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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lions and Tigers and Bears, just kidding

November 4, 2012

This is my last day in Yellowstone National Park.  When I leave tomorrow, that will make it a full week.  It has been quite a journey and I’ve met some great people along the way.  I have been using the couch surfing network as I pass through the northwest.  While in Yellowstone, I have been staying with a guy who has been tracking bison for the past season, and is about begin the first leg of the winter wolf project.  It entails monitoring wolf behavior, tracking movements, kills, birthrates, migration and I’m sure a whole host of other things.  He is a good guy and really on top of his field.  I stayed in the park in the spare room in the dorms.  I had a bed, my first in a while.  It became strange living there for the week.  There was a drive of a short distance at a slow speed through the park just to get there.  I would forget that I was actually in the park at times, and randomly walk out to my car for something with the high possibility of a large bison bull or elk heard right outside.  The drive through the park was also deceiving.  It isn’t just regular countryside.  Deer really do cross the road, as do bison and big horn and even bear in the warmer seasons.  I felt pretty lucky to be there.  What a beautiful country!
We went out to explore a couple of valleys in the park.  One of which had a known carcass fairly close by which means that there is a good chance of seeing bears or wolves.  We saw both.  And coyotes.  It was quite an experience. The next day, we ran upon a second carcass as it was being discovered by the wolf trackers.   There was a black wolf a grey wolf and a grizzly bear that all eventually showed up to take a piece.  It was all at a far distance and there were many scopes that people set up and allowed the growing masses to take a view.  There were only three of us at first, but then the crowd grew much past twenty.  A whole MSU class excursion or something was caravanning through.  It was all quite the event.  I couldn’t help smile at being so close to it all. 
It definitely takes a certain type.  We met many people that are really into it.  I’m all for people doing what they want to do, especially for wildlife conservation, but some of the people we met were a little strange.  I’m not speaking of the people who work for the park and actually study and track the animals.  These are people that invest their time year after year to watch and take note of different interests.  Some like the wolves, some want to see bears, and others even prefer the bison.  There were vibes that they were just dorks in their awkward years of social adolescence until they found their niche.  No matter who it is you meet out in Yellowstone, there is no fear about geeking out about animals.   It was all good fun.  They were long, cold days of beautiful wilderness. 
I camped out for one night in Montana, Halloween night.  I can’t really describe what it was like.  It’s sort of like looking at a picture as opposed to really being there.  It doesn’t capture it.  I was just north of the north entrance perched on a hill spot overlooking the park.  There were snowy peaks as a backdrop for cascading levels of grassy mountains leading all the way down to the wide-open valley.  And when the clouds broke, the sky opened up to the heavens no matter day or night.  This is truly Big Sky country.  The horizons were massive.  Sunsets and rises would last forever and an ethereal light was cast on the raw open terrain.  It was also cold. Very cold.  Being alone out there in the night with the chill was noticeable… the ‘alone’ part.  I was a lone wolf howling at the moon, waiting for it to come down.  It never did.  It’s times like those that a man really finds himself in need of a good woman.  I said that phrase to some old guys I randomly had breakfast with this morning.  Gary and Bob.  They each lived in West Yellowstone and were both seniors with their discount passes.  “Too bad you have to wait till you get old”, Bob said.  Bob was around 76 or so and sharp as a whip, knew about facebookin’ and iPhones and all sorts of stuff that my parents even have trouble with.  He still used a film camera though.  Gary was a few years younger, I’m not really sure the exactness and it doesn’t matter.  He was upgraded to a Digital SLR camera.  That was actually how we met.  I stopped to take some pictures of some big horns on the mountainside and Gary had his carbon fiber tripod and 600mm lens standing next to me.  Well, I guess he was there first.  Anyway, we spoke a bit and happened to meet at the closest breakfast joint outside of the north entrance.  They saw me sitting alone and invited me over.  I happily accepted, and we shared great conversation over a sloppy breakfast.  They were outstanding gentlemen.  We talked about many things.  One of which was my lack of healthcare after quitting my job.  He mentioned “Obama-care” in an endearing way.  I was shocked and confused.  I thought for a second that I was going to find myself in a political debate with two nice guys.  I winced a little and it turned out that these guys continued their streak of being savvy and together with the times.  They were on the page that the Republicans are out of their minds.  Rightly so.  I was glad to see that on the cusp of two red states (MT, WY) there were two blue votes.  Not that I’m a “blue voter” by strict definition.  There just happens to be a limited number of choices.  And the political climate right now is absolutely ridiculous.  I’m afraid people will start being assaulted for asserting that the Earth revolves around the Sun.  It’s that crazy!  Anyway, if I can get back to the beginning of the story which I’ve apparently told completely backwards…
I said that phrase to them and they’re response was a sarcastic, “Good Luck!”  We acknowledged that there are some good people out there; it is just a difficult time.  We all soaked it in as the meal came to an end.  Gary bought all our plates and I left the tip.  I really enjoyed my random breakfast with Gary and Bob.  It was an amazing moment that I got to take part of in our American Northwest.  

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