Today I thought I’d write about (and reuse pictures from) something from about 5 years ago. My sons’ Boy Scout Troop made a trip to Yellowstone National Park, renting a bus and also hitting the South Dakota Badlands and Devil’s Tower along the way. One of the things we did was take some pretty nice hikes into some of Yellowstone’s backcounty.
On this particular hike, I wasn’t even barefoot. It was our second 10-miler in 3 days, and I was footsore from the previous one, which took us over the hoodoos around Mammoth Hot Springs. Even being footsore, I might have done OK, except that we started at Old Faithful, and I tenderized my feet on the very hot boardwalk rather early. Oh, well. Live and learn.
So instead I hiked the full 10 miles in flip-flops. Worked just fine, too, except it totally trashed the flip-flops. By the end, they had been pretty much squished down to nothing.
Anyway, we hiked from Old Faithful to Mystic Falls and on the way back we saw this elk just standing to the side of the trail, intently looking off in the distance and paying us no mind . . .
We even tried getting the elk’s attention so it would look at us (better photo). Nothing worked.
Then it suddenly turned, and ran right at us.
I mean really at us (or at least the adult taking these photographs; the rest of us were about 20 feet behind him).
A split second after that photo was taken, the elk suddenly noticed us (and the photographer) and ended up jumping over the photographer (or real close to it). It did miss him.
We shortly found out why the elk had been so intent on the distance and why it had panicked:
The elk dashed off to our left, quickly outpacing the bear, and the bear stopped right in front of us to start sniffing around.
Now, during all this I had collected all of the hikers into one big group (that’s what the guide books said to do) so that we looked as big as possible. There were about 10 of us, so we could look pretty big.
And then . . .
He noticed us. Would you like a close-up of that? Why, yes. Yes you would.
Would you like to see the close-up of when he got really interested in us? Why, yes. Yes you would.
He then started down the trail in our direction. I was using my best tour-guide voice to the hikers: “Okay, we’re backing down the trail. We’re facing the bear. Okay, now we are getting off the trail.” We got about 20 feet off the trail as the bear heading up it. “Okay, now I’m getting out my machete.” Yes, I had one with me.
The bear ended up staying on the trail and headed right by us.
And then it turned around and walked right past us again.
Finally, it decided to go see if it could find where that elk had gone.
By the way, that was a grizzly. You can tell by the hump on the shoulders. When we returned to the visitor’s center we came across a ranger and told her of what we’d seen. The ranger went into her best teaching voice, and asked, “And how do you know it was a grizzly?” One of us started describing the hump (though you could tell the ranger was somewhat skeptical, since visitors often get that sort of thing wrong) when another of us just pulled up a picture on his camera. Ranger: “Oh, that is a grizzly.” She later told us there had been a 3-year old in the area recently.
When I had prepared for this trip to Yellowstone, as the hiking leader I had tried to prepare as best I could. So I’d read all sorts of books and websites, and I’d also read a good website on what to do on meeting a bear. So I knew what we should do.
Fortunately, it appears the bear had also read the same website, so it knew how to play its part properly, too.
And finally, here’s another picture from that trip. This is at Dunraven Pass the day before the Old Faithful hike (yes, I did that short hike barefoot, even while being a bit footsore). It was at a pretty high elevation (around 9,000 feet) so there was still snow on the ground. These are always fun shots to take:
[Photo credits: Guy Ingram, Braden Powell, Reid Neinast]