Sunday, November 8, 2015

Yellowstone In The Evening

During our summer road trip, we saw more interesting sights that I could squeeze into my real-time posts. Now that I'm back home and have fished all 548 photos off my devices, I have a few more road trip stories to share. 

To catch up on the rest of the trip, start here.

Our day at Yellowstone National Park was quickly drawing to a close.

^ Contentedly, we made our way west along the Madison River, recounting all our favorite moments of the day.
We saw windswept Yellowstone Lake, icy blue beneath her windcapped waves. 
We hiked to the upper and lower falls on the Yellowstone River, taking in their beauty with a billion other tourists of the day. 
We spied several herds of big, bad bison who blithely ignored us and went about their bison business. 
We picnicked in a windy grove. 
We explored less-frequented trails and off-the-main-road drives, finding scenic treasures far from the madding crowds. 
And we walked among the geysers and hot springs and mud pots and steam vents to our very hearts' content.
Granted, we had hoped to see a moose but that's always a long shot.

So it was with our cups already overflowing that we noticed a sudden back-up of traffic along the park road.

Well. That's always a sure sign of a wildlife sighting.

Far be it from me to pass up a close encounter of the nature kind, so we pulled over and I hopped out to do some scouting.

^ There they were. On the far side of the river, safe and secure in their little threesome, stood a trio of female elk. Grazing in the lush grasses, their golden fur and white tails ablaze in the evening light, their beauty was breathtaking. My daughters soon joined me, and we stood transfixed, watching and expectantly waiting for whatever might happen next.

But never could we have predicted the unearthly sounds that soon rang out from the line of trees behind the cows. Bellowing trumpet calls like nothing I had ever heard before.

Now a massive male elk stepped boldly out from the forest, maybe twenty yards from the females. He paused, emitted another majestic cry, then nobly strode out toward the river, pausing now and then to stop, draw a scent, and evaluate his circumstances. Again, and again, the bugling cries rang out.

And just when the situation seemed almost unbearably fantastic, a second male broke from the forest, between the group of females and the first male. Suddenly I realized that both males were trumpeting, calling back and forth to one another, clearly competing for the attention of the females. Closer and closer they came toward us, still safely separated by the breadth of the river, but now we could see through our binoculars their massive antlers turning this way and that, black noses quivering on the wind.

It might have been ten minutes that we stood and stared; it might have been forever. Eventually, first one male and then the second regally climbed back up the ridge and disappeared into the trees. The females, for their part, continued with their meal, seemingly unimpressed by their menfolks' commotion.

As for us, we made our way back to the car, and rode in stunned silence to our hotel, remembering a morning, an afternoon, and a most eventful evening in Yellowstone National Park that we will not soon forget.

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