So we did actually get out of the car for a bit and go for a little hike. The first place we were going to hike was where the bison were stampeding. It looked good — pretty open country, a nice game trail that went up to the top of the ridge. However, when the German tourists came down from the same game trail we’d been looking at, they told us that there was a bear up in the patch of trees you could see from the road, and that he was “very grümpy” (there was definitely an umlaut on his pronunciation!) and that the bear had woofed at them. Considering the events of last week, and all the chaos in that particular stretch — hiking tourists, a couple of runners (?!), stampeding bison, we decided to go someplace where all the animals, including the humans, seemed less riled up.
So we drove down the road, found a turnout and headed uphill. We were on game trails most of the time, but there was a lot of bison sign.
This is a little tricky to see (my iPhone is pretty good, but it’s not a real camera) but it’s a stick, about 18 inches high, covered with bison fur. We saw a couple of these, along with some shady places where the bison had wallowed, and then when we came up and over the ridge (the photo above shows the view from the top) we came across a big sandy buffalo wallow on the edge of a heavily eroded gully. We stopped and looked at the view for a while. One of the other things one forgets about Yellowstone is what the sheer size is. There is SO much country without roads. That entire valley below us was just there, no roads, no improvements, no scenic overlooks.
On the way down we passed an enormous, burned log. It was probably 25 feet long, and there were tow or three of these places where the tree had been polished. It looks like the bison had been using it to scratch themselves on, and it was really beautiful. The grain in the wood was both polished and worn away in grooves.
While one always has to keep an eye out both inside and outside the park for big animals — whether it’s bears (black or grizzly) or lions or elk/moose/deer/bison — if you keep your wits about you, and use some common sense, it’s completely worth getting out of the car, off the boardwalks, and taking an actual walk in the park. This was just a baby hike — we maybe went uphill for half an hour, forty minutes, then looked at the view and came back, but we saw stuff we would never have seen otherwise.