Yellowstone: Bisons, Bears and a Half of an Elk’s Rack

Tuesday, May 19


Our plan for today was to ride around Yellowstone and find a campsite for our last night in the park. We had a cup of coffee on the deck of the lodge watching the farewell eruption of the Old Faithful geyser. It was a bright day, though we could spot the clouds approaching us from the west.


We planned on riding the central artery road loop that goes around the Yellowstone lake. We checked the road closures yesterday and were aware of one of the roads being closed but when we arrived to the intersection it turned out that both roads were closed due to flooding and we had to turn back around and go along the west side of the park. Not that it wasn’t spectacular.


We encountered groups of buffalo who were moving slowly along the side of the road, and sometimes crossing the road, completely oblivious to people and cars, creating traffic jams. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a buffalo so up close before.


They are huge and look intimidating from afar, but when you see them so close, they have the most serene, innocent and friendly faces. No wonder they were almost wiped out by the settlers, this pacifist bull won’t hurt a fly.


In addition to bisons we also saw elks, and even a little black bear who created quite an uproar on the road as people were trying to snap his photo with their big zoom cameras. All that he was concerned with though was finding some food to eat.


I was amazed at how huge Yellowstone Park is. It spans an area of 3,470 square miles or 2,219,789 acres and sits on the largest supervolcano on the continent. It took us a few hours to get the the Northwest corner of the park, where we grabbed a quick lunch and picked up some food and wood for camping.


We chose to camp at the Tower Waterfall. Yet again we got lucky and took the last available campsite. After setting up the camp we went for a hike into the valley. The trail crossed the river, but the bridge normally used by hikers was washed away. The only other option was to cross over one of the logs placed by the rangers. After some hesitation and overcoming the fear of crossing the rapid bubbling river below by balancing yourself on the long narrow log we made it onto the other side.


The valley looked like it had burnt pretty badly some years ago, but the young pine trees were coming up vigorously in place of the destroyed forest.


The cute marmots were everywhere and very vocal about letting us know we were intruding into their territory. You could hear their loud leisurely chattering which sounded different from when they tried to warn their buddies about approaching intruders.


The sun was setting so we turned back and Matt spotted an enormous elk horn in the trees. This thing was at least five times bigger than the one we found on the elk ranch in New Mexico. I wanted so bad to take it home as our trophy…

The rest of the story about what happened to the trophy is to be told in private. 🙂
After returning to the campsite and before going to bed we did a short hike up to the amphitheater and gazed at the night sky lying face up on the benches.

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