On Wednesday our goal was to drive through the Lamar Valley and see whatever wildlife we could, especially bison.
It was a long drive, all the way to the other side of the park, but the views along the way were fantastic.
This land seems untouched and the view is the same for us as it was for others 100 years ago or 1000 years ago. This is what the Native Americans and the 1904 tourists saw.
As great as the scenic drive was, my goal for the day was to see more buffalo. According to the web, in 2014, there were more than 4000 buffalo in Yellowstone National Park. So where are they? We had seen two small groups in Hayden Valley, and a few individuals over on the west side of the park, but I expected to see many more in the Lamar Valley. I didn't really do a head count on the six or seven groups we did see, but the thousands I wanted to see were not there. I remind myself that when you look at the map of the park, you see there are vast areas that are not visible from the roads. Perhaps thousands of buffalos are unseen beyond the hills.
In any event, if anyone had any doubts that the "Rut" has begun, evidence of the hormones in the air was evident. These adolescent animals, I think they were young bulls, were experimenting to see how this all worked.
The herds seemed very restless. There was a lot of movement in the fields as if they were just waiting for something to happen.
We watched as one male, we called him the "new bull" came across an open area away from the rest of the herd. He moved as if he had a purpose. He came in and carefully checked out several cows, moving on each time as if they were not for him. There were three or four other bulls at the far side of the herd and we noticed they started to move in his direction. No big fight, other than some pawing of the dust and perhaps a few loud grunts that sent him packing off to a field some distance from the cows. He stood his ground as if waiting until one of the ladies was ready for some action. We also noticed some of the calves were staying well away from the adults. I guess the moms has other things on their minds.
At one point, a large group of buffalo caused a traffic stop when they decided to cross the road to a "greener pasture" near the river.
This is a classic example of how people get into trouble with wildlife. We were parked, staying well away from the traveling animals, when these two boys jumped out of an RV and ran towards them to snap pictures. Fortunately they did not get any closer, and the buffalo did not seem to notice them. This time!
We watched as this cow and her calf carefully walked across the road,
followed by the biggest bull we had ever seen. Wonder if he is her mate this year.
Unfortunately we also saw the other end of this annual drama.
Old age. This poor critter was limping and emaciated.
We wonder if he or she will make it through the summer, much less the upcoming winter months.
Will the wolves come?
I think so.
I will probably remember this poor critter longer than any one of the fine fit bulls with their sleek hides and fat humps.
We drove on thru the valley and turned around at the northeast entrance of the park. We picnicked at a shaded place along one of the many rivers, and drove back through the areas where the buffalo were. We didn't stop again because by now there were many more cars than earlier in the day and we felt we had gotten enough pictures.
These are some of the other things we saw on this rather long drive:
We saw these rock formations at the Tower Falls overlook. Of course there was a falls too, but the pictures didn't "make the cut".
Both coming and going back we saw several views of this mountain formation. The broken texture of the rocks told a story of rapidly cooling lava in the past. From a distance it really looks like an Egyptian pyramid that wasn't quite right. You have to see it to know what I mean.
On the way back we stopped at Roosevelt Lodge and took a short hike. But I was not feeling up to scrambling up a dusty, slippery trail to the top of an overlook, so we turned back. I blamed it on the big lunch I had just eaten, but perhaps I was feeling tired from our early departure in the morning.
Unless we were professional photographers, it would be hard to capture the feeling we had at this stop along the road home. We felt like we could see forever, from the top of the world.
And so our month near Yellowstone National Park has come to an end. We still have a few days, during which we plan on seeing a couple of non-Yellowstone places. I ask myself if a month was long enough? Was it too long? We are ready to move on, but we may surely come back to this area another year. There is so much to enjoy here, other than Yellowstone.
The road goes on forever! And we will travel it as long as we can.