Tuesday, May 24, 2011

30 Miles Of Yellowstone - Part 1

After smiling at each other and realizing that we were indeed going to explore part of Yellowstone after all on this late afternoon (did we actually but subconsciously already know that before we left Cody??) we drove slowly along the highway taking in everything that was around us.
LC glanced over at me and excitedly said "We're in YELLOWSTONE!".
Yes.......this place did seem to bring out the 18 year old in him.
We had only been driving slowly for about fifteen minutes and were still without a definite plan as to how far we would travel, what direction we would go, what time we needed to head back.
Nothing like flying by the seat of your pants.
But any mild concerns about when and how to start making our way back to town were quickly forgotten as soon as we saw a line of about 10 cars parked along the side of the highway and people wandering on foot along the side of the road.
We looked over to our right and saw them immediately.
A lone adult buffalo grazing in the pasture and a lone grizzly bear grazing and leisurely walking a few hundred yards away from him.
I snapped a few quick pictures of both of them and then lowered my camera so I could watch these beautiful animals more closely.
The buffalo was completely uninterested in the grizzly and simply kept grazing unfazed by either the bear's presence or the hoard of cars and people parked off in the distance.
The grizzly had no interest in either us or the bison.
He wandered slowly towards the hills behind him stopping only briefly to take a quick bite of whatever was growing on the ground.
We watched both of them for a long time until the bear was too far away for any more pictures.
Too cool...........
You will have to click on the picture (once to enlarge, once more to enlarge even more) in order to see the grizzly in the picture, but he is there.
Two animals sharing the same space but totally ignoring each other..........
As we excitedly continued driving down the road we finally stopped talking about bears and bison and debated the merits of driving back the way we had come or continuing around the east side of the park and exiting through the east gate.
Talk about a couple of putzes without a plan.
That was us.
Sure.............let's go home via the east gate............... 
We were both so excited to be at Yellowstone that I did not even realize how cloudy it had gotten until I downloaded these pictures.
It was cloudy??............
The only building structures that we saw during the 30 miles or so that we covered inside Yellowstone.
They were all part of the Buffalo Ranch operation.............
The portion of the park that we saw (which admittedly was not much) was incredibly beautiful, incredibly diverse and ever changing.
In the span of the 30 miles that we traveled we saw many wide open plains, hills and snow covered mountains, lakes and ponds and fast moving rivers, sage brush and pine trees and still-leafless hard woods.
Awesome inspiring place.
A place to remind you of both who you are and how small you are..........
I took a lot of pictures of buffalo while we were at Yellowstone but the pictures do not do it justice.
There were thousands spread out over the course of 25 miles grazing and walking and playing and eating and resting.
Many "baby bison".
Many old and ridiculously huge males.
Herds of males.  Herds of females.
In the brief time we were there I was humbled by them...........
White water at its best..........
I felt like we were rushing every step of the way during our first visit to Yellowstone National Park, and in fact we were.
We both knew that we really did need to head back to Cody eventually.
We were in the mountains in Spring in a rapidly shortening day and we needed to get on with it.
But both of us truly did want to see just as much as we could in the short time we had.
Couple the late hour and our need to see with our desire to take pictures and impatient drivers behind us if we slowed down, and we found ourselves both looking and stopping and picture taking in a rush.
No matter.
We would be back to this place again very soon.
As we came around a bend in the road this big boy was taking his own sweet time meandering across the highway..........
I could not even begin to describe just how many herds we saw spanning the length of endless pastures...........
Baby bison as far as the eye could see..........
I did not notice until I downloaded this picture that I caught momma with her tongue sticking out.........
Cute babies in every herd...........
I don't know why but I expected Yellowstone to be all pine trees.
The sheer magnitude of this park - the amount of wildlife, the open pastures, the lakes and streams - we only made it 30 miles into the park and after having been there for only a brief time I am more eager than ever to see more of it..............
This huge and old buffalo wandered slowly down a trail, walked over the foot bridge, sauntered across the highway and then continued along a trail on the opposite side of the road.
I took pictures of him every step of the way mesmerized by the sheer size of him, the awareness of him, the calmness of him, and the strength and beauty of this animal............
I took one more picture of him as he passed directly in front of the truck but did not post it because in my excitement I cut off his back end.
He got within three feet of the front of the truck.
He was so slow and methodical.  He never moved his head while slowly walking across the highway but there were vehicles parked on both sides of him and he knew where every single person was located.
I could see the intelligence and the experience and the awareness in his face.
A very compelling animal..........
Eventually we came to the end of the highway that we had been following for who knows how long.
Turning left we followed a sign for the East Gate.
And almost as soon as we turned left we saw a second sign saying that the road was closed 2.5 miles ahead.
LC and I looked at each other with an uh-oh look.
Two goobers having no plans, making random decisions, playing the "we'll get home sometime and somehow" game.
There were 15 or so vehicles parked in a lot and as we pulled in saw another shiny and new Smoky-hat wearing park ranger.  
LC said that he was going to talk to the ranger about directions and distance while I walked up this set of stairs to see what I could see.
What I saw was this amazing place..........
When I finally hooked back up with my suddenly-teenage Mountain Boy he was in deep and enthusiastic conversation with a couple.  
It turns out they were from Australia - Sydney - and they visit the United States for a couple of months every couple of years.
The man (who it turns out can talk even more than LC can when he is excited) told us of wonderful adventures they had taken all through the US.  
They had extensively visited more than 40 states, and had greatly enjoyed the first two weeks of what will turn out to be a seven week visit this time around.
LC and the man yammered on for a long time about Nascar, each sharing their respective tales of cars and races and racing.  
I had fun listening to these two similar personalities enjoying each others' stories.  Good times.
After wishing our new friends a safe journey LC and I headed back to the truck.
The East Gate was only open from 6am-10am each day (I knew that about entry through the East Gate but did not realize that exit through the gate was also closed by 10am).
Yup.  We had to go back the way we had come.
Go back over the 30 miles of Yellowstone we had just traveled.  Back through the mostly-still-closed little tourist community of Silvergate, through Cooke City, across passes and switchbacks and up over Dead Indian Pass.
Oh boy - it was turning into a long day..............

The tendency nowadays to wander in wildernesses is delightful to see. Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life. Awakening from the stupefying effects of the vice of over-industry and the deadly apathy of luxury, they are trying as best they can to mix and enrich their own little ongoings with those of Nature, and to get rid of rust and disease. Briskly venturing and roaming, some are washing off sins and cobweb cares of the devil's spinning in all-day storms on mountains; sauntering in rosiny pinewoods or in gentian meadows, brushing through chaparral, bending down and parting sweet, flowery sprays; tracing rivers to their sources, getting in touch with the nerves of Mother Earth; jumping from rock to rock, feeling the life of them, learning the songs of them, panting in whole-souled exercise, and rejoicing in deep, long-drawn breaths of pure wildness. This is fine and natural and full of promise. So also is the growing interest in the care and preservation of forests and wild places in general, and in the half wild parks and gardens of towns. Even the scenery habit in its most artificial forms, mixed with spectacles, silliness, and kodaks; its devotees arrayed more gorgeously than scarlet tanagers, frightening the wild game with red umbrellas, — even this is encouraging, and may well be regarded as a hopeful sign of the times.......John Muir

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