Western Findings – Entry no.1

I have just traveled out West.  This trip marks the third time in my life (over the past 4 years) to roam around and discover areas west of the Missouri River.  The ultimate destination was Glacier National Park, our first venture north of Montana’s 45th parallel.

Our travel began in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  My husband wanted to revisit and see more of the Poudre River Canyon in northern Colorado.  He loved its ruggedness, and that’s an understatement.  Immediately, signs greeted us stating that we were entering cougar country and to be aware.  I didn’t care for the canyon, a profound lack of trees and vegetation.  The isolation and harsh environment were apparent.   The rushing river was swollen and raging from mountaintop snow melt.  Thankfully, it was providing refreshingly cool drafts.  No need for air conditioning.  We put the windows down.  However, I did not want to get out of the car.  Paranoia paralyzed me.  We didn’t see any big cats, but certainly smelled where one had left its mark.

The terrain changed as we continued north on SR14, out of the Poudre Canyon area.  Soon we were driving past fertile ranches and wetlands.  We stopped to witness a young moose successfully dodge a threatening Angus bull.  Before a lunch break in Walden, we stopped to look out and below at the panorama of Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge.  The distance was too great to make out a small group of funny-looking, white, tropical birds (not waders) moving in unison along the stream banks.

After lunch, while we were making our way north, again to I-80 in Wyoming, we passed a pronghorn that was on our side of the continuous state route fence.  I noted to my husband, the driver, if we turned around, the animal would be in great range for a photograph from my car window.  Since the pronghorn was having a dilemma trying to get back over the fence, he was in the same area when we returned.  I was adjusting my camera and taking some photos as he continued to walk away in the opposite direction.  My husband, thoughtfully and slowly backed up the car for me to continue our photo shoot.  Smash, Crash, Scratch! What just happened?  We had just backed our rental car into a tall, roadside metal post, planted every 100 ft. for reference.  Imagine the story the pronghorn told, if he found his way back over the fence.              

Back into the state of Wyoming, we proceeded north for our second time in 4 years through Grand Tetons and Yellowstone Parks.  Five miles before the Western exit in Yellowstone, and before our late dinner/destination across the border, a large, but quick storm occurred and cooled down this part of the park.  We met with traffic, and suspected animal sightings.  Several park rangers were assisting a large gang of buffalo cross the road to graze.  I have wonderful photos of bison, with their calves, close range.

The next day was spent back in Yellowstone as we spent 2 nights in West Yellowstone, MT.  Once again, we readily found a smaller obstinacy (I just love this word) of buffalo resting next to the Madison River.  They were very patient or blasé while I and other park guests took photographs from safe distances near our cars.  I witnessed a guest irresponsibly stop his car on the road, leave it, rush (arm outstretched aiming his pocket digital camera) towards a moving cow who nuzzled her calf to stay back on a narrow path between her and the river.  People have to remember that the animals in the parks are “wild”, and can act accordingly!

We spent the rest of the day hiking along Madison River, taking photos of fly fishermen, some ducks and Columbian Ground Squirrels and kicking up (to my husband’s delight) dry buffalo pies which floated away like flat grey meringue.