Surviving grizzlies and hitchhikers in yellowstone national park

by Kim on July 15, 2012 · 52 comments

The first thing I saw upon entering Yellowstone National Park was a bison trundling down the road directly at our car. I felt like I was Jim Carey’s character in The Truman Show and the director had whispered cue buffalo

Don’t worry, we dodged the buffalo

We rented a teensy tiny cabin near Yellowstone Lake because I was too terrified to camp in grizzly country. My decision to stay in a cabin was sealed last year when two unsuspecting folks got munched to death by grizzlies in the park. 

No grizzlies in here

Now, before you comment to tell me that it isn’t typical bear behavior to feed on humans and that I’m more likely to die in a plane crash than have my face eaten off by grizzlies (thanks for the reminder!) let me just say that bear encounters are my phobia and they have been ever since I had a run in with a curious brown bear ten years ago. 

Our cabin was fantastic because it afforded us the luxury of working up a sweat all day and then showering at night. Also, Yellowstone’s Lake Lodge was located a quarter mile down the road and had IPA on tap and a big front porch filled with rocking chairs from which we could watch the sun set over Yellowstone Lake. It was pretty close to perfect.

Celebrating a good day at Yellowstone

Sunset from the porch at Lake Lodge in Yellowstone

Due to my aforementioned phobia I was also too afraid to do any backcountry hiking. On a few separate occasions I worked up the courage to try but each time we arrived at the trailhead I’d see the posted warning: BEAR ATTACK!  Are you prepared? and I’d melt into a little puddle of fear. I was not pleased with myself. 

Brian was not pleased with me either because I forced him to walk around with bear spray attached to his hip. Each morning I’d nag him into practicing deploying it until he’d give in and whip the spray out of its holster in quick succession like some goofy small town movie cop. 

Brian will kill me when he finds out I posted this picture

Aside from the imminent threat of death-by-grizzly Yellowstone was amazing. I knew beforehand that the park was filled with geysers and colorful hot springs but nothing could prepare me for seeing these geothermal wonders first hand. The colors were out of this world.  It was a thrill to think that deep in the ground beneath my feet magma from an active volcano was heating water that was rising to the surface before me. I mean, the ground was boiling.  

The wildlife in Yellowstone is stunning.  Over 3,000 bison roam freely through the grasslands and can be spotted everywhere: in the roads, the fields and the hiking trails. 

A bison relaxes at Yellowstone

On our second day in the park a black bear ran across the road in front of us. Later that evening we noticed a crowd gathered on a hilltop and joined them in watching a mother grizzly and her cubs roam in a field far below. 

The black bear that crossed the road in front of us

We saw coyote and elk and deer too.  Wherever we turned we were reminded that we were visitors in the home of many amazing creatures.  I loved it.

On our final day in the park we drove towards the north entrance hoping to take a dip in the Boiling River.  At the Boiling River thermal water from Mammoth Hot Springs empties into the Gardiner River creating pockets of hot water in the otherwise cold current. It’s a favorite swimming hole for locals and park visitors alike. 

Unfortunately the river was closed because of the fast moving currant so we drove to Gardiner, Montana to catch a glimpse of the iconic Roosevelt Arch. President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated the arch in 1903 upon creation of Yellowstone-America’s first National Park.  

Brian stands at the Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone’s north entrance

On our way back into the park we picked up two dreadlocked hitchhikers thumbing their way to east Yellowstone. They looked harmless enough but I knew that if they caused us any trouble Brian had one of a hell of a reflex with that bear spray. We’d be okay.