Monday, June 13, 2011

Our Adventures in Yellowstone Continue (Days 3 and 4)

June 8, 2011

Day 3 started with a quick trip to the grocery store and at 8:10am we were flashing our Annual Parks Pass at the entrance gate. Our Bald Eagle was in the same spot so we stopped to get some more pictures. We didn’t notice until after we got back into our car, that the traffic ahead of us had stopped, because a herd of bison was meandering across the road.

We’d get stuck in several bison traffic jams throughout the park. It’s not like they will move for you. You have to wait for them, but we didn’t mind these kinds of traffic jams so much. We got lots of pictures and video. The bison passed so close that I could have reached out the window and touched them, but I chose not to. They are quite intimidating creatures when they are only two feet away!

Did some hiking around Norris Geyser Basin, saw a couple of coyote, a herd of elk, more bison, and had a lunch of bagels w/cream cheese all within three hours of entering the park. Afterwards we visited Mammoth Hot Springs and bought more souvenirs, saw some more elk, and headed to the North Entrance to see the stone arch.

The stone arch was fantastic. The arch was built in 1903 to welcome visitors into Yellowstone. I’ve seen pictures of Teddy Roosevelt standing next to it when he dedicated the park. Now I have pictures of Robert and I standing next to it, some 100+ years later. Very cool.

More rain, more buffalo, more elk…the wildlife was never-ending, especially in Lamar Valley. Got stuck in another bison traffic jam and found some huge antlers near Pebble Creek. We were reluctant to take the antlers, but some guys saw us with them and said if we didn’t want them, they’d take them. I knew that they would take them out of the park. My idea was to take them to a ranger’s station and let them have them, so we stuck them in the back of the Honda.

We continued with our sightseeing, but as we drove we were plagued with the most horrific smell! I blamed Robert and he blamed the many geysers we’d past, but eventually we figured it out. It was the antlers!

Somewhere near Dunraven Pass, we stopped and Robert chucked them far out over the embankment so no one else would be tempted to take them. I guess that’s why we found them so easily in the first place. Someone else probably dumped them, because they stunk up their car.

Dinner that night was at Bullwinkles. I had a delicious meal of Rainbow Trout and Robert had Bison Meatloaf. We had a good laugh during our meal with a couple of ladies next to us. They were from Australia and had trouble figuring out our currency system. They didn’t know which coins were nickels and which were dimes.

Total mileage: 203.7 miles.

June 9, 2011

Day 4 started out cold: 37-degrees and raining. It was a short day of sightseeing, but a fantastic one nevertheless. We spent a couple of hours at Old Faithful watching the geyser spew 130-feet into the air, souvenir shopping, eating, and exploring.

We’d seen lots of elk, but none as beautiful as this (see pic at end of blog). He had a huge rack still covered in velvet and he wasn’t afraid of the people crowding around him to take his picture. We drove away as the crowds became ridiculous once again…

...And then there it was along the shores of Yellowstone Lake. A sight I will never forget: A GRIZZLY BEAR! I think I started to cry. He was foraging in a field, aware that a crowd reminiscent of those at a Chargers/Raiders football game was forming, but not caring in the least. And I thought bison caused a big traffic jam! Wow. Eventually, several rangers came to manage the situation. That’s exactly what it was too, a situation. People were screaming with excitement, cars were parked in the middle of the street, and the big camera lenses were out in force!

Robert watched through his binoculars and I through my telephoto lens. At one point, I was looking through my viewfinder thinking, “I’m getting some great shots” but what I didn’t realize was I was getting great shots, because the bear was getting so close! I mentioned this to Robert and he had thought the same thing. Great minds think alike.

Park rules state we’re supposed to stay at least 100-yards from the bear, but as he foraged he came probably within 60-70 yards. It was then I realized that the only thing separating me from ‘death by bear’ was a fresh-faced kid in a Park Ranger uniform holding a can of bear spray. I overheard him saying that last year a bear charged the crowd and he had to deploy his bear spray. He said that’s what saved them. OMG! That was about the time I started moving back to the safety of the cars.

I overheard another tourist say to leave your cars unlocked, because if the bear charged and the crowd scattered, he was jumping into the nearest vehicle. It didn’t quite come to that, as the bear eventually moved away as his foraging took him into the opposite direction of us.

In the past, if you’d had asked me what one of my biggest fears were, I would have said “Grizzly Bears,” but as I watched, it wasn’t fear I felt, but amazement. I was awe-struck by his beauty in the way he moved, the expression in his eyes. I will never forget that moment, standing there watching him watching us. Truly amazing.

After our bear encounter, we headed to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. After snapping a bunch of pictures and enjoying the views, we headed out of the park. The Bald Eagle still perched high on his tree watching all the cars pass by, the occupants totally unaware that he was even there.

Total mileage: 136.2

To see more of my photography from Yellowstone, visit my gallery. Comments are welcomed.

1 comment:

Frank B. Baiamonte said...

The elk shot at the end of this page is great, but that grizzly coming straight towards you is amazing.