Our first encounter with bison was our sighting of a small herd snacking at a stream in a valley. Calves were frolicking around the huge beasts without a care that there were cars lined up on the road above to gawk and wonder how close they could get with their respective soul-grabbing devices. The Tetunka were content. At that point we were the Y-stone newbies who pulled over in amazement upon sighting a buffalo. I’m not ashamed.
As I type this, at the end of Day 2, we are the “seasoned” Y-stone tourists who scoffed at the noobs blocking traffic every time a buffalo wandered by. There are 4900 of these dudes in the national park, so once you’ve been driving the roads here for a day or so, they become old hat.
But the wonderful thing is that as soon as the amazement at one thing wears off, something else is waiting. As we drove on after the first bison herd, we came to a hillside on the right where 50 or so people were standing together, pointing cameras with lenses the size of a toddler’s leg at the edge of the woods. Someone claimed that deep into the trees, there were some fallen trees. I saw that. Then they said that there was a black sliver by one of the fallen trees. I saw that too, times 60 or so. I called them “shadows.” They called one of the shadows a “black bear” and claimed that it had moved earlier in the day. It was such a serious affair that a Park Ranger was there to monitor the action – when one middle aged biker couple wandered about 100 feet away into the mown grass, the ranger quickly summoned them back to safety. “Wilderness Family Hogue” chuckled at these city folks, returned to our rented Subaru, and drove on.
The next fauna experience was elk. Bulls, Cows, Calves – Y-stone has it all. The first several we encountered were female, but then up on a hillside on the right, was a lone bull. Velvety antlers, majestic stance. He seemed to beckon me to jump aboard and ride him around the field in a mighty show of my oneness with nature and sheer manliness, but Melissa wouldn’t let me. So we continued onward, as I cherished the mental moment I had with this regal animal of the wide open spaces.
Shortly thereafter, we came to the “Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.” At this point I will say it. If you’ve been considering making the trip here, it’s worth it. Whether you go backcountry or not, it is a fascinating place.
Just to the left out of the frame of this photo is an osprey nest on the highest most tip of a towering rock formation. I offer no picture because I don’t have a lens that would do it justice. But there was an adult and a chick in the nest, and how they balanced themselves and the nest on that windy point is beyond my comprehension.
From the canyon we had only a skip to reach our lodging for the night. This is a lodge near the canyon, owned by the Park but operated, for the most part, by twenty somethings freshly shipped in from their respective universities. Some are mature, polite, and mindful regarding customer service, and others are sarcastic, granola-munching kids who are just working to fund their next backcountry base-jumping trip.
As much as we enjoy the terrain, the flora and the fauna, Wilderness Family Hogue cherishes the late part of the day when we escape the throngs of people, pushing, shoving, and breaking in line as they offer insincere apologies in languages unknown to the average ethnocentric north american. I took my klonopin and fell asleep anticipating the inevitable dream of the tetunka or the wapiti, in which I would receive its prophetic message.