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Remembering the Road, day 8
[Editor's note from 2009: While some might think this blog is somehow spawned by or in reaction to Frank and Hank Mark America, let it be known that this was originally written in 2002, and the republishing began before the public was made aware of the HMS Beagle, 2009 Edition.]
Yellowstone's lodges are all great places. Built with giant timbers, nearly all resemble log cabins, although very fancy ones. They sport giant fireplaces, and huge windows through which one can take in the splendor of the park. The food served in each is pretty good too, although I'm getting really tired of seeing steak on the menu.
We visited more stinkpots today, and we've decided that we've seen and, more importantly, smelled enough of them. Yeah, they're beautiful, but they make you want to hurl, and tossing my cookies isn't what I planned to do on this vacation, so I think we've wrapped up our stinkpot visits.
So, instead of smelling sulfurous gasses emitted by the earth's crust, we went horseback riding... only a minor improvement in the odor department. We took a short trail ride through some of the northwestern part of the park, where we saw more elk, and not a whole lot else. I, who was on "Rex," was disappointed in the ride, as I was hoping to see more wildlife and learn a bit more about the area, but our "wranglers" spent most of the time loudly telling riddles such as, "What did the mother buffalo say to her son when he left for school? Bison. (Bye, son.)" HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!!! Gosh, am I glad I drove 2,200 miles to hear that one!
I guess a hidden agenda of the "wranglers" was to be loud enough that no bear would come near us. That's probably smart, since just before the ride I was flipping through "Bear Attacks Stories." From one passage: "Paul was still in the tree when he called out to Michelle to tell her to unzip her zipper. 'He's already got it in his mouth,' she shouted back. He next heard Michelle shout, 'He's got my arm off.' Then she said, 'Oh no, I'm dead!' And that was the last thing Paul heard as the bear dragged her into the woods never to be seen again." Hey, let's hear another loud joke from the wranglers!
Cynthia, who rode "Jeff" and hadn't ridden horses before, enjoyed the ride more than I. On a plus note, the ride did take us through back country and thus away from some of the road noise.
Interesting note: buffalo can run faster, jump higher, and are more agile than a horse. That, plus their horns, means it's probably a good thing we didn't come across any of them on our trail ride either.
Back in the car we took in some more spectacular views, (waterfalls, open plains, plunging canyons, fly-fisherman-filled rivers winding through grassy meadows), and saw more animals. Eagle-eyes Cynnie, as she's now known, spotted a grizzly bear meandering through a grassy hill. We quickly stopped, initiating our own bear-jam. The bear, some 250 yards away, looked at us for a moment before wandering back into the trees and out of sight. The digital camera we have could get only so-so pictures of it, but with the potent zoom film camera I borrowed from my parents, we should get good, closer shots.
Following the bear sighting, we drove past a bald eagle's nest where two or three eaglets are being reared. Cynthia snapped three fine shots of the nest, where not a single eagle could be seen, much to our dismay.
In an area known for moose, we found none, but we did see (with the aid of another traveler), a beaver.
People and wildlife are funny. First, people tend to laugh at the bison and elk when they all of a sudden do something as a group, such as flee in the same direction. "Pack animals," we say with a hint of condemnation. Who are we saying this to? Well, the fifty other people who have pulled over to the side of the road to see what you're looking at. Pack animals indeed!
Then there's this slightly hidden competition among visitors. "What have you seen?" is the second-most common question after, "where are you from?" Bears are definitely the stars, as are wolves. Bison and elk are low on the pecking order.
Upon first arriving in the park, the instinct is to pull over any time any wildlife comes in to view. "Ooooh look! Buffalo! Hey, there's an elk! Wow!!" But after four days, it has to really be worth pulling over for. "Eh, that's just elk. I mean, if it was a bear, I'd stop..." It's a little sad, although we started doing the same thing.
The similar thing is happening with the landscapes. They're still as beautiful as ever, but after a while, you get vista fatigue. Hey, another stunning waterfall! Look there, it's another snow-capped mountain rising majestically through the clouds! Yeah great, I'm hungry... when's dinner?
More than anything though, I think it's just a function of being tired. After some rest, I'll be ready to see more buffalo and elk going over waterfalls, really.