On the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day we took advantage of some glorious weather and went into the park. Dunraven pass (the road between Canyon Village and Tower Roosevelt had finally opened!!!) and I was really excited to see this last section of the park. The day started out great as along the way I got to see my first Momma Grizzly and her two cubs. Thankfully Lee was able to find a parking spot and we jumped out and took some pictures.
I got some great shots with my 400MM but Lee’s were better with the 600MM, plus he’s a better photographer in general so here are his shots.
We could have watched this all day but we got our shots and moved on. Partly to allow others a chance at a plum parking spot and partly because I really wanted to drive the road. Turned out that was a good call because the road was absolutely gorgeous. I did understand why they had kept it closed so long though because the snow pack was crazy high and the road was twisty turney. It reminded both of us of some of our Alaskan long drives and we loved it. I learned later the road have been under construction and been closed for the last couple of years so we were one of the first ones on it.
The road got even better though because near the end we saw a black bear and her two cubs. This time there was no place to park but we drove right by her and I got a few shots out of the truck window. Not too bad if I do say so myself 🙂 I didn’t even see the cubs at first I was so focused on her, but when one started to try and climb a tree I got the shot.
After seeing the bears we went to the Tower gift shop and were surprised to see that the parking lot was packed. It is right next to the falls and there were some bears far down in the valley so people were having a really good time. I am glad we got to see the falls when hardly anyone was there though.
Afterwards we turned around and drove back down the same road (it was pretty both ways) and stopped at Canyon Village for a buffet dinner. In order to help with staffing shortages they are offering a cafeteria style meal which was pretty decent. It was $22, a little on the pricey side, but the food was tasty after a long day. Plus a new gift shop was open and we got some terrific 150th anniversary shirts (2 for $25). This shirt is by far my favorite and I am so glad I found it. As a side note there is much repetition between the various gift shops but each one seems to have some unique items, so it is worth stopping at all of them. And its fun of course!
Once again it was a lovely day, bookended by two different bear encounters. If you are a person who loves happy endings (you know who you are) I want you to stop right here. For those who are more interested in the good and the bad please continue…
The day did go very well but when we headed out of the park we finally ran into the traffic we have been hearing so much about. We hit two bison jams on the way out and it took over 1-1/2 hours to finally get back to West Yellowstone. Sometimes the jams are legitimate because the bison are in the middle of the road, but usually people are just stopping or slowing down to get pictures. Since there is only one way in and out you just have to wait. To give you an example during the worst one I got out and walked the dog for some time before Lee caught up with me.
Which leads me to what else I want to talk about. Yellowstone is not a zoo. The animals are not contained in any way, and although bison look like cute fluffy cows, they are wild animals. People get seriously hurt, and sometimes killed, every year, and this years first serious injury was a 25 year old (coincidently from my home town of Grove City, Ohio) who got gored by a bison. Originally reports said she died, but we later learned she did survive although I have no idea of the permanent damage. Have you ever seen a cowboy try to ride a bull and then get thrown off and attacked? Think that scenario but with no rodeo clowns to intervene. This is serious business, but people repeatedly ignore signs and get too close. We see it every time we go into the park.
In addition, wild animals hunt each other. I hate to tell you (and hated to learn) that those two baby grizzlies shown above were killed by a male grizzly the day after we saw them. I found this particularly upsetting, but male bears will kill the cubs of another male to protect their territory and put the female back in estrus. Lee is on local Facebook groups that track this sort of thing and I told him going forward I would rather not know. I am a happy ending kind of person myself and would prefer to believe those babies grew up to have babies of their own. Only one in three cubs actually survive though which helps keep the bear population manageable. Mother nature is glorious and brutal in its wonder and death is a key part of maintaining the balance.
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