Got wildlife and Magma?
Well this place has tons of both. We’ve seen black bears, moose, bison, big horn sheep, elk, coyote, fox, beaver, river otters, eagles, osprey and heard a pack of wolves several times. We’ve also seen more geysers, mud pots, steam vents, cauldrons, and rivers that run hot to last a lifetime. Actually there are more geysers here in Yellowstone than in Iceland and Greenland combined.
I have to admit that hiking in country that I am no longer the apex predator has got me a little on edge. I am not only not number 1, but I’m lucky if I’m forth or fifth on the food chain. They’ve got grizzlies, black bear, wolves, mountain lions and bob cats. Not to mention the other animals that could kill you just for being in there way such as buffalo, elk and moose. Almost every tree in the park has the scars from some large horned animal sharpening their antlers or horns on them to let you know that you’re small and pretty much defenseless against them. I was starkly reminded about this at midnight as the full moon first broke the horizon on our second night. I was woken from a sound sleep by a pack of wolves howling in a chorus around our camp site. It’s a ghostly sound and as others chimed in it had a deliciously layered surround sound effect amplified by the total silence of Yellowstone’s back country. My guess is that the alpha male starts and sets the tone and beat while the others scattered throughout the surrounding wilderness chime in add to the rhythm. I could tell that some where young, some old, some male, some female, some near and some far, but it’s was a sound that I will not soon forget. This went on for 15-20 minutes four times that night.
As I am writing this in my sleeping bag the next morning at the crack of dawn I hear another very strange noise and from my guess it’s a sand hill crane. A crazy sound from a bird that I would imagine would want to lie low, or maybe that’s just the risk they take to find a mate.
Speaking of crazy sounds and how one’s imagination runs wild when you think you’re being stocked by wild animals. I was lying in bed just this morning and thought for sure that I heard foot, hoof or paw steps just outside our tent. I worked up the courage to open the tent flap thinking that a grizzly bear is just waiting to bite my head off, but there wasn’t anything there except the beautiful warm morning light, dewy green leafs and brilliant blue sky. I crawled back into the tent to catch up on some missed sleep from the night before. As soon as I get settled in and everything again is quiet I hear it again as loud and clear as ever. This time I think for sure it’s the ranger coming over to check our permits just as he did the morning prior. I open the flap and again exasperated there is nothing out there. I go back to bed and come to realize that my heart beating, a little louder than normal is causing my sub zero sleeping bag, which has a hood is pushing against my whiskers and ear to cause a sound that closely resembles the pace and sound of foot steps. I think I am going to just get up and make some coffee.
Does anyone know what “Beaver Fever” is? No, not that kind you sicko! The reason I ask is that we have beavers in our front yard so to speak and have been swimming and drinking filtered water what I come to find is down stream from no less that 5 beaver dams, and probably more. The night prior I noticed that we were about out of water and went down to pump some more before dark. I was surprised that Mr. Beaver swam right up to me within 15’ or so and just paced back and forth in the water watching my every move. I’ve never had that happen. Usually they’re just pissed that you’re in their territory like our first night when we camped on the beach. Jen was reading late into the night when she woke me up tell me there was some thing big out there throwing something into the water. I immediately can tell it’s a beaver slapping their tales against the water to let you know that you’re trespassing.
Another interestingly haunting sound happened just prior to the beaver incident and that was the sound of a loon imitating the howling of a wolf. I’m from Michigan and so I’ve only hear loons do one type of call before, so I was unsure what the hell that sound echoing across a deadly silent lake was. It wasn’t till the next morning when I asked the ranger what it could possibly be and he tells me that they can sometimes sound like an elk as well.
Today we have to just hike a couple of miles to our next camp site, from 8H5 to 8H1 at the South end of Heart Lake. More beautiful meadows and lodge pole pines. No wildlife sighting on the hike, but it was nice none the less. We have a nice new camping site and the ranger tells us that there is going to be a meteor show from 12 – 3:00 am this morning. It starts to rain so we opt to take a siesta in preparation to try to wake up for the show tonight. We wake just in time for H.H. of Tequila and Country Time Lemon Aid down by the lake and watch the storms roll on past. The clouds and rain coming down in the distance is impressive scene, but I am too lazy to run back to the tent to get my camera.
Woke up for the meteor shower, but it’s been dropping down into the low 30’s so we only stayed out for a 15 minutes, but saw a dozen or so good ones streak across the sky.
I was awoken by the howl of a lone wolf this morning at the crack of dawn. After the second howl we got out of the tent to scan the near by mountain side, since it was so loud and clear that we could tell it was near by. Jen sees movement on the mountain side, and yells there they are, but it was only two deer running, probably for their lives.
Got packed up quick and sloppy for a two mile hike to our next camp site @ 8H6, so we can summit Mt Sheridan, which is 3,000’ in 4 miles. An ass kicker for sure, but the 360 degree view of the South side of Yellowstone and the North side of the Grand Tetons was worth it.
Our last morning we were awoke by the loon again at dawn and this time decided to get up and get out watch the morning light on the mirror smooth lake and watch a family of river otters eat their breakfast of fresh caught trout.
I know I’ve skipped Bryce and Capital Reef, but I didn’t write much, so please check back soon for an update.