Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yellowstone National Park

We spent Monday-Thursday morning in Yellowstone. Weather was great, sunny and 80 during the day and 45 at night with no mosquitoes. It is an amazing park and lives up to the hype in many ways. The wildlife, scenery, and geology (the valley is actually a dormant volcano caldera 50 miles across) are all top notch. The only negative things that we can say about the park are that you have to pay for showers in most of the campgrounds ($3.25) and the traffic… my god, the traffic. There are “wildlife jams” in several areas that always form in the afternoon similar to any town rush hour. We are talking bumper-to-bumper backups that stretch for a couple of miles. The reason isn’t really the volume of cars, it is the ridiculous amount of buffalo, coyotes, wolves, bears, elk, moose, and deer in the park and the people stopping in the middle of the road to take pictures. Sara and I had patience for it at first because when we first saw buffalo in Custer State Park, we stopped in the road and took pictures too, but these folk are ridiculous… they probably have never seen anything more than a squirrel on their patio, so the site of 1000 buffalo on the side of the road is rather intoxicating and not good for traffic flow.

Traffic issues aside the wildlife is great, we have seen all of the above and then some. We saw Old Faithful (giant geyser shooting water 100 feet up) and the hot springs, all cool but not stellar in our book. We did a 2 hour guided horse back ride yesterday which was dusty, but worth it. We rode up some steep grades, down through the forests, around some cliffs and finished through a large valley (we felt like we were in a Western movie). A highlight of the ride, was the large black bear that we saw 20 yards off the path in the woods tearing into a carcass. No one saw it until it was too late so we were right up on him without much warning. He looked up and watched us in between mouthfuls, but didn’t seem to be interested in messing with 20 horses.

On Wednesday we did an 11 mile hike to Observation Peak (about 9500 feet). This was a major backcountry hike, deep into bear territory. I didn’t think we would see one, but sure enough about 25 minutes in, a black bear crossed in front of us at about 200 yards and then disappeared up a hill. Hiking in bear country brings mixed feelings for us. On one-hand it is exhilarating because you could take one turn around tree or come over a slope and be faced with a 1500 pound man-eater grizzly with or a smaller but still nasty black bear, but on the other also kind of annoying at the same time. In order to reduce the chances of a bad encounter you need to call out something or make noise through out the entire hike in order to not startle the bears if you happen to come upon one. If they know you are coming they will either run away or be less likely to take defensive measures (not good). Our noises consisted of me shouting “hey bear”, clanging my trekking poles and Sara singing the entire Beastie Boys album, “License To Ill” from start to finish. The hike was worth it, but strenuous…about 11 miles roundtrip and a quick 3000 foot ascent over some rocky terrain with bear tracks next to ours the entire time… a little freaky.

In summary Yellowstone was great… highly recommended, but watch out for the wildlife jams.


Julie said...

Sounds like you guys are having a blast! I totally understand the excitement and anxiety of hiking in bear country. Pretty much all of Alaska is bear country including the Anchorage city parks. Last year I had total bear paranoia! I'm starting to get over it.

Sara nice work with the Beastie Boys album...I'm impressed!

Lee said...

Chris, are you sure you were riding "Brad" the horse or was his name "Gluestick"...the U-shaped steed?

"Easy there hop-along, I know the trail. I got people kicking me while I'm peeing...real sweet gig I got here at the ranch."

Just remember, Chris, it's all the same oat-bag!

Chris & Sara said...

I knew this would be posted... I called him gluestick the entire ride, he didn't seem to mind.

actually, it was funny... each time a horse would start peeing the entire group would stop. they apparently can't walk and pee at the same time.

Tucker said... you miss cubicle life yet? Trip sounds awesome, stop speeding!

Paul Omps said...

lee - that might be the funniest thing i've ever read!

Anonymous said...

Second that paul - I just peed a little myself, Lee.\

Anonymous said...

Watch out in Idaho, I here big foot is roaming the potato patches