Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Yellowstone in Snow

We made our way into the main lodge at Shoshone Lodge for breakfast. The staff was aflutter with news that a grizzly visited us last night. Apparently, he walked just past our cabin and through the main part of camp; his footprints were huge. This struck me. I had left the main lodge at close to 10 PM, walking back to our cabin in the pitch dark. I wonder at what time he meandered through…

Over a hearty breakfast, we learn that more snow is forecasted. We opt to reserve our cabin for an addtl night and to check out our camp when we make our way into the park. Through the east entrance, we climbed mighty mountains into breathtaking views of near avalanche-like proportions. In one particular pass, a howitzer stood on a small platform, indicating that it is used to start avalanches and clear the roads. As we drove along the five foot embankment of snow, it was quite surreal.

Our first sighting came within five miles of the park’s entrance. A few cars in front of us pull over. We look up and see a small grizzly by himself, turning over rocks and eating grubs and snow. We gaze up at him for a few minutes and then make our way into the park. As we drive away, we name him Gavin the Grizzly. Brad’s first grizzly.We descended into the lake region, taking in the grey blue waters of Lake Yellowstone and watching bison (Bennie) munch on some grass nearby. We head onto the mudpits and geysers as we make or way to Hayden Valley. We stop and tour the mudpits. Smelling of sulpher, we take the .5 walkway loop. As the smoke cleared from one of the pits, we stand face to face with a small group of bison. Only ten feet or less from us, these majestic creatures are unaffected by us. Parents quiet their children as we pass, everyone remaining respectful of their space and heeding park signs that bison ought not be approached. We turn off the flash of our camera and pose for pictures on the walkway. As we round one corner, a seated alpha male is eerily close to the boardwalk. Brad steps back and takes a picture. We hold hands, experiencing this wonder together. We make way for others to behold this moment, and just a few moments after we walk away, we hear a crowd gasp. We turn to see the crowd parting and bison moving across the walk to another area that has less crowds. We were so lucky.

Our last stop was to view a pit called the Dragon keep. This small cave smokes and has a faint outline of a dragon’s head. Aptly named, I thought. See if you can see the image peering through the smoke.

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