In the city, brake lights are generally a source of frustration and possibly road rage. In Yellowstone, brake lights mean one of two things: a traffic jam, probably due to construction, or animal sightings. All too often, they’re the former, but during this trip we were extremely lucky and only came to a few places where there was construction. An added bonus was not getting behind any RV’s, which make both seeing anything and passing them impossible. Choosing to visit on a Monday was a good choice.

After driving alongside Yellowstone Lake, a gigantic body of water, we came to our first string of vehicles and brake lights.  Glancing hopefully ahead, we saw buffalo on either side of the road, with a few emerging from a nearby lake.  We’d spotted a solitary buffalo (strictly speaking, a bison) earlier, but this was a group of thirty or forty and they were not only on either side, but crossing the road.

People were outside their vehicles, which stretched in both directions, as well as heading towards the main herd, while a park ranger tried to keep order and safely.  One of the leaflets handed out when you enter the park warns you to keep at least 100 yards away from animals, but people tend to ignore the suggestion.  We’ve seen people getting very close to have their pictures taken, not realizing that although the buffalo seem tame, they are wild animals that can run at speed and have gigantic heads complete with horns.  As the buffalo began moving in our direction, the ranger yelled at everyone to return to their vehicles, which they actually did.  The sight of an animal whose head is half the size of a large man can tend to have that effect.

The buffalo began to walk between vehicles and, as you can see from my pictures, they got rather close.  We could have put our hands out and touched more than one and there couldn’t have been more than an inch or two between a potential buffalo robe and the front of the van more than once.  It was as close as we could have gotten without going buffalo riding or giving one of the van seats to an animal.  Some of the males were making noises that were a cross between a pig and a cow, making them sound as if they were complaining about all the gawkers.

 

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Other than animals, the thermal activity of Yellowstone is the big draw and certainly the most unique.  A good part of the park sits in a caldera, an area where the land collapses after volcanic activity that estimates say occurred about 650,000 years ago.  “They” also say another eruption is due to occur again any time.  Whether of not that’s true, there’s a great deal of thermal unrest below the surface and has been for many years.  In the winter, animals gather around the hot springs and steam.  In the following pictures, you can see an example of bubbling mud, as well as steam emerging from any number of places.  The buffalo near this hot spring couldn’t have been placed better if someone had arranged him there.  He lay there calmly, chewing his cud and posing.

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Comments
  1. annesquared says:

    Awesome, Janet! Great pics and narrative… what magnificent creatures!

  2. Thanks for this post – it was as if I would be there too.

  3. Great pictures! We got caught in a buffalo traffic jam like that the last time we visited Yellowstone – the animals were ambling calmly among the cars, but they were at least as big as some of the little cars. I wouldn’t have wanted to be “outside” among them!

    • No kidding! People are so stupid about wild animals. They don’t really understand the “wild” part. It’s a miracle there aren’t more gorings or other accidents.

      janet

      • I first saw Yellowstone when I was about eight years old, back when they weren’t as careful to keep people and bears apart. I remember how scary it was waiting in line (in our car) at the west entrance, watching people in the other cars open their windows to feed the bears and letting the bears stick their heads in through the open windows. Thank God my parents had more sense.

  4. vastlycurious.com says:

    Thanks so much for the tour Janet! I hope to see them up close personally one day too!

    Kathryn

    • I hope you do, too, Kathryn. Yellowstone is an amazing place, filled with marvelous things. I’m glad you enjoyed the tour. It’s my small way of getting people into the park (for free!) 🙂

      janet

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