Monday, June 30, 2014

Yellowstone Part 6

Our tilty site is fine for one night, but we don't want to feel like we are sliding downhill all week and resolve to find a new spot within Norris campground.  

The first-come first-serve campgrounds in Yellowstone begin to resemble shark tanks at around 10 every morning.  Checkout time is at 11, so as departing campers get ready to leave, incoming campers circle around looking for prey a site. We join the shark swarm this morning and snag a level pull-though in loop C.

Hash browns and eggs over the campfire make a late breakfast for us.  Hubs spends the morning getting work done while I edit photos and write.  We don't like to go out during peak tourist hours, but prefer to wait until evening when the crowds are gone and the light is perfect.  

Out and about, we catch our first sight of a proper elk.  Up until now we have only seen females or young males with awkward, stumpy antlers.  

Of course there is a traffic jam and people are trying to get as close as they can.  The elk seems irritated and looks at one of them like this:

I make sure there are at least three or four tourists between me and the elk…you know, just in case he wants to come say hello.  He can greet them first.

I am working on a video and have some filming to do, so the rest of the evening is spent at a geothermal basin.

It is completely dark by the time we leave for home.  We notice a bison ambling down the road in the left lane.  For some reason I decide I want a video of this bison.  We have seen hundreds of bison since entering the park and I don't need any more footage, yet I turn my camera on as we follow with our emergency flashers on, hoping to warn any cars coming from the other direction or from behind.  Besides, we can't pass the bison without getting too close (and I have seen bison try to kick or gore cars that get too close), so our only option is to hang back and wait.  

That is when I film the following:

Warning: This clip shows a gory accident. No people are seriously injured.

We are stunned.  The bison is hurdling towards us and we both know it is going to roll up onto our car, but it stops suddenly just shy of us, as if there is a wall in front of our car.  Surely God protected us from harm.  Later, we find blood and bison doo all over the front of our car, but there is not a single scratch on us or our vehicle.  The people in the white car are, amazingly, not seriously injured.  They were going about 55 mph on impact (if I were guessing), and didn't seem to brake or even swerve before slamming into one ton of animal.  

As soon as their car stops, we both hop out of our car and dash over to help.  I notice that the bison is still alive, although with a broken neck and/or back.  Its eyes loll about in pain and blood streams from its nose and mouth.  It is such a tragic thing to see this beast die and I can do nothing to either help it or speed its end.  

The people in the white car seem to be in shock.  They slowly and numbly climb out, after some coaxing, and stand there staring into space.  They don't talk to each other, yell, cry, or hardly move.  The driver holds his wrist and rapidly chews his gum.  I feel so sorry for them, but I don't know how to help best.

Their car hisses pitifully as steam shoots out of the front.  Of course there is no cell reception where the accident happened, so Hubs and I get in our car to go find signal to call 911. Before we leave I hand them the only lights I have: two flashing lights that go on our dog's collars, and tell them to hold the lights and stay away from their car and the road.   

By the time we return fifteen minutes later, there is a line of cars, and the people in the accident are acting more normal although still not showing much emotion.  

The driver tells us that the only reason he slowed down was because he saw our emergency flashers on.  I fear to think what would have happened if we had just driven on by. 

I think there is a moral to this story.  We didn't really think about how dangerous it was to drive around Yellowstone in the dark until we saw that accident and the aftermath of another one just down the road on our way back to the camper.  If you are going to visit, please be aware and drive slowly at night.  


  1. I can’t properly or succinctly explain the madness of these last two days, so I won’t even try. We are safe in South Bend Indiana, tucked into some well deserved motel sheets; we’ve done a bit of driving and are inhumanly tired. We are headed to West Virginia to seek out the Rainbow family, if the name means anything.
    We hope you’re doing well, and the pugs are behaving, and the weather is nice, and the windshield wasn’t expensive, and all the other good stuff. We’ll follow your story when we have a chance, and send you ours when the whole bizarre thing is said and done. Keep living the dream and seeking.
    From your beat friends, henry and christian,

    -Henry Whetzel

    1. Hello Henry and Christian! We are so glad to hear from you! I can't believe you made it all the way to South Bend...our former stomping such a short time. If you need anything while there, let us know...we have connections :) Drop us a note every once in a while and let us know how your wild adventure is going! God Bless!