Around the Corner

old-faithfulThe car was stocked with corn nuts, sunflower seeds, pretzels, waters and grapes. (I forgot the Fritos.)  Kids had their papers and pens for marking off which animals they might see. The tank was full of gas and the heat was cranked.

They say the best times for viewing animals are in the morning or in the evening.

We entered at the West entrance of Yellowstone at 2:30 p.m.

We had time to circle through, catch Old Faithful, and hope to see whatever animals would be out before it got too dark.

I’ve always loved Yellowstone in the fall.  There aren’t as many tourists and there are more animals to see because the temperatures are more favorable – for the critters, not the humans.

We got to Old Faithful at about 4:00.  We huddled around the viewing area with about 40 other tourists.  Some were dressed like they knew what to expect.  Some were in shorts.  It took longer for Old Faithful to blow for those poor souls in shorts.

It was 35 degrees with a steady breeze and a skiff of snow.

It can get tedious waiting for Old Faithful to blow her stack, but I never get tired of watching when she finally goes.  We took a few pictures and ran back to the car.

As we were continuing the circle through the park, I reminisced about how many photos I have of Old Faithful.  I’m sure they all look the same.  I like the predictability in that.

There’s comfort in knowing that there are a few things that just will not change.


We’d crossed buffalo, elk, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Canadian Geese, ducks and a Bald Eagle off the list.  I didn’t make any promises, but I was hoping the kids would see a bear.

Every trip to the park is filled with the anticipation that comes from the possibility of seeing a bear – sometimes even a grizzly.  I’ve rarely been disappointed, but I’ve always wanted to see a wolf.

I never have.

We continued our circle out of Old Faithful, heading east and keeping our eyes peeled.

I made the mistake of telling them to keep their eyes peeled, which sparked a lengthy discussion about where that expression comes from, and how can you even see, once you peel your eyes.

We stopped a couple times to let buffalo cross the road.

The plastic cup holding the sunflower seed shells was almost full by the time we approached the Fishing Bridge.  I didn’t tell the kids that one of the most popular areas for bear sightings is this bridge.

We were losing daylight.

I was driving with fingers crossed.

Just as Jenny asked if I thought we would see any bears, we came around a corner to see nine cars parked on both sides of the road, about a half a mile from the Fishing Bridge.

There, on our left, about 40 yards from the road on the other side of a pole fence, was a grizzly rooting around for grubs.  He was in a frenzy, trying to dig up as many snacks as he could before losing daylight.  At a safe distance of about two feet, a black bear waited for any leftovers.

The black bear was smart enough to keep his distance, while letting the grizzly do all the work of digging.

In fact, the black bear was smarter than the tourists who had to be told, by the park ranger, to get back in their cars, or move their vehicles off the road.

We three stayed in the safety of our warm car with the windows rolled down for viewing.

We laughed at the bravery of the black bear, and the tenacity of the grizzly.

We laughed at the tourists with their tripods and enormous lenses and their complete lack of knowledge about the dangers posed by both the weather and the wildlife.

We were just finishing high-fiving each other because of all our good fortune in seeing so many kinds of animals when, as if on cue, a wolf entered, stage right, from a grove of trees at the edge of the clearing where the bears were doing their bear thing.

I gasped and pointed to make sure the kids were aware of what was going on.

Their eyes were huge.

The car filled with silence.

I glanced at the tourists, whose eyes appeared as large as those of my children.

We pulled onto the road, turned another corner, and set out to finish the circle through the park before nightfall, as Jenny and Will checked grizzly, black bear and wolf off their lists.

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  1. Sounds like an amazing adventure!!! So thrilled your troop got to check both bear and wolf off of list – too cool! This experience will indeed be ingrained in their memories. I must say home school rocks!!

  2. Kira,

    I hope the trip is ingrained in their memories – I was too excited and forgot to pull out my camera.

  3. I want to chaperone on your field trips!!!

  4. Z,

    Of course! Will you remember the fritos?

  5. Yes! But it may inspire the accompaniment of chili and cheese…frito pie! (As we do in the south :)

  6. Jesse,

    Wow–I love this story. It really makes me want to pack up the car and head out with the kids for a Western adventure. One of these days, we will do just that.

    I am glad for all these beautiful moments you can share with Will and Jen!

    Enjoy . . .

  7. Z,

    Yum! Can we put sour cream on top?

  8. Lynn,

    If you ever make it out this way, I do hope you get in touch. We’d love to show you around. ;)

  9. Thank you Jesse! I will definitely get in touch with you if we make it West! That would be incredible!

    Have a fun rest of the weekend!!!

  10. Of course! And a sprinkle of green onion if you wish…
    Now I need to go shopping and make more chili to go with my fritos. :)

  11. You have to stop talking about FOOD…it all sounds delicious!

    …on second thought, why doesn’t Jesse start another blog where we can talk about food, recipes, our favorite meals, etc?

    We can call it Surviving Food Addiction or Surviving Our Favorite Meal or Surviving That Thanksgiving Dinner Full, or…?

  12. Donna,

    How about…. Thrivers’ Recipes?

  13. Oh, perfect…!

    You are a creative genius.

    Maybe your regulars could donate their favorite recipes and you could assemble a cookbook. Maybe sell it? (Though most of my favorites use brand names and came from their kitchens).

    Nice the way I make more work for you, huh?


  14. Oh, but that wouldn’t be work, that would be fun!

    And a way to fund our tea party get-together. ;)

  15. I see a very valuable language arts lesson on the work of publishing in the future…lol!

  16. Z,

    I’m no expert, but I’m not going to do this whole self-publishing thing if it’s all work and no fun. ;)

  17. Yellowstone was on my list for the geyser. Now I understand what it is for which I should keep my eyes peeled. :)

  18. Alyson,

    And that’s not all!

    There were the smelly, gurgling, bubbling mud pots.

    The elk with a rack the size of a buffalo.

    The male buffalo fighting – butting heads and basically entertaining the females.

    The landscape that looks as though you’ve been transported to Mars.

    The hiking trails.

    The excellent fishing in the Yellowstone River.

    I’m not a tour guide, but I do love Yellowstone.

    It’s so much more than geysers.

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