Browsing Archives for Yellowstone

Buffalo Bear Jam

September 17th, 2010

At one point during our Yellowstone vacation, we were driving to see the mud volcano, because the CD insisted that we must see the mud volcano even though the rest of us were tired and hungry and had long since arrived at the conclusion that one steaming hole in the earth looks pretty much like every other steaming hole in the earth.  So we are driving along the Eastern side of Yellowstone and suddenly we see this guy out on a point of land overlooking a river valley.  He is waving his arms around and pacing around and we are all like… what is it?  What is he looking at?

Then we saw the cars.

And the bison and the rangers and we somehow sensed that this particular car jam was special.  Yes, the bison are certainly interesting, but there are plenty of them in Yellowstone.  There must be something else happening here…

Do you see it?

Can you see what we were looking at?

Believe it or not, there is a grizzly bear mama with three cubs in this photo.

A ranger quickly set up a scope and my boys lined up behind a bunch of French kids to look through it.

Drew got a good look at her. He said that she looked really scraggly and matted. Not at all the perfectly combed critter he had imagined in his head.

By the time Ethan got to the scope, the bear had ducked behind a rise in the land, and he didn’t get to see her.

We waited for quite a while hoping she would reappear.

She eventually came back out.

She rollicked in the grass with her cubs.

You could see her in the far, far, far, far, FAR distance… a small black speck moving on the grass… with three other even smaller black specs tagging along behind her.

This is the spec magnified in one of my photos.

I know…

It could be a rock.

It could be a buffalo.

Heck!  It could be a buffalo turd at this distance!

But it was a grizzly bear.

You’re just going to have to trust me on this one.

At least the bison were close enough to clearly identify.

They even did a few tricks for us.

The mud volcano however, was just another steaming, smelly hole in the earth.
Once you’ve seen one of them… you’ve kind of seen them all.

After four days in Teton and Yellowstone, we packed up the pop-up and headed out to meet up with the CD’s nurse Kay and her partner Bill and Kay’s daughter, Sarah who lives on a ranch outside of Cody with Stuart and their two daughters Shaney and Soriah.  Did you get all that?  Should I sketch out a diagram?

The CD


Nurse Kay and Bill


Sarah and Stuart


Shaney and Soriah

Let me complicate it further by telling you a bit about Sarah and Stuart as they are sort of a phenomenal couple.  They were finalists for the show ‘The Amazing Race’ and could have been on it, but the man who owned the ranch that they were working for at the time wouldn’t let them take the time off.  Sarah is a cowgirl who worked the ranch until she had her second daughter Shaney.  Stuart is a cowboy and a singer/songwriter.  Last year he was out roping cattle and a rogue cow drug him off his horse, across a rocky pasture breaking his back and legs in a billion places.  HIs femur bone was sticking out of his buttock when they picked up his battered body, loaded him into a pickup and drove him back to the ranch where he waited for an hour for a helicopter to pick him up for emergency surgery.  His bone was out of the socket for so long that doctors were sure he would never walk again.

But he did.

Stuart recovered and was slowly getting back to cowboying on the guest ranch where he and Sarah met and worked for ten years, when he was suddenly let go.

The couple have now settled on a new ranch where Stuart works for a guy who owns one of the largest companies in the world.

And Sarah spends her free time running up the nearby mountains, training for marathons at high elevations.  She just finished a race that had a gain of 7000 feet over the course of the race.

So that’s Sarah and Stuart in a nutshell (emphasis on nut).

But first!

We took the Chief Joseph Highway to get from Yellowstone to Cody.

Should you ever be up in these parts…

I highly recommend this route.

Once we arrived in Cody, we hunted around for a hotel room as we were all kind of sick of camping (except the CD who is never sick of anything that involves hardship and suffering).

But there were no rooms available in the entire city because the Sturgis motorcycle rally was going on just down the road in South Dakota and the entire town was full of bikers on their way to the event.

So we stopped at a diner and filled up with all the best forms of grease and starch and headed out to find Sarah and Stuart’s house.

We arrived really late at their house and not wanting to wake anyone up, we set up the pop-up in the dark hoping that we were in the right place.

In the morning we were greatly relieved to see Kay’s horse Apache.

Kay made us waffles for breakfast and then she made us pack up for a horse ride up the mountains.

Each of my children were placed on a horse and then a baby was placed beside them.

Drew got Shaney.

Calder got Soriah.

And Ethan got baby Jack.

I have to tell you that my boys are not experienced horse people.  So the fact that they were handed babies to care for…

While they rode a horse…

Up a mountain!!!!

That was full of GRIZZLY BEARS!!!

Seemed REALLY CRAZY to me.

“Here son… get on this here horse and now here’s your baby to care for.  Keep a hold of her!  Make sure she don’t fall off!  Have fun!”

What is going on?

Is this what all horse people are like?

Is it some kind of trial by fire/horse/baby mentality?

But I figured that these people knew what they were doing, so we set off up the mountain.

This is Sarah leading Ethan and baby Jack up the mountain.

About half way up the CD was sick of my complaining about how hard the trail was and how my calves were burning and how I wished we were sitting in a beach cabana and where the hell is my cocktail with the little umbrella in it and why are we climbing up a mountain with bears and snakes and horses with babies?

So he heaved me onto a horse and told me exactly where I could stick my beach umbrella!

This is me relaxing on a horse!

Please note that I have the signature Wyoming baby clutching my waist.

These Wyoming people are NUTS!

This is grandma Kay with her baby Shaney.

Look!  There’s me!

I’m on a horse!

I’m riding a horse!


I ride horses!!!!

I am a horse rider!

I RIDE!!!!!

I RIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!

I ride and sing songs!

And yodel!

I am so horsey!

I am such a natural horsewoman!

I could probably give riding lessons!

I should open a riding school in Kansas and teach the Wyoming baby/horse method of riding.


Where’s my baby!





Oh! Here she is with Drew!

How did that happen!

Does this mean I am no longer qualified to open my riding school?

And that’s when Mister Mule Train came through.

And Kay and Bill had to push their horses up the hill so that the mule train could get around us.

Please note the trail we were riding on was really just a tiny ledge of dust.

I found a tree that would stop me from rolling down the side of the mountain and in the traditional Wyoming spirit, I clutched a baby.

This guy was with the mule train.  I think he is that one actor.  You know the one?

And this guy looked like an actor too.  What is his name?

The mule train people were ending a three week fishing trip to the most remote spot in the continental United States.  It is located in South Central Yellowstone which backs up to the Shoshone Wilderness.

Do you know what makes a spot remote?

The distance that it is from a road.

There aren’t many spots left in the continental US that are very far from a road.

They had to pack in their own bear fences which they then set up around their tents because you know… it’s just not a vacation unless you are setting up a bear fence around your super remote campsite.

Here’s a bear fence around the playground at the one room country school where Shaney and Soriah might attend someday.

It kind of puts a new spin on dropping your baby off for their first day of kindergarten don’t it?

For Chrissake!  Don’t forget to shut the gate!

Oh!  And it’s a drug free school zone too!

Well now that is a HUGE RELIEF!

Back at Sarah and Stuart’s place, Stuart was home.

He demonstrated his bear safe trash can for us.

And then he showed us his can of bear spray which he always keeps handy.

Sarah takes bear spray on her runs up in the mountains too.

Oh that just makes it all seem so much more SANE!

After our horse ride up into the mountains, we ate some lunch and then hiked down to the creek behind Sarah and Stuart’s house.

The boys and the little girls played in the shallow cold river…

And then we hiked back to the house.

Stuart played a few tunes for us…

And we packed up and headed on towards home.

Here ends our Yellowstone/Teton/Crazy ass people who live in Wyoming/vacation.

It really is a gorgeous state to see.

But you need to be a lot of heartier than me to want to live there.


Me and my boys and two Asian kids at the bottom of a waterfall in Yellowstone. We hiked down 328 metal stairs that are somehow attached to the side of a mountain to reach this platform and then we turned around and climbed back up.

I wore a skirt that day. I was the only person in Yellowstone wearing a skirt and I felt a little bit like I was Amish or something, but I love that skirt.  It’s so comfortable.  I have had that skirt since college.  It has a miracle waistband that fits me in all sorts of size permutations and the cut somehow minimizes everything that needs minimizing and maximizes everything that needs maximizing which on me it means that it shine a bright beam on my awesome earlobes.

And this is what we looked like after the climb back up the stairs.
Not quite as fresh.
Even my magic skirt can’t make this photo look good.