Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Trail Girl And The Eagle Scout

So, I have a pretty good story. You'll want to click on the pictures to get a bigger view as you read.
As I mentioned in my previous post, my B and I took off for Yellowstone last weekend, taking our favorite route from Cody, up through Sunlight Basin, then Cooke City, MT, to the NE gate of the Park. We arrived at about five or six-ish in the afternoon, and drove to the Lamar Valley, our favorite animal spotting area. Early evening is perfect for this, and we pulled off on a random trailhead. We could see the trail led up a clear hill, with trees running down far off to the left of us, where I assumed a creek ran, up to foothills and into the trees. But, for the most part, it was a clearing of gently rolling slopes, and to our right and behind us, we could see forever. B had his bear spray harness on, and I had my camera. We weren't going far, so we didn't even take water. We could look down behind us and see our suburban and the road most of the way, unless it was obscured by one of the rolling slopes. We could also see, to our left, further down the road, a group of cars parked, probably tourists watching buffalo, and could even see a large herd in the distance, lower and far away.
Well, we are climbing on boulders and wallowing in bufallo wallows, snapping pictures and sticking to the climbing trail, when I mention I can hear the creek.
"What creek?" my B asks.
The creek over in those trees," I answer, pointing.
"I don't hear it," he says.
"Oh, yeah. Let's go see it."
I look at the worn dirt path my feet are standing on and say, "Um, I'm a trail girl. I stay on the trail. Trails are very important to me."
"Trail, shmail," he replies. "It's right there. Look, we can still see the trail as we walk over there."
I look, then look back at my feet. "But, I like the trail."
"Oh, come on." He begins to walk, a smile on his face. I don't want to be alone on the trail, so I hurry to catch up to him.
"You know," I say as we walk and I try to keep up with his long strides, "this is the time of day when the animals go to water. They go to the water to drink, like, any time now."
He chuckles softly and gestures to the wide open area. "Nothing is here. We're fine."
We crest a bank, and a soft drop below us reveals a creek almost hidden in rocks and trees.
"Oh, pretty," I say, and snap a picture."
B turns up stream and begins to climb.
"Shouldn't we go back to the trail now?"
"Do you think? Let's climb a little here." He knows what he's doing, it's his birthday, and he is enjoying himself.
I follow a little, but then say, "Okay Brandon, let's go back to the trail."
"All right. Let's head back."
We turn and head back, cresting the little ridge, and the sun is low, shooting across and it is gorgeous. So I take some more picture as we walk toward the trail, and B stops and gives me a smooch and it is quite romantic. We reach the trail and turn downhill, and I stop cold.
"Um, there is a buffalo on our trail."
Far below us, a bull bison is standing on our trail.
"Oh yeah. He'll be gone by the time we get there." He takes a step, and movement catches my eye much closer to us down the hill. I grab his shirt and stop him.
"Um, Brandon... there is a BEAR on our trail."
He stops cold. "Oh, crap, there is a bear on our trail."
About 40 yards away, a black bear is making his way... guess where?
"I TOLD you animals go to water this time of day. He is going to the creek, where WE were, because we left the TRAIL." I am really pulling on B's shirt now.
"Uh-huh," is all he says.
Then we start to laugh quietly because we are pretty nervous. I take a few pictures and we inch our way down as the bear eventually disappears over the bank to the creek.
Well, we circle wide, and as I take careful but long steps, I say, "I will leave the trail a little for this."
We look ahead. The buffalo is still on our trail, chewing. The area narrows there, and he is between us and our car. I am still looking over my shoulder to make sure the bear is still thirsty, and also to my left, where he came from, because now I am remembering that herd of buffalo down so far away. They could be thirsty. It was hot that day. I was thirsty.
We slow as we come up on the buffalo, still a good twenty-five yards between us. He turns and looks at us and is so bored I am insulted. We take a few steps past, and he decides to mosey off the path and the WATER, I am sure. We make sure he is bent on his course, then walk quickly to the trail, which I almost kiss, but buffalo... blech.
We approach the car, and see two cars parked there.
"Are you guys all right? Did you see the bear?"
It is a woman with a Texas accent (it said she had one on her license plate) leaning out her window.
"Yes!" My eyes, I'm sure, were buggin'. "It walked right across our trail!"
She nodded. "A bunch of us were watching that bear down the road, then it turned and made its way up here, and we said, 'What is that?' and I said, 'Those are hikers!', so we high-tailed it over here to make sure you made it back alive, and then we saw that!"
She pointed behind me.
There, in the dirt, just beyond the driver's side of our car, was a whole skeleton of a young buffalo, fairly freshly picked clean.
I slowly turned to B. "DID YOU SEE THAT BEFORE?"
He gave me a sheepish look. "Yeah. I didn't want to freak you out, so I didn't say anything."
He didn't want to freak me out.
Now, just so you know, I am aware that Black bears are generally very shy, and will most likely run away as opposed to Grizzlies, so I wasn't very freaked out.
But I was unnerved enough that I didn't think to take a picture of the skeleton, which would have been great to show the kids.
I was in my car. With the door shut.
And we were both laughing. It was awesome.


wyomingerica said...

wow what a story, hope you had a great time.

Anonymous said...

Great story, although I have to tell you that makes me think twice about the little backpacking trip Mike has me talked into for our getaway - I hope I don't have a story like that.

Gramma Spice said...

Almost like the incident in your book...just not as close an encounter, thankfully! Stay safe! That's an order from your dad and me!