If you’re just joining us, this is the third installment in our somewhat-epic summer journey to Yellowstone, in which I
fervently hope we have a bear encounter that ends up well enough for us as well as the bear and whatever we happen to be driving. You can start here, and the whole set up to this trip is here and here.
People told us we were smart to come through Yellowstone this early in the season. We’d avoid the crowds, they said.
Good thing, too, because it doesn’t feel a lot like Yellowstone planned for crowds when things like roads and restrooms and pull-offs were installed back in the day. It really doesn’t feel like anybody anticipated busloads of Japanese tourists, when installing mountain roads with exactly zero shoulder on which to pull over and observe the wildlife, I must say.
Anyway, it would have been o’dark-thirty when we set out this morning had the sun the decency to sleep in like it should have. We hollered people out of bed in order to get on the road in time to avoid lines at the geysers and Old Faithful Inn, which were first on our list for the day.
But a bridge was out, which meant a change of plans. We were going to have to go around the east side of the park up to our hotel for the night near the north entrance, past the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which was supposed to be on the itinerary for Yellowstone Day #2. We passed Yellowstone Lake on the scenic John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Highway, stopping where we felt like it. Since we weren’t rushing to get ahead of lines at the geysers, we felt a little more at ease, than we would have otherwise, although tomorrow, we’ll have to get an early start again, rather than stick with our plan of letting the kids sleep in one morning.
Of course, we saw a fair amount of wildlife – from very far away. In Yellowstone, stopped cars and crowds are the signal to also stop and watch. Or at least stop to avoid hitting a pedestrian, both of which are really good things to do.
We saw bison and antelope, mountain sheep and elk, and, at long last a bear and her cub. I was actually the first to spot the bear. I guess you ask the universe for something long enough, and it’s bound to happen.
We didn’t have any crowds to signal the appearance of the bear, either, I had to spy it with my myopic, little eyeball, halfway up a hill. Really, I spied a lot of things half way up a hill that turned out to be nothing more than stumps or rocks, but that didn’t stop me from enthusiastically calling out every time that there was something going on out there. Maybe it was a bear. Maybe a fat guy on a four-wheeler, whatever. WE HAD TO STOP.
I have to say, there are people who don’t get this need to stop at random points in the park with very little warning, and will zoom around you at the slightest opportunity, as if they are on their way to someplace REALLY IMPORTANT.
Maybe they have a meeting, or something. Maybe they thought “I’ll just cut through the park, shave fifteen minutes off my commute to my really important thing.”
To which I say “Mister, with all due respect, you really suck at shortcuts.”
This one time, though, when I yelled, it was for was an actual bear, with an actual cub. Screw the guy with the crappy shortcut.
I think it was a black bear, but it was hard to be sure. We were far from close enough to wonder about negotiating or bear etiquette, or to be sure of anything other than the fact that it was a bear, simply by virtue of the fact that it was moving, and it didn’t look like a bison. Or a fat guy on a four-wheeler. Whatever. I took a picture.
Okay, here’s the thing, if you haven’t guessed it by now: wildlife photography is not my thing. Every time we saw something cool, it was from far enough away that the thing had to be REALLY BIG in order to look interesting at all in a photo. So you’ll have to trust me that we saw all the stuff we say we saw, or else, I’ll have to stick a bunch of photos in here of really far away and mostly disinterested animals.
Except for this gerbil, or whatever. Mike says it was a golden mantle. I say it must be feeling a little like all the moose and whatever get too much attention around here, so it posed for me. It was the only animal that let me get close enough at all for a good photo.
After seeing blurry bison butts all morning, we finally had our good photo of our gerbil, or whatever. And then we got up close and personal with this bison, which would have been awesome a little earlier in the day, before we saw a bear from a half mile away.
There are signs all over the place that warn about the dangers of getting too close to these animals. I get that if they’re close, they might run a guy over in search of a pot pie or something, but everything we saw was so far away, all we got was a blurry photo of its butt as it headed away from us.
I can honestly say, I have a bigger photo collection of animal butts on my phone now than I ever thought I would.
Later, we can look at them and try to place the specific animal butt with the specific time Mike managed to avoid a fiery crash.
Good times, all.
Vote for me, and I swear this vacation will end at some point (at least by Wednesday).