In the summer of 2016, I made my way out to Wyoming from Upstate New York and back, stopping along the way at a bunch of State and National Parks. One of the parks I went to was Yellowstone, which was one of the craziest places I've ever experienced. With Grand Teton National Park directly bordering Yellowstone to the south, and several National Forest surrounding both parks, these protected areas make up the "18,000,000 acre Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which is one of the world's largest intact mid-latitude temperate ecosystems." It's wild out there, man.
One of my favorite experiences of that trip was the morning when Danielle and I woke up before sunrise, had a quick snack, and then set out from Canyon Village to the northeastern part of the park through Lamar Valley. The reason we had decided to make the drive through Lamar Valley was, upon initially entering the park, a ranger said that area is extremely abundant with wildlife activity in the early hours of the morning, and would provide the best opportunities for seeing wolves and grizzlies. Wolves and grizzlies? Sign me the fuck up.
Driving around the Yellowstone at that time of the morning was truly an amazing experience. Thinking about how the park looked as we drove through the rich and diversity landscape, as the sun was rising, is something that I'll never forget. The colors that emanated all around us, the ambiance of the environment and landscape, the music that we listened to, the feeling of the cool, morning's breeze, hanging with my favorite person in the world , all of it made for such a memorable trek.
We slowly made our way northeast, traveling along the valley, stopping to take in the sights and snap some photos. At one point, we got to see Pronghorns for the first time. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Pronghorns, they're antelope that are just wild and peculiar looking. They're a mixture of cool and weird. They have white fur that covers their mid-section and face, have two antlers that jut out of their head right at the top of their dome, and they run super weird (it's kinda like a hop more than a run). At one point, we saw two males get into it, and one of them made a pretty ridiculous, high pitched screeching, which was both funny and entertaining to witness. They kept at it until one of them decided to concede and start off in the other direction. He hopped right the hell outta there.
And then there were the bison! And, man, they were everywhere! Let me preface this by saying that, prior to getting to Yellowstone, Danielle and I knew that there would be bison in the park, but neither of us knew just how many there would be. When speaking to our ranger friend from earlier, we asked him what the likelihood was that we'd get to see some bison. He chuckled at us and said, "don't worry, you'll get to see some bison. There's 5,000 of em in the park." Just like he said, we saw them all over the damn place. We'd see them near streams and ponds, in meadows, regularly blocking traffic as they crossed or just straight up chilled in roads. You almost can't escape them in Yellowstone, yet you never tire from seeing such large and beautiful creatures. When I think back to Yellowstone, one of the first things that comes to mind are the bison. They're one of the myriad attributes that make Yellowstone one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.
On this particular morning, we saw them all over Lamar Valley. On several occasions, they were hanging in the road just doing their thing, and blocked traffic without a care in the world. When this would happen, we hung back and gladly waited for them to move out of harm's way. It's really hard to get sick of seeing such docile, iconic, and formidable animals, so we always made sure to soak up the moment whenever we got to see them. It's just really hard to tire from seeing these awesome sons a bitches.
Continuing northeast, we were driving and noticed that a bunch of people had stopped and were congregating at a turnout. We figured we'd pull over, check it out, and see what the deal was. When we got out of our car, we noticed that there were a bunch of people with binoculars scoping out the meadow that lay to the east of us. I asked someone what was going on, to which they told me that there were a pack of wolves devouring a bison carcass off in the distance. We weren't able to see anything other than some specks moving around, but a gentleman was kind enough to share his binoculars with us. Sure enough, there were wolves doing their things and going to town on the dead animal. Even though we couldn't get the best glimpse at some wild wolves, it was pretty sweet to know we still got to see some, and got to see them eating a freaking bison no less.
We eventually drove as far as we could, coming upon the park's northeastern entrance. After venturing as far northeast as we could and spending several hours slowly driving through this part of Yellowstone, Danielle and I decided to start making our way back towards camp, as we had some shorter hikes planned for the later in the day. On our way back towards Canyon Village, we stopped at a place in the Tower-Roosevelt area to crush a delicious breakfast that felt like a gift from the gods that morning. I got an order of huevos rancheros and shheeeeeiiiiitt was is it delectable and the perfect way to cap off a completely successful morning.