Second day at the Dude ranch and I’m still calling Gene Dude. He is mildly amused. Just mildly. But he didn’t hide the bear spray, so I think he still has my back. We started our day with a “Legendary hearty biscuits and sausage” breakfast and coffee at 7 a.m. We were awake in plenty of time to hit the grub station early as we lay in bed and tried to decipher what animal was making that weird noise. We settled on a Turduckin. We followed the smell of smoke and entered the dining room and got our breakfast, packed a lunch and headed to Yellowstone’s East entrance.
We were about ten miles out when I turned to Dude and said, “My goals for today are to see a bear, a bison, and a moose.” Dude replied, “As long as they aren’t on the road.” I swear I’m not making this up. We rounded a corner and both wondered why a backpacker was walking down the middle of the road, only to realize that it was a bison. No way! Gene slowed down and the bison walked right by our vehicle. I took video because I couldn’t believe it. As we pulled away, we looked at each other and said, “Best day ever!” and fist bumped. I’m not sure if that is kosher for Dude’s to do but, we did it.
We enter Yellowstone with our brand spankin new National Parks Pass. The park ranger greets us, glances at the pass, hands us a map and say’s we are good to go. I want to have a discussion with her about how this is our first time EVER to use our Parks Pass, but Gene pulls through the gate. I have gracefully agreed to stop calling him Dude while we are in the National Park – or any park in the future for that matter. Compromise leads to good marriages.
Gene explains to me that he has downloaded the Yellowstone app and it has tons of useful information. The only issue is that we don’t have cell phone or internet service. I mean NO SERVICE is flashing on our phones. They are basically rocks. Gene mentions that there are several places that provide internet service in the park. When I ask him where, he says he would have to use his app to find out. We laugh. There are a lot of “if I had internet” comments in the next two days.
If you have never been to Yellowstone, I can tell you that it is huge and there is no way to cover it in a day. We set off to explore the south loop. Due to being late in the season and Covid-19, we experience little traffic except in the popular geyser areas and bison areas. The weather is beautiful and we stop frequently to take photos and to enjoy the beautiful day and scenery.
We stop at a picnic area where we meet a couple from Kansas who stop to talk with us. They told us that there was a mother and baby moose just a mile up the road. Then they ask if we saw the bear. What bear? They tell us that everyone is talking about the bear eating a dead elk in the park and that it had been around for several days and people were getting great photos. Someone actually got video of the bear taking down the elk. We swore we would be on the look-out. We did see the two moose (mooses?) right where they told us to look. They looked like statues as they stared as we passed them taking photos. I told Gene, “We could score all three of my goals in one day at this rate.”
Many of the stores and restaurants are closed, so we are glad we packed a lunch. We decide to head for Old Faithful when we see signs that we are entering wildfire zones and may have to turn around. We start to smell smoke and begin to wonder if we should have picked a different year to visit Yellowstone, but fortunately, we were ahead of the fires and managed to get to the Old Faithful turnout (later in the day, visitors weren’t so lucky). But it opened up a discussion about whether we should be driving towards wild fires. Kudos to the park personnel for putting safety first and stopping traffic when it was appropriate.
This was by far the most crowded section of the park that we encountered and only about 10 percent of the people were wearing masks even though there were signs everywhere making it clear that they were required. Gene and I wore our masks and stayed at least 30 feet from other guests as we waited for the geyser to erupt. We got great photographs and decided to leave without visiting the gift shops. It was just too crowded.
After Old Faithful, we decided to skip the geysers as the combination of smoke and sulfur didn’t seem to be a good mix. We headed to the Hayden Valley where the bison are numerous. Unfortunately, that notorious bear was still snacking on the elk and we hit a complete stop for some time watching people with long range lenses run/walk to get a better view. Traffic was at a standstill and the park rangers were overwhelmed. Here is the story posted in the local papers and link:
BILLINGS — There are always spectacular sites to see in Yellowstone National Park, but one is really capturing a lot of attention over the past week, as a grizzly bear has been enjoying a long picnic after drowning a huge bull elk and pulling it to the side of the Yellowstone River.
It’s also been a feast for photographers.
For almost a week, the 600-plus pound grizzly known as #791 has been camped out on the bank of the Yellowstone River at the northern end of Hayden Valley, enjoying a slow meal and giving people a view of nature that is usually reserved for National Geographic.
Once we cleared the congestion, we moved onto the bison herd which was phenomenal. Hundreds of bison graced the valley. But afternoons in Yellowstone are crowded and we decided to head back to the Dude Ranch. Oh boy, I get to call Gene Dude again! I wonder what grub they will be servin’ for supper?
We dined on steak and trout and returned to our room to debate who would get the single chair in the room. A moment later, Gene looked at me and said, “Hey, we have a chair in the SUV!” and we started laughing. We have hauled this chair through two states and only just remembered we could unpack it and use it in the room. We retired for the night (at 8:00, no kidding) to the smell of the campfire filling our room and cool breezes.