Yellowstone National Park
The granddaddy of US national parks. Best known in the guide books for the extraordinarily smelly geysers, steaming pools and related volcanic gizmos. The pictures at the right should give the general idea.
Much more interestingly, Yellowstone is positively heaving with wildlife. In the space of about three days, and just two hikes, we've been miles from the car and within ten yards of both bison and black bears, and at other times had good views (from the roadside for heaven's sake) of bison, black bear and two cubs, big antlered bull moose, agitated bison (nothing quite like 2,000 lbs of frisky mammal with pointy horns), elk, pronghorn deer, mule deer, fox, coyote, marmot, and loads of birds. Very few pictures, unfortunately, given the puny zoom on our digital camera (any corporate sponsors out there who want to buy us a new one with a huge zoom, please mail us immediately).
Yellowstone marked the point where we met up with Phil and Alison (more photographic evidence at the right). A quick hike up Mount Washburn provided the four of us with splendid views over the park, as well as a close encounter of the bear kind. We're heading down, when we see a couple of people ahead of us. He's moving towards the large black lump at trail side, she's moving towards us making shushing gestures. He eventually ends up ten feet from the bear with instamatic in hand, she's mouthing "he must be mad" (she's right) and then they move off. We are quite a lot more circumspect, but still get a good view of this splendid and disdainful vegetarian as it chomps its way through the vegetation.
The bull moose (see photo!) we encountered at the side of the road on the outskirts of the park. As we pulled up, it leapt about a bit - rather a nippy mover for such a large beasty - then settled down to a bit of scoff after it had reassured itself that we were quite insignificant.
An ad hoc walk across open terrain provided a bisonic encounter. We're walking along, David leading, when he suddenly turns and starts walking in the opposite direction. This is because he's become aware that those two brown rocks over there are actually quite furry - for rocks - and have a surprisingly active tail to boot, not to mention horns. At this point we chose to reorganise our walk with a significant cross-country element in the general direction of away from the bison, with frequent glimpses over our shoulder in case it had gone to get some mates. This was just as well, as it was later seen wandering about.
Later on the same walk we found a most alarming thing. A significant area was covered in large skeletons - deer we think - see photo. The bones were picked clean apart from the hooves and fur lay all about. As we came across more and more sets of bones it occurred to us that we were probably in the middle of a bear or wolf dinner table so we moved quickly on.
Another highlight was mummy bear and cubs, which chose to walk across a hillside just near the road. Actually, mummy walked, the kids gambolled, tumbled and looked most sweet. Strange to think that in a couple of years they'll be killing baby deer. Bears seem to have slightly more human expressions than other animals, which makes one start to anthropomorphise in their presence. This is probably a risky thing.
The deer: the elk are large, and the males are quite regal, with their huge and graceful antlers. The pronghorn are - reputedly - dead fast, which sould serve them well now that the wolf population in the park has returned to over one hundred. That and the beaver are about the only animals we missed.
The coyotes are like overgrown foxes with big ears, and often seem to appear out of the undergrowth at surprisingly close range. They have great camouflage.
Every other creature on the list was equally fascinating. And to think
people go there for the geysers.
(click thumbnails for a larger picture) |
Meeting Alison and Phil