Free eats last weekend when I was visiting my mom and sidling sibling and I absolutely fell in love. So much so that I had asked my mom to bring me some arepas when she visits on Monday.

All around the dining experience, it ended up being one of the best of my life. I will let my Facebook review do the explanation:

Where does one begin? This was all around one of my favorite dining experiences EVER!
1) The owners were very attentive to our food allergy needs. I have only ever seen that level of care at FINE dining locations in Italy and Mexico!

2) The owners are super sweet and friendly, I felt like I was in someone’s home!

3) The food! OMG the food was so good. Every last morsel was devoured at our table. Arepas are their own treat, but the fried plantains, soup, and rice and beans took everything beyond. I can’t speak highly enough of how good everything was. It was 100% fresh and made to order, making it even better than I good have dreamed of.

4) ALL of their food is Gluten Free! And you would have no idea because it doesn’t taste gluten free! As someone with celiac, this was such a treat, and a rare occasion where I could order anything off the menu.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved it and if you head to Casper, Wyoming stop by and have one of the best meals of your lives! They not only cater to celiacs, but they offer vegan, vegetarian, and plenty of meat options for anyone’s preferences.

Location: 1040 N Center St, Casper, WY 82601

Website: click here

Facebook: click here

Happy Eats!

24 Hours in Casper.

Photography, Travel, United States, wyoming

Being in Colorado we have tons to do in the state, but some of us have family elsewhere, or friends we want to visit. I don’t get why they don’t move to Colorado, but I do need to reciprocate in visits. So I packed up my bags and borrowed my boyfriend’s daughter and a friend and we headed North.

My parent’s, my Great Aunt and my cousin and his family all live in Casper, Wyoming. Only abut 3.5 hours from Fort Collins, it’s not an unbearable drive, and if the weather is decent with minimal wind, it’s not frightening. Which driving through Wyoming can be.

So if you want a quick getaway, ours was just about 30 hours, then Casper is a great idea! We got up at 4:30, were on the road in an hour and there before 9am in order to get the most of our time. We stayed the night, and headed south again the next day at 9am to return home about 12:30pm. With minimal traffic (this you can almost always count on) it was a quick and comfortable drive.

Check out the WYOCITY campaign for Casper, which tells you about the whole big load of things you can do!

For entertainment we went to the college and the free Geological/Paleontology museum called the Tate. Where you can admire a massive Mammoth at the entrance, touch real fossils and rocks, talk to experts and brush up on your natural history for the price of FREE!

This statue was also pretty bad ass!

For food Casper has a lot of options for visitors, we tried a thai food place for lunch. With their large lunch sizes the kid and I shared a Pad Thai and enjoyed the beautiful and fancy atmosphere for a pretty good mid-range price. This would make a nice date place.

Then we spent the afternoon with family. I got to snuggle the baby cousin Ivy. Who wanted to play with my phone more than take a picture.

Finally we ended the day at a historic restaurant and bar called the Wonder Bar, where they have a small brewery and 1/2 priced burgers in the middle of the week. I got the salad bar for a cheap $6, all I could eat, full of fresh options. And everyone else enjoyed their massive variety of burgers for about $5 a pop. No wonder the place was packed, and with locals. A great deal and end to celebrating my Great Aunt’s birthday!

The next morning we went to Sherrie’s Place for a light breakfast before leaving town. Another place that was packed with locals, and full of great deals. My friend and I split a $6 breakfast and were totally full, along with drinking endless coffee! The kid’s pancake was also huge and came with milk and bacon, making the munchkin happy. A good, greasy little gathering place with friendly staff and good food. Well worth a visit.

If you are looking for more to do in Casper have no fear. There is plenty of outdoors sports and museums that discuss the wild west and early settlers. Such as the Historic Trails Museum and Fort Caspar. Check out more that Casper College offers and more!

Happy Trails!

Best,

Rebecca Lee Robinson