Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day 8 - Jack and Amy's Yellowstone Vacation

Jack and Amy’s 2009 Vacation to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Day 8 - Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Day 8 Photos:

Yellowstone is famous for its thermal features like Geysers, Hot Springs, and bubbling mud pots. However, to me the most impressive part of Yellowstone was the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

While I spent a good bit of time exploring the Canyon on my solo hikes, as we were leaving Canyon Village, it dawned on me that Amy didn't get to see nearly as much of this area as I did. So I decided to take Amy to Artist Point, which has one of the best views of the Canyon and Lower Yellowstone Falls.

Jack and Amy at Artist Point

We also stopped and checked out a couple of the Upper Yellowstone Falls overlooks, before heading on to the Lake Lodge Cabins where we would be spending our last night in the park.

Upper Yellowstone Falls

On the way to the Lake Lodge we made a stop to check out our last Geyser Basin; the Mud Volcano. As stated in earlier reports, we had pretty much had our fill of Geysers and bubbling pools of mud, but the name Mud Volcano brought visions to my mind of something pretty cool. Plus it was right along the way.

Amy reluctantly joined me on this hike of a little less than a mile. Well, the Mud Volcano didn't come close to living up to the visions in my head, and Amy was equally unimpressed. Just more sizzling streams, Geyser Mist and gurgling pools of mud. Pretty cool if it is your first time seeing it, but after a week of this stuff, it got kind of old.

Amy walking through some Geyser Mist

Next up I had picked out the Storm Point trail, which is about a 2-mile loop hike and from the description it sounded very Amy friendly. Apparently I did good, because Amy declared this to be her favorite hike of the week.

Amy hiking towards Storm Point

The Storm Point trail has some short ups and downs, but for the most part it is very flat and offers up some great views of Lake Yellowstone.

Lake Yellowstone from Storm Point

After our hike it was on to the Lake Lodge Cabins. We were too early for check-in, so I decided to do a little hike around the grounds, while Amy sat back for some reading and relaxation. There was a large herd of Bison by the lake, so my plan was to hike the trail from the Lake Lodge to the Fishing Bridge.

Bison at the Lake

I got some shots of the Lake and the Bison, but as I got closer to where the trail ends at the fishing bridge there were Bison everywhere including on the trail. While they appear harmless, if you get too close, the Bison can get a little pissed off. And you don't what to be around an ornery Bison!

So I went off trail a little to get around them. It wasn't really bushwhacking, more of just walking through some high grass. The biggest obstacle was trying to avoid all the large piles of Bison crap, which seemed to be everywhere.

As I got closer to the Fishing Bridge I heard the sirens from an ambulance, and at the bridge area there were about 50 Bison, 20 Park Rangers, and hundreds of tourists. Apparently one of the tourist got attacked by one of the Bison and the Rangers where doing their best to keep the people away from the wildlife.

Bison grazing along the lakeside

I roamed around the Fishing Bridge area doing my best not to piss off any Bison or Park Rangers before deciding to head back. Problem was that the rangers had closed off the trail back to Lodge to prevent people from getting too close to the Bison. So I ended up hiking the road back to the Lodge.

By the time I got back to Amy, our cabin was ready so we checked in and went for an early dinner. Afterwards, I planned another solo hike along the Pelican Creek Trail.

The first mile of the hike was uneventful. That is, until I saw the bear!

To the left of the trail was a heavily wooded area, and to the right a thin row of trees along side an open meadow. Through the trees I saw some movement in the meadow. A large brown blur was heading in my direction. My first thought was of a galloping Bison, but I soon realized that that was no Bison.

The large mass of brown fur broke through the thin tree line and stopped dead on the trail about 20 yards up from where I was standing. It was probably only about a second or two, but it seemed like much longer that I was looking eye to eye with the largest bear I have ever seen in the wild!

I would have loved to have had my camera at the ready and got a few shots in, but my mind was too busy trying to avoid crapping in my pants and thinking thorough all the bear encounter survival tips that I have read and heard about. What the hell would I do if this beast came charging at me?

Fortunately, it didn't get to that. Instead I went with the waving my arms in the air while making some goofy noises. That did the trick and the bear quickly darted through the heavily wooded area on the left and was out of site in an instant. Wow, those guys can sure move fast!

This is where I saw the Bear - Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of the Bear

By the time I was calm enough to go for the camera, the bear was long gone. For the most part, Bears do not want anything to do with Humans. The danger comes when people are careless with their food storage and a Bear gets a taste of people food. Once that happens, the bear will associate humans with food and becomes much more of a danger.

The second major cause of bear attacks is people getting too close to bear cubs. In this case the adult bears will likely attack to defend their young. The third major cause of bear attacks are hunters dressing in camouflage and covering themselves with Deer or Elk urine. The fourth cause, is the one that I was concerned with, just plain old bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I was freaked out enough that I thought about turning back, but I decided to continue on as I had only gone a little over a mile. Based on how fast he ran away, I was pretty sure the bear was just as afraid of me as I was of him, and would likely long gone by now.

Pelican Creek

The trail left the wooded area and entered into the wide open meadows surrounding the winding Pelican Creek. Some beautiful scenery with views for miles in every direction. I kept seeing brown spots in the distance, and my mind kept flashing back to the bear. But they all turned out to be either Bison on rocks!

I got to a trail junction alongside the creek. There are the remains of an old bridge, but not something that could be used to cross the creek anymore. Continuing on the trail across the creek would required wading across. The trail sign said I was 3.4 miles from the trailhead, however my map said I was 2.8 miles.

The remains of an old bridge across Pelican Creek

Not sure which was correct, but since I wanted to go about 4 miles each way for an 8-mile out and back hike, I continued on to the trail that didn't require crossing the creek.

Some more nice views and many more Bison grazing and sleeping in the wide open meadows. Eventually, the trail came within about 4-feet of a sleeping Bison. I didn't feel like coming that close to a Bison, it didn't appear that the big guy would be moving anytime soon, and I didn't feel like leaving the trail to get around him.

Bison sleeping about 4-feet from the trail

So I took this as a sign to turn back. It had been a few hours since I saw any other humans and I got a little concerned about having to hike back through the area of my earlier bear encounter. Fortunately, when I got back to the earlier mentioned trail junction I ran into a couple of hikers taking a break.

Like me, they were doing the hike as an out and back and were just getting ready to head back. I told them about the bear and asked if they would mind if I hiked back with them. While I knew I couldn't outrun a bear, I was pretty sure I could outrun these people.

Alan and Penny from Minneapolis, MN were a nice couple. I would guess about 50 years old. After some chatting I learned that their youngest of 4 children had just started college leaving them as empty nesters after 30 years of raising a family. They were celebrating their newfound freedom with a Yellowstone Vacation.

We actually didn't talk a whole lot, but having them along with me sure made me feel a little safer. They were in pretty good shape and the hiking pace was not much slower than my normal solo hiking pace. We made it back to the parking area without any issues or bear encounters.

On the drive back in I saw that the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Cabins had been invaded by Bison. Even though I already had about 500 photos of Bison from this trip, I couldn't resist rolling down the car window, pulling out my camera, and snapping a few more!

Bison hanging out at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Cabins

Back at the cabin after spending some time with Amy, I decided to head out to the lake for some more night time shots. The stars sure are beautiful out here!

Stars over Lake Yellowstone

Additional Photos from Day 8 of our vacation are located here:


HemlockMan said...

Sorry you didn't get any photos of the bear. Was it a grizzly? Or a brown-phase black bear? Pretty easy to tell the difference (as long as you're not crapping your pants).

I don't blame you for turning back. Those bison injure far more people than bears in the park.

Jack said...

I am pretty sure it was a Grizzly as it was definitely browner than Amy bear I have seen before. Plus there were signs at the trailhead warning of recent Grizzly Bear sightings.