Playing Tourist in Yellowstone

Playing Tourist in Yellowstone

Our friend Shefije was in town this week which gave us the opportunity to go play tourist in Yellowstone.

One of the things about living here is that, sadly, you forget how astonishing “the Park” is — and then someone comes to visit on a gorgeous blue-sky July day and off you go to remind yourself.

On our way south we got sucked into a yard sale in Gardiner. There were four of these gorgeous bankers chairs, and it took us a while to figure out they broke down. We thought we were going to tour the park with chairs tied to the roof, but since Shefije was a good sport about being packed into the back seat with the coolers, they all fit nicely into the way back.

We also stopped in Gardiner for ice cream, and to check out the new visitors center. Like I said, we were playing tourist. We weren’t on a mission to get to some big hike or to get to a destination, so we went with the flow.

We drove down through Mammoth and then headed over toward the Lamar Valley. We hadn’t gone too far before there was a “bear jam” — traffic stopped on both sides with a ranger directing as we all gawked at this darling black bear grazing. He wasn’t very old, two or three we guessed. It always amazes me that the animals will just hang out by the road, but they do.

The coolest thing we saw though was a bison stampede. We were contemplating a short hike up a fairly open hillside when we noticed some bison coming out of the trees. Then they started running down the hill. You wouldn’t think that something that size could move that fast, but bison are surprisingly fleet. We watched one group of about ten run past, then another small group, then another. Then looking in the direction from which they had emerged from the trees, we could see several more groups. And they were all running.

At first we thought it was the hikers up on the trail above, but there were too many bison, all coming from beyond the sightline where they could see the hikers. We never did find out what was setting them off, but over the course of about an hour, we watched several hundred bison come out of the trees, pause, then run down a game trail to the grassy flatlands below.

Yellowstone Bison Stampede July 2011

It was one of those perfect days — good friends, great weather, animal behavior none of us had ever seen before, and even the other tourists were all in good spirits and weren’t driving like maniacs. It was one of those days we drove back to town telling ourselves that we take the Park for granted, and we’re definitely going to go back more often than we do.

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