I always get asked, “Have you ever had to use your bear spray?” and most people are disappointed when I tell them I haven’t. However, this being my first summer here at Yellowstone National Park, my first summer ever to be given bear spray and told not to leave my house without it….. I haven’t had much opportunity. Plus, I’m kinda scared of everything that is bigger than myself, and it’s not recommended to hike on your own, so I don’t. There have been a few instances this summer while working though, that have caused my heart to race just a little bit faster.
At the beginning of my season I got to work my first bear jam, also known as a traffic jam caused by a bear being near the road and everyone stopping in the middle of the road to take a picture. The rangers are called out to try to break up traffic, keep it moving, and to make sure both the bear and people stay safe. This one happened to be on a blind s-curve corner on a very foggy morning. So foggy that even though the lake was right behind us, we could only see the shoreline of it. If the Grizzly Bear walked up the hill next to the road, you could no longer see it because of the fog. But it was such a neat experience and rather fun! For some reason, I love directing traffic. 🙂 At some point the Grizzly Bear began to mosey closer and closer to the road and the “Bear” Wildlife Ranger was telling people to get into their cars. Eventually I became so uncomfortable I was telling people to get in their cars and I found a government truck to stand next too. Then the Grizzly Bear picked up pace and moved down the hill quickly.
I was terrified.
I turned around to grab the door handle to the truck behind me……. and it was locked. All I can say is in the moment, I began to laugh. I was so scared but yet the ridiculousness of the door being locked made me laugh. I then ran around behind the truck to get ready to climb into the bed only to look up and see that the Grizzly Bear was already walking back up the hill away from the road. It was a silly moment and when I yelled down at the Bear Ranger and told him that his truck was locked. He apologized a lot, but I kept laughing.
(A photo to show the fog and blind curve when I can find it on my phone again!)
I was leading a group of about 15 people on a two-hour, two mile hike around Storm Point one morning and it was great hike! I had a wonderful group who were interacting with me and my topic as well as asking questions. About the time at the end of our hike it began to rain and we were moving through the old-growth forest rather quickly. This section of the trail is a thick Douglas Fir and Spruce forest with limited visibility and can be a little dark. I was in the front and came around a blind corner to see a VERY large Bison butt looking back at me. I turned around quickly and told my group to go off trail in to the trees so the Bison could have the right of way.
Honestly, my flight or fight leans completely to flight when it comes to animal that is larger than myself. (Which is almost every animal in Yellowstone.) I am very proud of myself for not running into the trees, but yet calmly and forcefully telling my group where to get to safety. The Bison walked on by with no problem what so ever, and only eyed us up a little bit; and my group of visitors had a great story to tell afterwards. Picture Below on Left
The Mud Volcano Basin can have a lot of issues with visitors and Bison.
Check out my post of another moment that made my heart skip two, three, twenty beats and speed up and down and went all around.
At 4:00pm everyday we have a guided 1.5 hour walk and talk around the Mud Volcano boardwalk area. I had a big group, almost 30 people! Half way through our walk we began walking on the foot bridge next to Mud Cauldron (see photo above on right). I noticed a Bison heading down the hill behind the trees on the right and decided to walk up and see where he was heading. Turns out he was heading right towards us. Not at a fast pace, but he wasn’t moving slowly and grazing either. I asked my group to turn around and head back over the small bridge and to the parking lot. They did so, but moved AT THE SLOWEST RATE POSSIBLE. I kept saying, “keep moving to the parking lot” “keep moving, keep moving” and they kept moving, but very slowly. Meanwhile the Bison is getting way to close for my comfort at the back of the group. I now am telling people to “MOVE FASTER to the parking lot”. I even began to weave my way through the group because I was having these horrible images in my head of the worst case scenarios of the Ranger getting gored by a Bison because her group wouldn’t move. 😉 Of course, it was just fine, and the Bison headed toward the thermal area and we were fine. A lady asked me, “Aren’t you here to protect us?”
I laughed… “Hell no, every man for himself.”