This time of year the only safe place to hike is Yellowstone, so since it was a gorgeous day yesterday, off we went.
It was the last day that the roads are open, so we headed down to Swan Lake flats and took off to the west. About an hour in, we saw two grizzlies, high on a ridge to the south of us, eating grubs or something. I don’t have a photo, but they were unbelievably beautiful up on the high ridge with the sunlight gleaming off their guard hairs. They were illuminated. Meanwhile, a couple of magpies were making a big noise in the gully just below us — which usually means someone is afoot. I’m always a little nervous about bears, especially this time of year, but it turned out to be two big bull elk, who picked their way out of the gully, and went to hide in another glade one ridge over from us.
We had our eye out for antlers, because my sweetie is a dedicated horn hunter, although in Yellowstone you’re not allowed to collect them. We’d been hiking about an hour and a half when we found this festive pile, which some other frustrated horn hunter had left behind.
The weather was spectacular. There was a big storm system moving in from the southwest, but we lucked out and spent the entire day in a doughnut hole of sunshine. This is the view to the southwest — by the end of the day those big peaks were all engulfed in snow showers.
We tend not to hike on trails, but rather just take off across country. We spent a lot of time yesterday on a big exposed ridge like this one, hiking from elk antler to elk antler. We also saw a couple of buffalo — solitary bulls — who kept a wary eye on us from afar. And one funny little group of young bull elk who we later figured out had been spooked up from the bottom by a couple of hikers on the trail, then were really freaked out to find us coming down from the ridgetop. There were maybe seven or eight of them — mostly four- and five-point bucks, with weirdly enough, a couple of cows mixed in, as well as a spike or two. They were quite beautiful.
Finally, way up on a high ridge, we found another, even bigger, festive horn assemblage. This was at the top of a ridge, and you could just see the white tines sticking up from below.
On the way out of the park, we encountered four big bison on the road, just ambling along, owning the road. My camera ran out of batteries so I didn’t get a photo of them, but they passed maybe five feet from the open driver’s window, and they’d clearly come out of the timber, because they were festooned with sticks.
All in all, a gorgeous day in the park. Animals, beautiful views, piles of horns, and aside from the two people we saw over there on the trail, we didn’t see any other people all day. Then home, slighly sore, to a beer and dinner and a fire in the woodstove. A perfect day.