A trip to the American Serengeti

I’ve been offline for the last several weeks. We hooked up our camper and headed east for my most favorite spot of all: Yellowstone National Park.

This giant park (3400 square miles) is last bastion of wilderness in the lower 48 of the United States. It is the home of grizzly bears and wolves, elk and mountain goats, bighorn sheep and pronghorn, and of course, bison.

We spent a week ‘dry’ camping-meaning no water, no electricity, and thank all the gods, no generators, in what is probably the best campground of all, Slough Creek.

Here’s our campsite. I’d just turned around to take this picture when a bison bull appeared out of the background and walked up to our camper, then passed within a few feet of my husband. He apparently liked our set up.

Our campsite. That's my man, Dennis, contemplating the bison just out of sight to the right.

Our campsite. That’s my man, Dennis, contemplating the bison just out of sight to the right.

And here he is, (the bison) who meandered not five feet from the front of our camper and then settled down for a nap. I took this from the front of our camper.

This bison bull didn't bother us, but he certainly was close.

This bison bull didn’t bother us, but he certainly was close.

While there, we had a sow black bear with two cubs come through the campground. Bison were there every day, and appeared completely oblivious to the humans in their midst. A pronghorn doe stayed close to the campground and fawned while we were there.

This bison bull came so close to us that my husband didn't need a large lens to snap this picture.

This bison bull came so close to us that my husband didn’t need a large lens to snap this picture.

This lovely pronghorn doe fawned in the middle of our campground. The fawn is about a day old in this picture.

This lovely pronghorn doe fawned in the middle of our campground. The fawn is about a day old in this picture.

I met a most amazing young man who spent one night in the campground.

He is a Frenchman, named Jeremy Geumetz. 20 months ago, he started a journey in the southernmost end of Argentina and plans to continue until he reaches the northernmost end of Alaska. He is doing it on a bicycle.

His website is http://www.2rouesvagabondes.fr

His email is JGEUMETZ@yahoo.fr

It is completely in French, a language I do not speak, read or write.

I took his picture and sent them to his email address, but have no idea if he actually received it or not. I will include them here:

Jeremy Geumetz, the French 'vagabonde"

Jeremy Geumetz, the French ‘vagabonde”

All his worldly possessions on one bicycle

All his worldly possessions on one bicycle

Such a nice young man.  Check out his website, and those of you (I know there are several!) who read French will see some of his photos.

While in Yellowstone (in mid June) we had snow, rain, hail, sleet, shirt sleeve temperatures one day and a skin of ice on the windshield of the truck the next day.

That’s Wyoming.

I had planned, and even scheduled, a backcountry trail ride. But the day I was supposed to ride, it was cancelled, as a black bear with three cubs had killed a mule deer fawn right next to the corral, and they didn’t want to risk passing the bear. While the bears in Yellowstone are accustomed to humans, when one has cubs it is NEVER advisable to approach, feed or antagonize them.

That’s the problem with Yellowstone. One is constantly warned to never approach a bison or a bear-yet no one has told the bison or bears.

Right after I took this photo, the bison bull lay down for a nap. Note the man sitting just to the right of the tree.

Right after I took this photo, the bison bull lay down for a nap. Note the man sitting just to the right of the tree.

The above photo shows a man who, moments before, had stepped out of his tent, only to come face to face with a bison bull. He took cover behind the site’s bear box and the bison then approached the box-and then lay down for a nap. The man was trapped-a river runs right behind him. He was stuck there for a good half hour before the bison awoke and walked away.

Bear boxes are an absolute necessity in bear country. Bears like food, and if they smell it in your tent-they will rip it apart. Woe be unto you if you’re in the tent at the time.
The bear boxes are bear proof. You put ANYTHING that even remotely smells of food: your camp stove, coolers, etc, into the box.

Our site's bear box

Our site’s bear box

Yellowstone belongs to the animals, and we are just visitors. It’s the most lovely place. I love it so.

The nice thing about Yellowstone is, if you obey the rules, and use common sense, you can get into some beautiful places and feel, just for a little while, what the Pleistocene was like, before we humans screwed it all up.

The most lovely place in all Yellowstone is the Lamar Valley. One can always see bison, elk, grizzlies, and sometimes wolves, in the Valley. We saw grizzly bears every day. We didn’t see wolves every day, as they’re fairly shy. But not a day in the Valley went by that we didn’t see a lot of wildlife.

On our last day in the Park, we noticed that the herds of bison had all crossed to the far side of the Lamar River. So I indulged myself in something I have always, always wanted to do-be a small and insignificant inhabitant of the Valley, just for a while.

I walked out to the river, and just sat there, absorbing it. For a few moments, I could feel what it must have been like to be just a part of the wilderness, not the destructive monster we have become, the one that has destroyed virtually every wild place on the planet.

My husband took my photo as I was embracing it. I kept going, but this is about half way to the river, which swings further out of the picture.

Me in the Lamar Valley

Me in the Lamar Valley

What a lovely place. I do love it so.



About subodai213

Retired U.N.C.L.E agent. Living in Laurasia.
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5 Responses to A trip to the American Serengeti

  1. magreenlee says:

    He mentioned meeting you (I assume it was you, an incredibly kind retired couple with a husky type dog in the photo?) but didn’t say anything about photos. I’ll check back in a few weeks.

    • subodai213 says:

      Nope, not me! I was alone at the time as Dennis was out photographing badgers. Nor do we have a dog. But I do like being thought of as “incredibly kind”..I don’t recall seeing a husky in the campground, so it must have been someone else.
      No matter. I just hope he got the photos. I don’t read French so I have no idea if there’s a link in his website that allows one to attach photos. In fact the email I sent him, I used Google Translator. I said here’s the pictures, but as far as I know, it may have come out Eat laundry baskets

  2. magreenlee says:

    Wow what a place! I’ve been to Yosemite, but never Yellowstone. I’d like to go, but I’ve no reason to visit that part of the US (I have friends & relatives in CA NY and PA) so it’s pretty unlikely.
    I will go and check out that French lad’s blog now 🙂
    Question – are those solar panels your own or are they part of the campsite?

    • subodai213 says:

      I would appreciate checking out the Frenchman’s site, if only to know whether he got my photos or not.

      The panels are ours. They are worth their weight in gold. Because of them, we can stay in areas where there’s no electricity for extended periods of time. They put out enough voltage that one can charge up a dead car battery (of course, it takes a sunshine and time) or your cell phone. We can run the lights (LED’s) in the camper for what seems forever. They’re the best investment for camping I can think of.

    • subodai213 says:

      I’ve never been to Yosemite…the idea of all those crowds is daunting. But truly, Yellowstone is a reason all in itself to visit. It is truly magical, truly an experience you won’t forget. I highly recommend renting a vehicle in Bozeman, Montana, or Jackson Hole, Wyoming and driving and staying in the park. You don’t need to camp, they have full service accomodations at Mammoth Hot Springs and Canyon Village. Taking a tour bus means one is ‘chained’ to someone else’s schedule and you will see things…but you won’t experience it. Only by getting out of your car, sitting or standing next to the road (along with a dozen other folks) and watching: a wolf chase a cow elk, pronghorn bucks sparring, bison fighting or nursing or grazing, or crossing rivers, a pair of black bear cubs wrestling…it is just fabulous.

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