Saturday, June 27, 2009

Short Getaway

My brother-in-law, Harold, and his wife Judy celebrated their 51st anniversary this week with a two day trip to Yellowstone. They invited us along. I'm not sure if Judy meant for us to go along, but Harold got excited and asked Stan if we wanted to go with them and we said yes.

Wednesday afternoon they picked us up and headed for West Yellowstone, stopping for a burger at the Corral along the way. That evening we watched the Playmill Players do "Footloose." My Southern Baptist SIL thought it was awesome. We also went through the Grizzly Discovery Center.

This is Sam, a 12-year-old grizzly. He weighs over 900 pounds. He and his sister were orphaned at 6 months and have spent most of their life in the Discovery Center. Most of the bears they have are "problem bears," the ones who lose their fear of humans and raid garbage cans, etc., for food. A big share of the problem was caused years ago by tourists feeding the bears.

A baby bison crossing the Firehole River. We saw about a thousand buffalo. They estimate that there are about twice the number of buffalo in the Park as can be fed in the wintertime. Right now it's lush and green, but pickings can be pretty slim in the winter.

Now for the history lesson. Over the winter of 1903-1904, the Old Faithful Inn was built. Assisting Robert Remer the architect with the construction was a blacksmith by the name of George W. Colpitts, who just happens to be my great-grandfather. Pretty much all of the iron work was done by Grandpa, including the door hardware, all the andirons and screens on the fireplace, and the famous clock. My grandmother always claimed that she was the first white child born in Yellowstone (she was born at Mammoth in 1887) but I have since found out that she was more likely the second. Still pretty cool.

Thursday we toured the Park until we simply ran out of daylight. We spent the night in Gardiner, then headed back into the Park on Friday.

We saw buffalo, antelope, one wolf, a black bear, many Momma geese leading their babies, chipmonks, cow elk, and a bull elk in the velvet. That translates to two bear jams (we missed the grizzly), one wolf jam, and dozens of buffalo jams. For the virgin souls who have never ventured into Yellowstone, a bear jam is like a traffic jam with crazy people parking every which way, and getting too close to wild animals in the hopes of getting a good picture. While we were there, a lady got gored by a buffalo. We didn't see it, and actually she wasn't very close, so you can see what "wild animal" means. The buffalo have lost their fear of humans and we kept discovering ourselves closer to them than we had planned. No injuries for us, though, we kept moving away. That's what telephoto lenses are for.

Home again to pick up the dog and unpack. It's been 20 years since we toured the whole park-the last time was in 1989, the year after the Big Fire. I know, we live 80 miles from Yellowstone, but we've seen it a lot, so we go look at where you live while you're here looking at where we live.

It was a nice break and we had a great time with Harold and Judy. It's nice to count relatives as friends.

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