Subpar Parks: Illustrating One-Star Yelp Reviews of U.S. National Parks
March 4, 2020 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Amber Share was going to draw all 62 US National Parks, but wanted a unique twist. When she found one star Yelp reviews (Mother Jones; previously), she had a plan: Subpar Parks (Instagram, and more info on Bored Panda). There's also another 20 one-star Yelp reviews highlighted by Backpackers.com, paired with photos of the parks. Enjoy "an amazingly deep and creepy lake" or (re)consider visiting "a hole. A very, very large hole." But be warned, "they raised the prices." Also, "there are bugs and they will bite you on your face." It's probably best to just stay inside. "Do yourself a favor and just google 'pretty sunrise' and save yourself the disappointment."
posted by filthy light thief (48 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
 
This rings totally true as a parent of teen-agers.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:22 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


This is amazing. The illustrations are just perfect.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:26 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


there are bugs and they will bite you on your face

this one time I was in Big Bend in early summer and we were hiking up Emory Peak and once we got up a ways the trees had ladybugs. Not like just a few ladybugs or a normal aggregation of ladybugs but the trees were crawling with ladybugs and anyway the point is

a ladybug bit me

Still a good park tho. Would jump like a birdie down the big dune against the cave in Boquillas Canyon again.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:34 PM on March 4 [7 favorites]


So many people just don't get the concept of National Parks.

That being said, I too find Grand Canyon boring as shit, because I don't have the time to hike down and/or float it.

But some of these yelp reviews are making me angry...
posted by Windopaene at 1:34 PM on March 4 [4 favorites]


Aw, these make me want to hug a park ranger.

Specifically, the ranger at Grant Grove in Kings Canyon I saw last fall on a camping trip. He was explaining to someone that the road down into Cedar Grove and Roads End is 30-some miles long and quite winding and there is no gas available on the way, so be sure to have a full tank before you leave. This person sighed loudly and said "is it worth it?" The ranger - slightly taken aback - straightened up, looked off into the distance, and said "Ma'am, this is a National Park."
posted by niicholas at 1:36 PM on March 4 [66 favorites]


Yes the parks are terrible. Best to just stay away from them all. All those bugs. No wifi either!
posted by jquinby at 1:40 PM on March 4 [36 favorites]


Aw, these make me want to hug a park ranger.

They are a special type -- somehow, finding an endless source of patience and calm, if not enthusiasm, in the face of relentless crowds tromping through (or over) nature, many of whom don't really seem to understand all the fuss of these amazing places.


No wifi either!

Oh, so you've been to Isle Royal National Park? Or was it Badlands National Park? ;)
posted by filthy light thief at 1:44 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


There's a snake in my boot!
posted by zzazazz at 1:44 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


What are people expecting, carnival rides?
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:44 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


I too find Grand Canyon boring as shit, because I don't have the time to hike down and/or float it

If you find yourself back in that part of the world, walking from the main visitors' center out to Hermit's Rest is a good time. Lots of time with nobody within a few hundred feet of you. The view slowly changes. You can have an ice cream when you get to Hermit's Rest. Pretty sure it's less than 10 miles.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:47 PM on March 4 [6 favorites]


I've seen some of these before, but I laughed out loud at "They raised the prices!"

Ten years ago, I was fortunate enough to do a 5-day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. The walk down is tiring, as it's harder to walk downhill for 10 hours than it would seem! Hard on the knees. But: oh man was it worth it. You think you see the canyon from the rim? You think you see the bottom after walking down for five hours? Surely, we must reach the river soon, right?

Ten hours walking down. Seeing the Colorado River at that point was maybe the most overjoyed I have ever been in my life. The walk down starts frosty-cold, but by the time you reach the bottom (again: 10-hour hike basically down the rough equivalent of stairs), it's over 100 degrees. Everything. Is. Jaw. Dropping. For five days, it's jaw dropping. The feeling of being minuscule surrounded by that immensity cannot be overstated and I am covered with goose bumps typing this. We slept out in the open on soft sand beaches. There were tents, but the night air was probably 75 and bone dry and still—so no need. Zero insects. Air temp during the day is over 100, water temp is below 60. So you pee in the water and wash up in the water and escape the searing, pounding heat in the shadows of the canyon and in the icy water. Everything that goes into the canyon (except pee) comes out of the canyon, so you defecate in an old ammo-box with a toilet seat, then shake some quicklime on your mess and let others have a turn.

These rafts held an enormous amount of supplies and like 30 people each. This wasn't like the movie Deliverance. Still, the rapids can and sometimes do flip the things. Biggest problem I had was after five days of sitting on a raft in the searing heat (lots of shade, though from the canyon walls)... then getting BLASTED by what feels like ice water when you hit a rapid... let's just say it gets OLD.

Last day we were there, a thunderstorm hit. It didn't reach the base of the canyon (that's how mind-bogglingly big it all is) but the thunder echoing in the canyon made me see how angry Creator Gods might be blamed. And seeing the collected rainwater flash-flood from up high and shoot like a titanic firehose out hundreds of feet overhead was a real clear memory.

Our guides ported the bulk of the supplies and cooked our meals and I never felt more like a wet-tissue paper soft human being when near those guys. They were really nice though! And good cooks! Summer is tourist season, and they spend the winters ferrying scientists and geologists and the like into and out of the canyon. I cannot imagine how difficult a trip (several a year) like that is in 40 degree rain. I shudder to think. These dudes are tough— seriously tough. They do almost all of this work barefoot, too as sandals get in the way they told me.

Bighorn Sheep have no fear of humans down there. The squirrels on the trail down know humans and see us as the worlds Biggest Suckers. These squirrels are the size of small cats and have zero fear. They will unzip packs, and climb on you if you are eating food they KNOW you have. We came upon a waterfall that must've been 20 stories high. It's hard to get a sense of How Big things are, because everything is just gargantuan red rock. But the pounding water at the base of the fall was insane. You could NOT get closer than 30' to it, the blowback just pushed you back and knocked you down. We did a day trip like this each day to an area with fresh water-- gotta keep the tourists cool and hydrated is the #1 job of the guides.

Sounds intense? It was, but the youngest traveler there was a 9 year old girl, and the oldest fellow was in his 70s. So it's doable if you're in reasonable shape/health.

OK, I've taken up enough of the thread. Thanks for the post.
posted by SoberHighland at 1:49 PM on March 4 [134 favorites]


Re: wifi - at Grant Grove there were several of us milling around the ranger station - only wifi for miles - trying to send texts etc. and at one point a different ranger said "you all are welcome to use the wi-fi bench, right outside the window here, if you want, since food and drinks are not allowed in the building" - this last part was punctuated by her glancing pointedly at my coffee cup.
posted by niicholas at 1:50 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Just want to add: the guides and Park Service do a tremendous job. I am not kidding: for 5 days through that place, we did not see a SINGLE piece of trash. It is kept spotless and I hope that continues.
posted by SoberHighland at 1:54 PM on March 4 [9 favorites]


Jellystone: No cute bears in skirts and hats with pick-a-nik baskets. Disappointing.
posted by theora55 at 1:58 PM on March 4 [17 favorites]


I clicked the link ready to get all GRAR-y if there was anything bad about the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. But the entry for it is, "Very, very, very, very muddy. A lot of mud." Having gone for a hike today at lunch, that is very, very, very, very true.
posted by slogger at 2:03 PM on March 4 [8 favorites]


These are amazing. They're so pitch perfect.
posted by GuyZero at 2:06 PM on March 4


Late note: Subpar Parks comes via Mltshp.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:12 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I'm not a grand canyon fan. Stupid upside down medium mountain. Yawn. But I knew that going in, I think part of the blame lays at the feet of everyone that touts National Parks as the end all and be all. Yeah, for some, assuming you like mountains and lakes and trees. Personally I could not give a fuck about them, ergo I'm going to be underwhelmed. I find urban canyons far more fascinating than natural ones. That's fine, we all like different things.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:19 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


a ladybug bit me

Are you an aphid?
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:26 PM on March 4 [23 favorites]


Some of them are ridiculous, others are sort of a fair cop, albeit extremely uncharitable.

I've been through many spectacular parks and can't think of any I regret visiting but "Just something to look at, then leave," does a pretty good job of summing up Crater Lake N. P. in my opinion. But the looking is very nice.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:37 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Many years ago (mid 2000s?), I went to Fort Washington in Maryland. A nice park area with a historic fort. We went inside to the visitor's center, and watched a video that included both historical information and contemporary recreational activities that you can do in the park. Just as I'm thinking hey, this is a cute little visitor's center and it doesn't seem as run down as some of the others I've been to, I notice that a guy in the video is playing tennis with a wooden tennis racket, ah well.
posted by Melismata at 2:46 PM on March 4


I admit, "Something to look at and leave" was how I did Crater Lake. I just swung by on a trip up to Oregon, plus it was the last weekend of the year so pretty much everything was shut down.
But it is very pretty to look at!
posted by tavella at 2:50 PM on March 4


I notice that a guy in the video is playing tennis with a wooden tennis racket, ah well.

I think I would have noticed the awkwardly short pant legs myself.

Yeah, historical perspectives change and need to be updated from time to time (though this is fraught!). But some things just need to be maintained as they are and that's OK?

I also kinda like to find cultural fossils (when they aren't too problematic).
posted by sjswitzer at 2:52 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


Anyone who hasn't been to Carlsbad Caverns should put it on their bucket list. That's all I've got.
posted by Beholder at 2:53 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


I admit, "Something to look at and leave" was how I did Crater Lake.

A friend planned a trip there for just that and it happened to coincide with a bike race along the rim road, so "look and leave" denied!

But it's the journey, not the destination, right?
posted by sjswitzer at 2:55 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Places that are located at the end of long "scary" mountain roads tend to be the best options available for real solace in California. My personal recommendation is the Mineral King Valley in Sequoia/Kings Canyon. It's possible you might have an awkward moment with another driver on the road out but once you're there the biggest crowds are likely to be marmots.

This is a more complicated issue than it seems at first. I have a picture I took of the General Sherman tree that shows the scale of the tree. There isn't anything in your daily life to analogize it to. It's a skyscraper that's alive. It's hard to recommend people skip sights like that, but I would encourage you to look closely at the base of the tree and then think about visiting at an off-peak time. Other than entry lotteries, which seem like a non-starter, it's hard to see how you can equitably address this problem.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:11 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


I too find Grand Canyon boring as shit, because I don't have the time to hike down and/or float it

A motorcycle jump only takes a few seconds, and you'll remember it for the rest of your life.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:42 PM on March 4 [26 favorites]


I've been really enjoying @subparparks, alongside the thematically-similar-but-aesthetically-distinct one-star review comics sprinkled throughout @mikelowerystudio's feed. (Personal favorite there: “CENTRAL PARK - Not great. A squirrel stole my hot dog and school children laughed at me.”)
posted by D.Billy at 4:28 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


Trees block view and there are too many gray rocks

LOL forever.
posted by joannemerriam at 4:52 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


When I was small, in the '50s, we went to Petrified Forest. There were a lot of petrified trees lying around, and it was impressive. Many years later, I went there again, and it was like the 1-star review. I believe that humans taking souvenirs chipped away all the trees. That's how many spectacular places get turned into mundane ones.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:03 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


I think part of the blame lays at the feet of everyone that touts National Parks as the end all and be all. Yeah, for some, assuming you like mountains and lakes and trees. Personally I could not give a fuck about them, ergo I'm going to be underwhelmed. I find urban canyons far more fascinating than natural ones. That's fine, we all like different things.

I'm....not sure that the people who "tout National Parks as the be-all and end-all" are entirely to blame, though. The National Park advocates aren't misleading people about what is actually there to see. These reviews sound like people are expecting something like Six Flags or Coney Island.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:39 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Places that are located at the end of long "scary" mountain roads tend to be the best options available for real solace in California.

If you can survive without paved paths and flush toilets, national forests are far more chill than national parks. Very, very few people, and much more relaxed rules because of it. As in "feel free to bring a chainsaw because you're allowed to collect 1/4 cord of dead and down firewood per day." With so few people around, there much less need to micromanage everyone's impact.

I spent all day last Thursday on dirt roads in Los Padres National Forest and only saw 5 other vehicles.
posted by ryanrs at 5:44 PM on March 4 [6 favorites]


I've seen (and camped under!) the coastal redwoods, which are the Giant Tall Fuckers; visiting Sequoia/Kings Canyon to see the Giant Fat Fuckers is also on my bucket list.

And anyone who looks at majestic Yosemite and thinks "too many gray rocks" is clearly an ignorant lummox.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:46 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


When I was small, in the '50s, we went to Petrified Forest. There were a lot of petrified trees lying around, and it was impressive. Many years later, I went there again, and it was like the 1-star review. I believe that humans taking souvenirs chipped away all the trees. That's how many spectacular places get turned into mundane ones.

I love every national park I've been to except for Petrified Forest, which is mostly boring AF (I did like the petroglyphs, to be fair) - now I am sad to think that I maybe just saw it too late!

Also, I am very pro-Denali, but the snarky comment in the Backpackers link about how maybe the Denali visitor should have rented a car if they hate the bus so much tells me that the writer has never been to Denali - the vast majority of the road is bus-only, no cars allowed.
posted by naoko at 7:20 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Trees block view and there are too many gray rocks

That's Skyrim, not Yosemite.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:54 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


The first time I went to the Petrified Forest, it was one of the rare days where it happened to be raining, and it was amazing. The place was nearly empty, and everything was surrounded by little rivulets of opaque pink water (from the clay in the run-off). I've been there a couple times since, and the trick, assuming you are physically able, is to get off the preset tourist paths, and do the back-country hikes, where you will still see plenty of petrified wood, and almost no people.

It's generally been my experience that even in really crowded parks, if you can get onto any of the trails that don't go exactly to popular viewpoints, the crowds nearly completely disappear.

Most importantly, if you don't like lots of nature and rocks and trees and such, why would you even go to a national park?
posted by Dorothea Ladislaw at 7:55 PM on March 4 [9 favorites]


I heard The Ahwahnee is kinda crap these days, so it's gray rocks or nuthin'.
posted by ryanrs at 8:44 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Are you an aphid?
posted by GenjiandProust

[sigh] if only.

Many warmer parts of the US are being invaded by the Asian Ladybeetle, which looks similar to the familiar, docile North American ladybug but has a propensity to swarm in late October and bite anyone who thinks they shouldn't colonize their kitchen light fixtures.
posted by workerant at 9:23 PM on March 4 [9 favorites]


To add on to Beholder’s Carlsbad Caverns recommendation (stay for the bat fly-out at dusk, btw), you’d be a total fool not to check out White Sands national monument, too , since it’s relatively close by. The most otherworldly landscape—glistening white sand dunes that stay cool under the hottest sun because they are eroded gypsum. And I almost hesitate to share it because it still seems relatively unknown, but camping there was one of the most unique and magical camping experiences of my life. When you sleep there overnight you get to see all the stars in the heavens if the moon is waning, or if the moon is full it’s like you’re on a different planet. It looks snowy and surreal because it’s so bright from reflected moonlight. Or experience what I did, camping in the dunes when thunderstorms are advancing from all sides, and stay cozy in your tent and watch the lightning show. Then you get the whole place to yourself for those early gorgeous desert sunrises.

Just make sure not to go on a missile testing day! And if you explore far enough into the dunes and find some kind of weird metallic object in the ground, for heavens sake don’t touch it in case it might go kablooey.
posted by sprezzy at 2:48 AM on March 5 [10 favorites]


Many warmer parts of the US are being invaded by the Asian Ladybeetle

Not just warmer parts. We've got used to them in the house all winter in New England. It's because our house is pale yellow, which approximates the color of limestone cliffs the bugs like in Asia. They were introduced in the US because they're more aggressive at aphid-eating. When they run out of aphids, they eat their native ladybug cousins. Also, they stain parts of the house with their poop. I am not a fan. Previously
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:04 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


We have the Asian Ladybeetles here in TN. They're a plague come fall. In addition to the occasional biting, pooping, and gross conglomerating, they also smell bad. Best way to attack them is with a vacuum cleaner attachment.

I mean, here's how bad they are. After vacuuming them up, I have dumped a massive pile of them into the chicken yard. And the chickens...the chickens refuse to eat them. And they'll eat anything. Even each other, if you let them.
posted by jquinby at 5:04 AM on March 5 [5 favorites]


you’d be a total fool not to check out White Sands national monument, too . . . And I almost hesitate to share it because it still seems relatively unknown,

Not anymore, it was upgraded from a National Monument to a National Park last year.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 7:11 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Also in TN, and the asian ladybeetles smell sooooo bad when you crush them.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:12 AM on March 5


Just want to add: the guides and Park Service do a tremendous job. I am not kidding: for 5 days through that place, we did not see a SINGLE piece of trash. It is kept spotless and I hope that continues.

SoberHighland, thank you for that wonderful story about your time in Grand Canyon. I hope it inspires a few visits. I want to add: It's not just the guides and Park Service doing a tremendous job — there's no way they could do litter pick-up for a million visitors a year — it's also you and all the other responsible visitors who cleans up after themselves and pick up whatever stray litter has been accidentally left behind by others. So, thank you!

If you can survive without paved paths and flush toilets, national forests are far more chill than national parks. Very, very few people, and much more relaxed rules because of it. As in "feel free to bring a chainsaw because you're allowed to collect 1/4 cord of dead and down firewood per day." With so few people around, there much less need to micromanage everyone's impact.

Agree and disagree. Sometimes, some places, it's cool and chill, but other times, other places, they're full of weird and/or noisy dudes. I can think of a few places that would be favorite spots for me if not for their relatively high inherent sketch factors. And some places — especially near big cities — just feel crowded to me. If you can find the right place though? Absolutely, there is some spectacular, relaxed, wonderful car camping to be found on Forest Service land. (And on BLM land, too.)

But if you can survive without paved paths and flush toilets, don't overlook national parks! In many parks, the backcountry is a big, beautiful, wonderful place, and there is something magical about being out there. Yes, there are rules against things like cutting wood, and yes, it's important to follow them ... but there is a different kind of chill inherent in the wilderness that for the life of me I don't think is possible to find in the front country.

The first time I went to the Petrified Forest, it was one of the rare days where it happened to be raining, and it was amazing. The place was nearly empty, and everything was surrounded by little rivulets of opaque pink water (from the clay in the run-off). I've been there a couple times since, and the trick, assuming you are physically able, is to get off the preset tourist paths, and do the back-country hikes, where you will still see plenty of petrified wood, and almost no people.

This, completely. Petrified Forest is such an underrated park. There's no extensive trail network there, which I think discourages exploration for most people, but if you can use a map and compass ... this park is so amazing. The park is so much more than just petrified trees. I kind of see petrified trees as the icing on the cake. Think of it as being a mix of wide-open shortgrass desert prairie and totally alien-looking badlands. The park has published a few cross-country routes, but I've also had a ton of fun stringing together my own routes by following washes into badlands and then exploring them. If you love wide-open desert, if you love badlands, and if you're willing/able/competent to explore on foot with map and compass, I can't recommend this place highly enough. If you approach it with an open mind, I think that Petrified Forest usually gives back what you put into it.
posted by compartment at 9:16 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


This is fun.

But, I've also been to national parks (not in the US) where biting insects actually warrant a one star review. If you've got a face net and are wearing three shirts and gloves in 40C weather in order to reduce the number of bites slightly, it's hard to really appreciate the lovely scenery. I've never reviewed them, 'cause I didn't know that was a thing. But, I won't be returning except in deep winter. I'm also not sure the review of Crater Lake is entirely wrong. The floating log is kind of neat. Lakes are cool in general. That's about the best I can come up with. It's a fine place to stop for lunch.

I though the Petrified Forest was really cool and well worth a several hundred mile detour. Both the foresty bits and the petroglyph bits.
posted by eotvos at 10:52 AM on March 5


Not anymore, it was upgraded from a National Monument to a National Park last year.

Oh I forgot about that! But the "unknown" was more referring to the camping aspect. Only 10 campsites! First come first serve every day.
posted by sprezzy at 11:42 AM on March 5


Yes the parks are terrible. Best to just stay away from them all. All those bugs. No wifi either!

I prefer to think of that as a feature.

I'll see myself out
posted by Mayor West at 9:17 AM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Jessica Leigh Hester at Atlas Obscura also talked with Amber Share about Subpar Parks, where she shares her personal relationships with some of the parks, and her creative path in designing the posters.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:30 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]


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