Saturday, June 7: goodbye to Yellowstone
“There’s a bison right outside the tent,” Kurt whispered to me as I slowly woke up around 6 am on our last morning in Yellowstone. Sure enough, I could hear its breathing and heavy shuffling footsteps just a few feet away. We could even smell it. We stayed quiet and still, and it moved on. However, a second bison was right behind him, and this one was much more agitated about our tent being on his turf. We could hear him huffing and grunting at us as a warning. “Would a bison ever charge a tent?” Kurt whispered. I shrugged, freaking out, but gestured to remain quiet. The huffs grew louder and angrier, and we could tell that the bison was directly next to the tent. After about 30 seconds (but felt much longer), it finally relented, realizing that the tent was not going to move. We heard his footsteps move away and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Kurt unzipped the top part of the tent door to check and see how far the bison had moved along.
Once the bison had gotten further down the valley, we finally were able to move around and make noise. It was time to head back to the car, so we packed up camp, had an easy breakfast of oatmeal bars and jerky, then began our hike back to the trailhead. Luckily, this time when we reached the top of the ridge there were no bison in sight, so we were able to stay on the trail. Along the way, we saw some clear wolf tracks in the mud, fresh since the previous night’s rainstorm.
The return hike went much faster, as we didn’t run into any more bison herds. The only detour we needed to take was near the end of the hike, when a single bison had wandered close to the trail. At that point we had run into a day hiker from Cody, so we followed him when he took a wide berth around the grazing animal. In the distance, we could see the herd returning to the meadow, climbing up a steep ridge. It was amazing how easily such large, bulky creatures could climb the steep drop. Pronghorns were grazing nearby, coexisting peacefully with the bison. We reached the road and our car, and were grateful to be done with our heavy packs. As we snacked on some granola bars and put our things away in the, we saw a fox running alongside the road.
It was bittersweet to leave Yellowstone, as we were excited for Glacier but had had such an amazing time in Wyoming. We made one last stop at Mammoth Hot Springs and loaded up on hot drinks and souvenirs. There were elk wandering around all over the area, which was surprising considering that it was such a heavily (human) populated area with shops, restaurants, and lodges.
We drove out the north exit, finally on our way to Montana.
Within a few hours we reached Bozeman. After a quick errand at the Bozeman REI, we enjoyed a late lunch and some local beers at the Soup Shack downtown, then checked into our motel. After taking the best hot shower after, we spent the rest of the evening take care of a few more errands–namely, laundry. The rest of the night was spent relaxing on actual beds for the first time in a week, watching some TV while drinking a bottle of wine left over from the wedding, and poring over Montana guidebooks in preparation for Glacier.
Wildlife sightings: bison, pronghorns, fox, wolf prints
New state visited: Montana