Monday, May 14, 2007

Yellowstone: Still Beautiful but Strangely Warm

The family returned this late afternoon from a five-day road trip to Yellowstone National Park, five years after our first foray there over Mother's Day weekend, three weeks before our youngest became a fertilized egg on his way to becoming an amazing human being. Yellowstone knocked our animal loving socks off: we saw Grizzly bear close up (yet safely inside our car), we saw bison, elk galore, deer, a coyote posing like a celebrity, ground squirrels, and cute little wild rabbits that had our daughter squealing for the entire trip.

This time, not only was there virtually no snow in the areas we explored (unlike five years ago, when we'd drive around the corner through a snowstorm and then into seventy degrees and sun), but the animal watching was different. The wolves were visible in action: wolf watchers trained high powered scopes on the wolf den so we (and anyone who drove up) could see the fifteen cubs and pack in action. We saw suckling pups, a mother wolf nipping her youngster into line, stumbling young ones, and elders sleeping in the shade. And then later that day we saw wolves in action, hunting and harrassing bison as the sun fell, working in a team of three, running so fast the dust was thrown up in clouds.

Let's just say we were some happy campers. We saw black bear pretty close, a grizzly in the distance, two moose clear as day, coyotes scampering here and there among the thickets and across the road in front of cars at Mammoth Hot Springs where we were staying. Actually, we are easily satisfied naturalists. We enjoy animals that others consider pests. We appreciate ungulates as well as carnivores. And we have no problem with the circle of life bit that might appall other citified visitors to nature. Animals eat other animals; there are no 7-11's in the wild.

Surprisingly we did well as a group, though it must be noted that once we arrived home we scattered to all ends of the home and didn't closely associate with one another as we did laundry, unpacked, answered e-mails, and wrote down messages left on voicemail. The four year-old did remarkably well for an impulsive guy, though we eschewed boiling sulphur pots because two of our pack were having anxiety attacks about sudden and horrible death to our youngest (neither was me), and none of us can stomach the smell of raw eggs, and looking at rock formations isn't enough for any of us to brave death, nausea, and sleepless nights. Yes, we failed to see Old Faithful. We'd rather look at elk bottoms.

Home is good though, if lacking ungulates, wild lagomorphs, and bison butts. I am glad that I made beds and tidied up before leaving, because it makes it all the sweeter to arrive to peace rather than chaos. The dog was happy to see us, too, though the neighbor girls made him comfortable in our absense.

Everyone should go to Yellowstone. It would be hard to imagine unless you went there, and not obvious why it is so important that we preserve every square inch of natural space there is, and return what we can to that condition. It is our history, our biological heritage, the symbol of harmony and cohabitation with nature. Go there. See what wild can be if we let it. We'll be going back again soon.

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