Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Yellowstone: More than just Old Faithful (2)

Continuing from the first day...

We decided to wake up really early the next day to join the ranger tour at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. I honestly wasn't expecting much, because I have seen the real Grand Canyon at Arizona. What could beat that?

On our way to the meeting point, we ran into a little 'problem'. A few bisons decided that the road belonged to them and refused to move. They hogged the road for a good five minutes, before one of them finally decided to give way.

These animals, weighing up to 2,000 pounds, are enormous and are known to have gored visitors at Yellowstone. Although they appeared docile, it's best to give them plenty of space because they charge pretty fast!

In spite of the bison delay, we managed to reach the South Rim Trail in time for the ranger tour. I must say, I was wrong; the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is magnificent in its own right. I can hear the Upper and Lower Falls even from a distance.

The ranger took us on a short south rim trail, but we continued on to various view points on both the south and north rims. My favourite has got to be Artist Point on the south, and Grand View on the north. Endless opportunities to appreciate the grandeur of the canyon. I especially love the winding valley.

Then rainbows, rainbows, and more rainbows! Big, beautiful arcs over the water!

Although the ranger tour was short, it gave us a lot of interesting information. I asked about the large piles of poop littered around the trail, and found out that animals like bisons and elks like to use the trails carved out for park visitors, too. Wolves, on the other hand, prefer the power lines.

The day before we arrived, the rangers also had to close off one north rim trail. A grizzly bear had hidden the carcass of an elk calf close to the trail and was feasting on the insides (poor baby!). It would be coming back for the rest of the kill, so it would be extremely dangerous for visitors to walk on that trail.

So the next time you see a 'no entry' sign on a trail, stay clear for safety's sake!

After exploring the Grand Canyon, we headed back south to check out the Mud Volcano Trail. It is a small area compared to the Old Faithful Area Trail. I was more impressed with the Dragon's Mouth Spring, which makes hissing sound as the vapour spouts out. It sounded like a giant's respiration.

It was also the perfect day for animal viewing! Other than a bison-filled morning, we spotted an adult elk grazing at the side of the road. It was a pity that we didn't see more animals at Hayden Valley.  

As we were about to leave the park for the day, we noticed a commotion by the side of the road with lots of people and 2-3 ranger vehicles. Instinctively, I knew it was bear. I stopped the car, grabbed my camera and jumped out. True enough, we saw a grizzly sleeping in the middle of a field. We had a good view of it through the telephoto lens of another visitor.

The guy was talking and showing us other bear photos he had taken. We were admiring his photos when suddenly, out of the corner of my eyes, I saw movement. The grizzly has woken up.

"Oh, it's moving!" I said excitedly, straining my eyes to see the fuzzy brown patch over the field.

"Yeah... I think he is coming towards us," the guy said nonchalantly.

"Really?" I had thought it was heading in the opposite direction.

I was still thinking, how cute, we can see a grizzly up close.

Then I remembered the elk calf.

"Say, do you think this is a safe distance?"

The guy paused for a while. "Well... not really."

He started to pack his camera quickly.

I panicked and yelled, "MOM, LET'S GET BACK TO THE CAR NOW! MOM!"

Everything happened so fast in the next minute. I recalled backing away as quickly as I could without running, making sure that Mom was following me. I recalled waving wildly at Dad who was about to drive away because he had wanted to move the car for a better view. I recalled the rangers shouting at everyone with a loud hailer, to please get back inside our cars now.

By the time we jumped back inside our car, the grizzly has gotten much closer. At the same time, mom spotted a deer emerging at the other side of the road - the poor deer must be the reason for the bear's movement!

We got blocked by trees momentarily and lost sight of the grizzly. Just as we were wondering where it was, it reappeared at the side of the road. For a moment, we looked back and forth between the bear and the deer, the latter obviously in shock. Will it end up like the elk calf?

The moment was lost as a white lorry cut our lane, breaking the bear's attention. The bear then trotted across the road, and both bear and deer disappeared into the bushes.

What a drama!

To be continued...

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