Once we left Bozeman, MT we took the scenic route to Yellowstone National Park. I have never been to the park, didn’t even really know much about it so I was quite surprised and amazed to see that there were hundreds of miles within the park. Who knew?!
Part of the appeal of this summer vacation was a road trip with lots of scenic sights and hiking some trails. I’m sad to say that today I learned that I like the idea of hiking more than actual leave-civilization-and-walk-among-the-wild-creatures hiking. The “Caution: Wildlife is Dangerous” signs didn’t scare me. Seeing this entire herd of buffalo next to the two-lane highway didn’t scare me. But walking along the boardwalk to view the Mud Volcano and happening upon two wild Bison had me panicked and squeezing my mom’s shoulder, begging to get out. That’s the moment when I realized I was way closer to nature than I wanted to be.
The first night in Yellowstone I asked the ranger in the visitor’s center for recommendations of running trails. So many things wrong with her answer; she said I shouldn’t run. That if I did encounter a bear, my running would trigger their predator instinct and I would become their “prey.” She also said that I should never run on trails, but that running on the road is dangerous too because the road is narrow and people suck at driving. Oh and don’t run with an ipod. Don’t run by yourself. Don’t run early in the morning. Basically: there is no safe way to get in your run. BUZZ KILL.
We were on the half-mile loop that encompassed Mud Volcano, Dragon’s Mouth and some other mud pots when we saw a lone Bison in the center of the loop. The boardwalk did not have hand rails separating the humans from the animals, and he was getting awfully close to the walkway. At one point, it looked like he was going to walk along with boardwalk with us. I was a little leary of being so close to something so wild, but the full on panic didn’t set in yet. That wasn’t until we saw the second bull, a few yards away sitting idly. Until he wasn’t sitting anymore. He stood up and made a huge cloud of dust as he pawed at the ground, then faced the first bison. The first bison started walking towards him, grunting, a woman in front of him. All I was thinking was “Oh snap, they are going to fight and I’m glad I’m not that poor woman sandwiched between them.”
I watch Planet Earth; I see what those things do for survival. Mad dash to the car, please!
My goals for the day went from “Get in a 10-mile run” to “Run a few miles but get in at least 10 miles of hiking” all the way to “Get me out of here alive.” Dramatic? Probably. But seeing a 2,000-pound animal literally ten feet away and coming closer, making suspicious grunting sounds and kicking up dust with its legs doesn’t exactly scream “take pictures of me, I won’t bite.” I wanted out of there and quickly nixed the 6-mile hike we had next on the agenda. I wish I was a little more fearless but I can’t help the fact that the possibility of getting closer to a wild animal than a zoo exhibit sends my heart into a panic. I got my cardio exercise today from bison sighting’s alone!
Hiking along the coast line in Southern California is a tad different than in the pre-historic lands of Yellowstone.
I was hoping to see a Moose though. I’m sure they’re no less dangerous than a herd of buffalo but a moose just looks so chill, like “Let’s just hang out and watch the river flow, guys.” Whereas a buffalo says “Mess with me and I’ll head-butt you into a coma.”
The way people would pull off to the side of the road, get out of their cars and start approaching the animals for photos reminded me of Jurassic Park. We just needed some super cool Jeeps to tour around in. When two bison crossed the street in front of us, cars backed up for a mile. My dad goes, “Welcome to Nature. It’s a traffic jam.”
The lodge we stayed in was super cozy, back to the good ole’ days of no TV, internet, microwaves & cell phone service. We actually played cards, read, drank instant coffee…. and watched movies on our laptops ;) Can’t stay completely out of this century. Yellowstone is a place that everyone should get to see, to appreciate the beauty. Nature can do some freaky stuff! But next vacation I would like to do something a little less rustic and woodsy. Preferably somewhere I can run without seeing Warning/Danger/Caution signs along my route ;)
If you think my fear is exaggerated and bison look as casual as cattle, just Youtube “Bison attack at Yellowstone”! Probably not the night before entering the park though…