Yellowstone was Nice, except for some Park Rangers

IMG_1608.JPG

My son and I at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, July 9, 2017

My son and I visited Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park in the past week.  We enjoyed seeing beautiful scenery, picturesque views, and wildlife in only a few days of visiting both of these parks.

IMG_1520.JPG

My son at Roosevelt Arch, Yellowstone National Park, July 8, 2017

Yellowstone is a huge park, with primary points of interest scattered around it.  That caused much driving and time on the road to see places such as Mammoth Hot Springs; Steamboat Geyser at the Norris Geyser Area; the Roosevelt Arch; Yellowstone Lake; Grand Prismatic Spring; Mud Volcanoes; and of course, Old Faithful.  We enjoyed seeing bison, elk, cranes, deer, and other wildlife.

IMG_1485.JPG

Bison at Yellowstone National Park, July 8, 2017 (zoomed in)

We drove to Yellowstone through Grand Teton National Park, and enjoyed amazing mountain views, beautiful lakes, and pretty wildflowers.  We saw a herd of bison some miles outside of Grand Teton National Park, between Jackson, Wyoming.  And, Teton Gap, driving down into Jackson was pretty amazing, too!  What a view, and such pleasant weather and temperatures we enjoyed!

IMG_1574.JPG

Elk at Yellowstone National Park, July 9, 2017 (zoomed in)

Besides all of the driving, and delays from road construction in Yellowstone, the most unpleasant thing we experienced, overall, were interactions with park rangers.  One of the first encounters with a Yellowstone park ranger was outside the Albright Visitor Center at Mammoth Hot Springs.  He was a self-appointed Elk Police Officer who was totally over the top in accosting, stalking, and harassing my son and I while observing and photographing elk near the visitor center.

IMG_1429.JPG

Grand Teton National Park, July 8, 2017

On July 9, my son and I were at least 50 feet away from several elk and their young that were laying on the ground, yet the park ranger accosted us from his position across the street, telling us to stay away from the elk! At 50 feet away, he yelled at us to stay away from the elk, and then, he stalked and continued to harass us about it as I called to him that we were going to our car.  He actually crossed the street, harassed us, and followed us to our car.  He only left us alone once we got in our car.  I told the guy to get lost, and he replied the same to me!  Wow, what was his problem!?  He was definitely extremely unprofessional, and a pathetic example of the park rangers employed at Yellowstone.

IMG_1470.JPG

Yellowstone River at Yellowstone National Park, July 8, 2017

That was the worst experience we had at Yellowstone, and one to cause me not to want to return.  We definitely don’t need to be treated in such a horrible manner!  There were also two other instances of park rangers at Yellowstone being less than professional.  One accosted us from afar, again, at Old Faithful.  We reached down to touch water on the boardwalk, and the guy told us we committed a “federal crime.” Really?  We were on the boardwalk, and he was trying to tell us we weren’t.  Was he blind?

IMG_1864.JPG

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, July 10, 2017 (zoomed in)

Chalk that up to another sexist male park ranger who has issues with women – or at least single women.  Neither of the those rangers treated men in the same manner.  On the boardwalk, a man reached down and touched water, and nothing was said to him.  And, at Albright with the elk, there were two other instances of men my son and I observed who were no more than 10 feet away from the elk, taking pictures, but the Elk Cop didn’t harass or stalk them, or make them feel threatened by chasing them into their cars.

img_1801-copy.jpg

Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, July 10, 2017 (zoomed in)

Yet another park ranger refused to allow me to use a restroom in a campground.  I had to drive to another location 12 miles away to use the restroom for goodness sakes!  There were at least as many negative as positive interactions we had with park rangers at Yellowstone.  We did have good experiences hearing rangers give talks at Steamboat Geyser and the Norris Educational Center.  Thank you, Rangers Diana and Laurie, for those educational and interesting ranger talks. Your professionalism helped make our visit a little more enjoyable. My son also earned a junior ranger patch by completing the associated book; thank you to Ranger Jim for making that a positive experience for him.

IMG_1647.JPG

A waterfall at Yellowstone National Park, July 9, 2017

That stated, my son and I enjoyed a fun time at Yellowstone, overall.  Visiting Jackson, Wyoming, and seeing the Teton Mountains was lovely, too.  It would have been nicer, however, to photograph a few elk without being unnecessarily and unprofessionally harassed by a park ranger, especially after traveling across the country and spending $1,000s to visit Yellowstone.  While Yellowstone is not my favorite park of all of the national parks I’ve visited, it was nice to see and good to have as protected land, even though some of the park rangers need to work on their people skills!

 

Advertisements

A Day to Recognize Atlanta-Area Catholic Scouts Earning Religious Awards (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

102_2404 - Copy (2)

My son with Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory at Atlanta Archdiocese Catholic Committee on Scouting Annual Religious Awards, St. Monica’s Church, Duluth, Georgia, February 27, 2016

What a beautiful day it was, today, for dozens of scouts around the Atlanta-area to be recognized and receive the religious awards that they earned in 2015.  The Archdiocese of Atlanta Catholic Committee on Scouting, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, and many others were in attendance today, celebrating the accomplishments of area Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Venturers, and American Heritage Girls for their accomplishments in broadening their understanding of their faith by having completed different types of scouting-related Catholic religious emblems programs.

A mass and celebratory reception were held at St. Monica’s Church in Duluth today to recognize the scouts, with Archbishop Gregory giving an inspiring homily about the Prodigal Son.  Gregory stated that all fathers should be like the one who forgave the Prodigal Son, welcoming back into the family after being lost and then found again.

102_2394 - Copy (2)

My son receiving his Ad Altare Dei medal from Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory and Deacon Tom Gotschall at Atlanta Archdiocese Catholic Committee on Scouting Annual Religious Awards, St. Monica’s Church, Duluth, Georgia, February 27, 2016

As co-coordinator of my son’s religious program for his troop, I am very proud to celebrate with him in earning the Ad Altare Dei religious award in scouting.  This is the third religious award he has earned, thus far, as a scout.  He has previously earned the Light of Christ medal and Parvuli Dei award.

My son invested 30 hours into the Ad Altare Dei scouting religious program.  Included in the program was religious instruction and study, religious community service, attendance at sacramental events such as weddings, participating in a retreat or religious day of reflection, attending masses and confessions, interviewing a priest or other religious, and receiving communion.

102_2396 - Copy (2)

My son with his Ad Altare Dei medal at Atlanta Archdiocese Catholic Committee on Scouting Annual Religious Awards, St. Monica’s Church, Duluth, Georgia, February 27, 2016

All of the scouts receiving Catholic religious awards, today, worked very hard and invested much time and effort into their accomplishments.  It was wonderful to be there in support of these wonderful endeavors that serve to strengthen faith and spirituality in our youth.

Skiing Fun at Sapphire Valley, North Carolina (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

102_2367 (2)

My son following his skiing lesson at Sapphire Valley, North Carolina, February 20, 2016

Last weekend, my son and a group of his peers had the opportunity to ski at Sapphire Valley, North Carolina.  This was my son’s second visit to Sapphire Valley.  Last year, he tried snowboarding there.

102_2359 - Copy (2)

My son, learning to ski, at Sapphire Valley, North Carolina, February 20, 2016.

 

This year, he opted for skiing, and found it to be much easier and more enjoyable.  Hopefully, he will get to go back and enjoy more skiing there in the future!

Gladiators v. Komets, January 2015 (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Gwinnett Gladiators v. Fort Wayne Komets, January 11, 2015, Duluth, Georgia

Gwinnett Gladiators v. Fort Wayne Komets, January 11, 2015, Duluth, Georgia

On January 11, 2015, my son and I took in a Gwinnett Gladiators hockey game at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.  The Gladiators played the Fort Wayne, Indiana Komets.  We watched a suspenseful game, including a goal being scored by the Gladiators seconds before the end of first period, the Gladiators getting down by the Komets by two or three goals in the second period, and the Komets ultimately walking away with the win by one goal in the end, 4-3.

We try to attend at least one hockey game per year, played by the Gwinnett Gladiators.  In two past years, my son has earned free tickets to attend two games accompanied by an adult, due to his excellent grades in school.  The dentists that care for the hockey players’ teeth have sponsored those tickets, and the games have always been enjoyable to attend.

Gwinnett Gladiators v. Fort Wayne Komets, January 11, 2015, Duluth, Georgia

Gwinnett Gladiators v. Fort Wayne Komets, January 11, 2015, Duluth, Georgia

Attending a Gwinnett Gladiators game is affordable, even without getting free tickets.  Though ticket prices have risen by a couple of dollars per ticket since last year, I do my best to make time to take my son to at least one game per year.  Having spent most of my life in Buffalo, the Buffalo Sabres are one of my all-time favorite sports teams.  Having lived in Georgia for the past 15 years, it is nice to be able to take my son to sports games of any type (especially hockey) in my local area that are fun to watch and affordable!

Frosty Oak Leaf (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Frosty Oak Leaf, Lake Lanier, Gainesville, Georgia, December 14, 2014

Frosty Oak Leaf, Lake Lanier, Gainesville, Georgia, December 14, 2014

My son and I enjoyed viewing this frosty oak leaf on the shore of Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Georgia while camping last weekend.  The tiny icicles that formed on the bottoms of the stones were pretty neat, too!  Overnighting in freezing temperatures and taking in the sun’s warm afternoon rays, it was nice to enjoy the wintry outdoors.  I hope you enjoy the photo, too!

Be a Halloween Buddy, not a Bully (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Halloween Jack-o-Lanterns (Retrieved from HauntedEve.com, October 31, 2014)

Halloween Jack-o-Lanterns (Retrieved from HauntedEve.com, October 31, 2014)

Things have changed alot for Halloween since I was a kid, and I think that’s for the better.  There are communities that have trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples, costume contests, and other fun events at their fire stations, churches, apartment buildings, or other locations.  I also think that these events have a tendency for increased safety, rather than kids going door-to-door in their area, or even in surrounding neighborhoods.  One never knows the type of person who will be standing on the other side of the door, and/or what state or mood he or she might be in.

It was different when I was a kid.  Kids always walked around the neighborhood, dressed in their Halloween costumes.  We went door-to-door in my neighborhood in Collins, New York, a small, rural town outside of Buffalo.  I always remember that one of my parents took my brother and I around the neighborhood, or a parent of our neighborhood friends did so.  By about age 12, we were really considered too old for neighborhood trick-or-treating, however there were always many teenage boys in the neighborhood who continued to go out into their late teen years.

I remember, growing up, that there were at least three consecutive years in which my family’s house was egged by the older teenage boys.  After this occurred for two years straight, my brother and I vowed that we would try to catch some of them in the act, as we anticipated that it would happen again.  And, we were correct.  What happened that third year that our house was egged was really shocking, incredible, and discouraging to me about these many teenage boys in our neighborhood, whom I henceforth considered to be bullies.

So, on that Halloween night when I was about 12 years old, we had just turned out the outside lights for the night.  Only a few minutes passed before we heard banging sounds.  Mom, my brother, and I were watching TV and looking over our candy from the Halloween haul.  We all sprang into action.  We all ran to the front door, and found that our house was being egged.  My brother, who is younger than me, was the first one out of the house, running into the front yard, yelling and trying to scare the older boys off.

Following my brother out of the house, I lit out like I was on fire, racing after one of the slower boys after they all took off running.  About 15-20 boys had lined the street, surrounding our house, which was situated on a street corner.  So, all of these boys had a larger distance between us, and a better chance of getting away without being caught.  I continued to chase after this one boy in my stocking feet, gaining on him.  His heavy candy bag weighed him down as we ran through the back yards of three neighbors in the pitch darkness.  Having played in those yards, I knew them well, running without benefit of any light, listening to the boy ahead of me without being able to see him well at all.

By the time we reached the third neighbor’s yard, I tackled the boy, and we fell to the ground.  He was shocked that I not only caught up to him, but took him down.  He was filled with so much fear and embarrassment that he left his candy bag behind – my prize.  I took it home as evidence that I caught him, and was very proud of myself.  The next day, my dad went to the home of that particular boy – because I knew who he was – and he talked to his dad about what had happened.

Never again after that was our house egged.  It really shed a different light on all of those bullyish boys in the neighborhood who picked on my brother and I so much because we were good kids who always tried to turn the other cheek.  Unfortunately, adhering to a “Christian” way of behaving in those regards often sends an inaccurate message to others that we weak rather than strong, as we actually were.

So, my message this evening is to be a friend, be a buddy.  Don’t be a bully.  Halloween can be a scary and upsetting time for many people, especially children.  People’s nerves and emotions tend to run highly on Halloween, and it is no time for hurtful pranks and games that can turn ugly very fast.  It is better to be safe than sorry, and be kind to others on this one day of the year that can become unpleasant rather than fun.  Be a buddy, not a bully on Halloween!

UB – the University at Buffalo – as a Sexist Institution (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

When I first entered the University at Buffalo as an undergraduate student in 1989, I felt included. For me, as a woman, it is important to me to feel and be a part of any group or institution that truly “includes” women, both appreciating and respecting women. The atmosphere that is present at UB today, in 2014, however, has changed. UB has become a sexist institution that promotes a perspective and images that make men the priority. Women’s concerns and interests have taken a backseat to those of men, sometimes being entirely excluded. What happened?

The University at Buffalo (UB) is one of the four university centers within the State University of New York (SUNY) system. Being born and raised in Western New York State, I was aware of UB as an institution that was prestigious, with a reputation for educational excellence. As a high school senior, I was accepted at all of the eight or ten colleges and universities to which I applied. UB was actually my second choice behind Ithaca College, though I chose to attend UB because of the lesser cost, closer proximity to home, and excellent reputation as a research institution. I had been interested in pursuing a medically-related career at that time, and I am an individual who gets much enjoyment from completing research, so UB seemed the perfect place for me to go after high school.

After arriving at UB, I quickly gained the feeling that it was a place in which I could soar, and I was correct. In my first year there, I became a member of several student organizations in which I was interested; studied a science-related curriculum to prepare for a medical career; worked part-time in my dormitory complex; was active in the university wind ensemble and chorus; and was a member of both the indoor and outdoor women’s track and field teams. I was not, nor have ever been a “partier;” and I never put on the “freshman 15.” In fact, I became more busy and active at UB, getting into better shape, and structuring my life and managing my time so that I would be as successful as possible. While doing this, I also met new people, made new friends, tried out different avenues of interests and enjoyment, and stayed as focused on my studies as possible.

As a member of the women’s track and field team at UB, I was one of the Royals. The men were the Bulls, and the women were the Royals. My specialty areas were in field events, including shot put, discus, and javelin. In my last two years of high school, I was recognized as one of the top competitors in shot put and discus throughout Western New York State. While I also competed in nearly every other event throughout the six years that I was a member of my varsity high school team, those two were my top events. As a Royal, I was a proud member of the women’s team at UB. Today, women’s sports teams are only known as Bulls, a masculine term that excludes, overlooks, and denies the “femaleness” of women. As such and in the manner that it is used at UB, the term ‘Bulls’ has become a sexist word that excludes women, and in turn, prioritizes only the gender, concerns, and interests of men.

Throughout most of my time spent at UB as an undergraduate, I was also a member of the university’s pep band. The Pep Band was a group that played songs during men’s home football and basketball games to liven up the crowd. The Pep Band also played at one away football game per semester. In my schooling prior to attending UB, I had been a member of the band and marching band for eight years. Included as a requirement for being a band member in high school was participating in both the marching band and pep band. Therefore, while UB did not have a marching band at that time, I was quite familiar with what was expected and required of musicians, whether they were extremely serious or playing just for fun. The Pep Band provided an outlet for students to play their instruments socially and recreationally.

Thunder of the East Logo (Retrieved on June 16, 2014 fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunder_of_the_East)

Thunder of the East Logo (Retrieved on June 16, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunder_of_the_East)

At UB today, there is the Thunder of the East Marching Band. The main logo that promotes the image of the group reflects a man playing a trumpet. Inequality and sexism are represented in the image because of this. There is no woman who is reflected in the logo. Women are completely excluded from being portrayed in the logo, though the marching band is not a group that is exclusively male. This reflects another situation in which men’s gender, interests, and concerns take priority over women, excluding women.

At UB, I never had a boyfriend. As a heterosexual woman, that was a part of my life that was lacking. At more than half way through my senior year, I was still a virgin, and was quite proud of it. I had prided myself in trying remain chaste for the “right” person. Certainly, I dated and always had many male friends, with many who were very good friends – respectful, caring, protective, and gentlemanly, more like good brothers. But, there was never one who could adjust to my busy and focused lifestyle; perhaps there was never a man who wanted to work as hard as it would be required to maintain an intimate relationship with me. My focus was on my studies and activities, ending up with completing two degrees in the less than 3.5 years, less than the amount of time that it takes most students to complete one degree. And, perhaps I was not willing to “make” the time necessary for which an intimate relationship would have required to be successful. Through all of this, it was still okay at UB for me to make my own decision in regard to the types and levels of intensity of my relationships with others.

In the latter part of 1992, in my last semester at UB as an undergraduate, a peer raped me. The rape occurred on a blind date with him that had been arranged by two mutual friends, one of whom was a fraternity member. This man was a fellow UB student, two years younger than me, from Downstate New York who was also a member of the same fraternity as our mutual friend. The morning following the violent and hurtful rape that I experienced, I informed my two friends about it, and one friend encouraged me to confront the rapist about it by phone, another hurtful experience for me. While four people knew of the rape, it was not reported until I reported it to UB campus police a few years later, having caused all those involved to protect the rapist so that he cleanly got away with his crime, as well as creating accomplices out of our mutual “friends.”

In later reporting the crime to public safety at UB, one of the police chiefs laughed about it, dismissing it and minimizing it. The case went through the legal system, but the perpetrator was never charged, nor prosecuted. He got away with a violent rape in which I was harmed and injured in many ways. No one at UB provided me with any support in coping with what had occurred. No one told me that women at college and university campuses may have a chance of being raped. No one told me that men who are members of many college and university fraternities believe rape is sex. No one told me that the assistant district attorney in Buffalo would deny that I was raped, telling me that I had not been raped. No one told me that my life would be forever altered by being trusting of a man who was twisted in his thoughts and actions, violently raping and harming me, and getting away with it. No one asks to be raped. And, when it happens, I have experienced that it is the victim or survivor who is blamed, revictimized, and punished by many in society who do not hold the offender responsible or accountable for his actions.

Ejaculating Snow Penis at UB in 2010 (Retrieved on May 28, 2014 from http://photographsbyseon.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/the-snow-phallus-is-back/)

Ejaculating Snow Penis at UB in 2010 (Retrieved on May 28, 2014 from http://photographsbyseon.wordpress.com/ 2010/02/27/the-snow-phallus-is-back/)

Colleges and universities in which there is a rape culture present within their fraternities are not only sexist and harmful, but criminal. When all those who are supposed to protect women from harm, and support them in their reporting and recovery, but do not do so, and instead, support the actions of the rapist, they embolden and enable such men to continue their criminal actions, believing they can get away with it, because they have gotten away with it. It has been my experience that this hidden rape culture within certain fraternities at UB has continued and has been perpetuated. The annual tradition of fraternity men creating snow sculptures of ejaculating penises is only one reflection that this hidden rape culture within UB’s fraternities still exists, and is very much alive and well.

Lastly, when I completed my studies at UB in 1992, and returned to attend the graduation ceremony in 1993, it was a Division III institution. There had been a lot of talk and news about the possibility of UB going to Division I. Many students did not think it would happen; in fact, many hoped that it would not happen, including myself. This is because there was a belief among students that football would detract from UB’s reputation as a renowned research university in the Northeastern United States. My experience, as well as that of many students and faculty, was to observe that to occur.

In 1994 and 1995, I returned to UB and took several classes as an open student. I completed undergraduate courses, a graduate course, and a post-graduate class. It was during that time that I realized that the atmosphere and mood at UB had changed. Football became the “all important” aspect of UB. An example of that occurred in my sociology class. In my class were three football players who had extremely disrespectful attitudes and toilet mouths. They were disrespectful to the instructor, resistant and angry about having to attend class (and often, did not do so), and sat in the back of the class, swearing and causing disruption. Unfortunately, because they were football players, they were “untouchable.” They got away with all of these behaviors, and appeared to have the support of the heads of the athletics department in their unruliness. They acted abominably and they got away with it. Professors were afraid to speak out and express themselves about the manner in which education was deteriorating at UB, having been replaced with football, so lauded and supported by the institution’s president.

Women who enter UB, as well as other colleges and universities, must be informed and educated about these types of issues that are present in institutions of higher education so that we can better empower, bond with, and protect ourselves. Our society so often teaches girls and women that we must sacrifice ourselves, our identities, our safety, our intelligence, our feelings, our bodies to men. In order to survive and even prosper, women have often learned that it is a man’s world, and that we must be submissive and/or subservient to men. There are men and women who perpetuate this societal standard when they promote issues such as sexism and inequality toward women, as well as issues including sexual assault and rape. Denying and turning a blind eye to resolving these issues only promotes a culture that becomes even more sexist, unequal, harmful, and violent toward women and girls.

Prestigious universities such as UB have an opportunity to get back on the right track. College and university leaders must remain open-minded when faced with issues such as sexism, inequality, and sexual assault on campus, including rapes experienced by both women and men. They must not attempt to hide, cover up, ridicule, deny, or minimize these situations. Doing so only worsens and perpetuates them. College and university leaders must promote environments on campus that are fair and equal, respectful and appreciative, caring and sensitive.

I went to UB to gain an excellent education. While I, indeed, obtained a great education from an outstanding institution, I also graduated from UB, unnecessarily, as a rape victim and survivor. 😦 No one did anything to prevent or stop it from happening then, and to my knowledge, the culture there has not changed for the better for women, thus still perpetuating its continuance now.  UB did not make it better for me, but it can still make things better for others.

Author’s Note: This post – along with dozens of others regarding campus sexual assault – is listed on the National Center for Domestic and Sexual Violence website as of January 1, 2015 at: http://www.ncdsv.org/publications_sa-campus.html .