Saturday, July 21, 2012
Day 7-8: Lamar Valley
Today we drove out to Lamar Valley to see more wildlife. Everywhere we stop, someone says, “Hey, you’re the girl I saw doing a dance in the lodge” or “Did you get your pancakes for breakfast?” Today, Cate’s highlight was when we stopped to watch a bison herd. A car pulled up behind us and when the girls got out they said, “Hey, there’s peanut!” (The best way we’ve been able to get Cate to smile for photos is by saying ‘peanut.’) We ended up staying for around half an hour, listening to the bison grunt and letting Cate compare photos with the other young girls, who were so sweet to indulge her. She made them make silly faces while she took pictures with her camera.
We lunched by another creek, where Cate chased the chipmunks. At first she was coaxing them saying, “Come to Mama.” Then she said, “Get over here so I can eat you for dinner!” She’s got a little country in her, I think.
We also saw our second black bear today. We had less luck with the hiking. We got several yards up one trail, when Cate insisted that she had to go poop. (TMI, I know. Sorry.) Man, the bathroom situation is tough out here. My little lady’s not shy about tinkling on the side of the road when necessary, but it still feels like we’ve hit every bathroom in the park. If we’re blessed with another child someday, I hope it’s a boy so Cory can take him to the bathroom all the time. :) Later, we tried another trail and rain clouds started rolling in. Looks like hiking was not in the cards today. Cate had a random, short nap so she was fiercely grumpy when we got back to the campsite. Every little thing produced an onslaught of tears. After dinner, she went to lie in the tent and watch movies even though it was still daylight.
The next day, we hit the wildlife jackpot! We were driving along, deciding what to do next when we saw two elk right on the side of the road with huge fuzzy antlers. Cory said that it was a good omen for another wildlife day. I was skeptical of another day of driving slowly and scouring the tree line, but I agreed. We didn’t drive much further before we came to a traffic jam, people pulled off the roads, and some just stopped in the middle all with their cameras and ‘nocs (as we’ve come to call them) out. We were in the perfect position to see a grizzly bear lumbering along a creek. We stopped right in the road with the lot of them and stayed there to watch him until the ranger made us move. He was more golden than the black bear, and larger. Graceful and powerful, he just did his own thing- paying us no mind.
We were on a nice little nature high, having just seen a ‘Griz’ and would have called the day a success if it ended there. Oh, but it didn’t. We rounded a bend in the Valley to find another traffic jam. This time, the shoulders were packed with people with large scopes. They had just seen a wolf pack take down an elk. The camaraderie was amazing: people sharing scopes and guiding others to better views. Cory was struggling to capture it with even his longest lens, so another photographer let him attach his camera to their larger lens.
The previous night, we attended a ranger talk about the wolves of Yellowstone. Apparently they had become extinct in the park, and some had recently been brought down from Canada and rereleased, where they have been thriving. They are helpful to the park by keeping the herbivore population under control, which in turn helps the plants and other animals to thrive. They still are pretty scarce, so a sighting was a definite thrill. We couldn’t believe our luck.