Skip to content

Running With Bison at Yellowstone

Yellowstone-deer“Ooh, I want to feed them all, they’re so cute!” said the woman jumping over the fallen spruce trees set up as a barricade. Behind the tangle of horizontal limbs a Yellowstone National Park elk sat eyeing the gathered crowd with a regal expression. Its majestic antlers framed out from the crown of its head like a cloud of errant thorns. Its shoulders rose above most of the heads around it. Cameras clicked and people whispered, gawking at the creature. A few walked boldly closer to the elk’s family roving nearby, and they in return backed away. The seated elk remained, however, its head lowered, its defiant eyes watchful. “Isn’t it so adorable?” cooed the lady approaching closer. I caught the elk’s glance and saluted before walking away. From a distance the scene looked as if a mob were gathered before a trapped beast, waiting to pounce on it. Or perhaps the throng were subjects in front of the stag king. I could not decide which. 

Yellowstone-coneLife at Yellowstone seems to be an eternal tug-of-war between primitive nature and the human need to be master. The surreal landscape makes one yearn to touch, pet, and nuzzle everything. It is easy to be fooled into thinking this terrain is a preserved vault rather than a microcosm of our intrepid world. The spasmodic geysers, like Old Faithful, appear to effervesce in heavenly delight, but they spout brimstone. Yellowstone-poolThe luminous peacock tinted sulfur pools seem to swallow every shadow, but their illimitable depths are churning cauldrons. Mud puddles boil, creeks hiss, and gushing waterfalls rage through the canyons. Ferocity duels with surreal splendor, but it feels easy to ignore the former while admiring the latter.

Yellowstone-bisonI become obsessed with the roaming bison herds. The gentle bovine creatures with their liquid eyes and scraggly haunches have captured my devotion. I rise with the sun each day and go in search of them. I study them from various viewpoints, hoping to know the secrets they hide within their long forgotten memories. Yellowstone-valleyI overlook them from the heights of Druid’s Peak as their minuscule dots range along the prairie. I observe them eating breakfast, their breaths snorting in trembling puffs that mingle with the steam from the hot springs. I encounter them in pairs huddled on a hillock. I listen to their hooves describe circles in the tufted grass upon the shores of Lamar River. I even surprise one in its solitary revels of a pine grove. I become comfortable in their presence, edging nearer and nearer to them with each meeting. I come upon a pack crossing a hiking trail. A sound startles them and all stampede across the path. The stupendous sound of their panic scares my complacence. Their raw energy is a reminder that my soft mass of flesh and bone is no match to their two-thousand pound (907 kilograms) bulwark of muscle.

Yellowstone-geyserYellowstone proudly displays nature’s power, it is a place where I cannot ignore the fierceness of the wilderness. Ensconced in progress I forget the potency of the elements: the ravaging storm, the destructive earthquake, and the predator’s strength. Technology and modern society have developed a hubris within me, a false sense of invulnerability. Even when I hike the woods or climb a mountain I tend to observe in my surroundings the serenity I seek. I choose to pay attention to the unruffled demeanor of the universe not its tumultuous workings. Yellowstone-detailYellowstone rouses me from this deceptive slumber. Earth’s brawn is flexed in this environment, its ability to wreak havoc exposed. Its balletic dance upon the precipice a pageant for all visitors. I have been infatuated with the great outdoors for a long while. I have paid homage to its harmonious composure and thought of it as a friendly companion. I have not given its savagery any contemplation.

Yellowstone-depositsYellowstone National Park, Wyoming remains a rare part of our planet where nature dominates. We have conquered so much terra firma, molded it into the misshapen image of our desires, that it is becoming impossible to see its real personality. We want to safe keep our home, but on our own terms. We wish to protect the environment, but subject to our will. Yellowstone-hotspringWe need the remote rapids of Yellowstone to remind us that not everything requires our meddling. We need the chaotic Yellowstone caldera to show us our true place in the cosmos. We need the hulking hordes of bison to teach us that freedom does not come with cages or fences. As long as there are places like Yellowstone National Park in this world, where the panoply of imperious animals is allowed to ramble undisturbed, there is a chance we can learn the meaning of the word “wild.”Yellowstone-waterall


TRAVEL NOTE:

Yellowstone National Park remains the last stronghold for free ranging genetically pure American bison (Bison bison). With the reintroduction of the northwestern wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis), the park is now home to one of the best megafauna habitats. The balance, however, is always tenuous as cattle ranchers fear the bison and elk for disease transmission and many visitors continue to view the park’s wildlife as pets. The instability of geothermal features provides some measure of protection to the animals, but close encounters with humans and restriction of movement will debilitate the fraught equilibrium of this domain.


Any encounters with wildlife you want to share with us? Thoughts on how Yellowstone NP rangers can make relations between human visitors and the untamed animals better? Let us know in the comments section.


Advertisements

44 replies »

  1. Again, I want you to know I love your posts 🙂 I also would like to comment specifically on two things you said.

    “Life at Yellowstone seems to be an eternal tug-of-war between primitive nature and the human need to be master.”

    This is a constant theme I see across all aspects of human life. For some reason its been taught and bred into us that control and power are most important… More important than creating and sharing, which is what we as humans need to do more of. We need to loose this “we own and control everything” idea – and replace it with – we are Mother Natures children, we must respect her, learn from her, and love her.

    Also from your post: “We need the chaotic Yellowstone caldera to show us our true place in the cosmos.”

    We think we are on top of this World.. But that’s one of the biggest illusions around. The meaning of this life is so beyond what any of us could ever image. Our lives are a blink of an eye in the life span of the universe… And when you REALLY think it about that – it makes you realize how small we all are.

    🙂

    Thank you for your posts, we need more people in the World like you.

    With love and light – Tasha ❤

    • Thank you! What a compliment! It is difficult to shift that human-centric perspective. I think the more we inundate ourselves in nature and glean its lessons the more we will be willing to understand and accept our role in it. Maintaining the balance at wildlife reserves and national parks is such a huge portion of that education.

  2. Amazing post. From the photos to the words. I think travel exposes us to a lot and, yet, it can make everything seem normal when, in actuality, as you describe above, there is a whole other world beyond what we see. I have not been to Yellowstone but know that sense of awe from places I have been…

    • It’s ironic that too much of anything, even traveling, can make it seem blasé. My hope is that everyone who experiences places like Yellowstone or the African veldt sees how privileged we are to still retain these pockets of true wildness. As you say it is another world, so different from our own, which we desperately need for so many reasons. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  3. The diversity and beauty of Yellowstone always excites…your opening shot is incredible. And then the reality of such scenes as “the scene looked as if a mob were gathered before a trapped beast” can reduce the elegance of Yellowstone to that of a circus. When that happens, I head out to find a bison to watch and automatically I am taken back to the serenity of peace 🙂

    • 🙂 I hope there will always be places where one can go to watch animals roam in their natural environment, free, wild, and unencumbered by our presence. It is so easy for us to forget that they are a world apart from us.

  4. I am speechless, when seeing Your gorgeous photos. After seeing your photos, I want to visit Yellowstone someday. I have been only Yellowstone national park and visited Muir woods.

    Thank You for this lovely post.

    • You are most welcome and thank you for your kind words. One of the most wonderful parts of touring the United States is experiencing its national parks. They really are jewels of the country, worthy of careful guardianship.

    • Oh how I would love to experience Glacier National Park! To be honest, each of the national parks in the United States that I have visited has been so unique and worthy of praise. It would be impossible for me to pick a favorite.

      • I hear ya…every one I’ve been to, I’d say, “Oooo this is my favorite!” And if I spent as much time in the others as I have in Glacier, I may change my mind. But I’m doubtful. 😉

Now let's chat, shall we?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

BOOKS + JOURNALS

Enter your email and never miss a post:

Join 15,657 other followers

Be Our Patron

Other Social Networks

In Another Language

As Featured In

In Other News

%d bloggers like this: