Monday, September 30, 2013

Blondielocks along the Yellowstone River Part 2 -- Blondilocks and the Three Black Bears

Blondielocks and the Three Bears -- 

Part 2 Black Bear Edition

Yellowstone National Park, June 2013

The sunrise greeted us with a spectacular display over the mountains on our second day in Yellowstone. The day would prove to be incredible -- outdoing our first day by a mile (Read about Blondielocks and the Three Bears Grizzly edition Day 1 here). We drove south from our cabin along the Yellowstone River in Montana down to the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and made our way towards Old Faithful. 

The view off the balcony of our cabin.
We saw a mass of cars filling a parking lot near the petrified tree. Previously, where there were cars big critters were making an appearance. Parking the car near a National Park film crew van we made our way down a wooded path getting excited for what we might find. Down the road a crowd of people gathered around a ranger's pickup truck. A magical moment was afoot -- a mother black bear and her two cubs were laying under a tree about 25 feet down a hill. 

Mama and black bear cubs. Look how full his little tummy is!

The ranger welcomed us by saying, "You are witnessing a once in a lifetime scene." He had tears in his eyes. "I've been watching this mother bear in the area for years. This is the first time I've seen her with twins." He whispered excitedly. "She is usually hiding the cubs because of the grizzlies." 

The ranger continued, "She was standing up not fifteen minutes ago nursing the cubs when I got the call." We watched the trio lying in the grass, cubs asleep with the mother keeping a sleepy watch. A nice man in the front of the crowd moved aside and let my kids get closer so they could see. 

Lady Luck was with us again today. I promised to pay her in chocolate if she kept hanging around.

"Sir, ma'am." The ranger stopped a couple who were attempting to walk down the road toward the petrified tree. "You need to walk slowly in tight groups. We don't want the mother bear agitated." The couple waited patiently for another few people to join them down the path to the petrified tree.  

I was curious and asked him about it. He answered, "Bears don't have very good vision. If they see a large group they won't view it as prey. They ignore it as something too big to eat." 

"I thought we weren't allowed to be within 100 feet of a bear in the park." I said. 

"You're not. That's why I'm here to control the situation." He touched the bear spray and pistol on his belt. "I've asked everyone to keep calm and follow proper bear etiquette." An image of Goldilocks came to mind with her very poor treatment of the bears. 

"She must have mated with a cinnamon bear to have two cubs of such a different color. In the fifteen years I've worked in this park I've never seen it." He was very chatty and I picked his brain for about fifteen minutes until the mother bear began eyeing the crowd. We decided to not be greedy and moseyed off to see Old Faithful. 

Lady luck had her pick of the chocolates from the gift shop and I got a delicious coffee to sip on as we watched Old Faithful spew its magic minutes after we stepped outside.

The most famous attraction at Yellowstone: Old Faithful
Later in the week we were heading back to Old Faithful Lodge, my son's favorite place, and at the top of my list as well. Just down the road from the petrified tree area several cars were pulled over. We made a parking spot, against park rules since we were partly blocking the road, and walked towards the crowd excitedly.

A cinnamon bear cub was clinging to the very top branch of a tree swaying back and forth about 40 feet in the air. With the help of another spotting scope we saw the mother black bear resting under a tree. It had to be the three bears we'd seen earlier in the week. The coloring was the same, black mama and cinnamon baby. The second cub was not in sight and we hoped a grizzly hadn't gotten to him. Likely something had scared the cub up the tree a while ago, given the relaxed state of the mama bear.

A ranger interrupted our discussions asking us politely to move our car. We obliged and made our way to the lodge for lunch clicking through our cameras to see if we got any good shots. None of us did.

That night we drove through the Lamar Valley on the north eastern side of Yellowstone. A herd of pronghorn antelope were skipping through the tall grass along the river and buffalo were roaming contentedly. 

Pronghorn Antelope in Lamar Valley
Now where were the deer? It was all we needed to capture that old song.

A few snapshots and we continued our way along the beautiful landscape. As it was unavoidable, we stopped at a picnic area to use the outhouse. Some of these little wooden structures were vented but this particular one must have been too close to the stream to allow such niceties. Never in my life have I smelled such horror. As Shorty's mom I got to stay in for two rounds as she needed my help to not fall in the dreaded contraption. 

Thankfully we were rewarded when we came out gasping for fresh air, nearly sick from the fumes. A few people were talking excitedly down by the stream. Happy to be as far away from the ick as we could get we breathed in the fresh smell of grass and pine and made our way towards them.

"What's going on?" I asked looking in the direction of their gaze into the woods. 

"We just saw a bear up beyond that crooked tree." The man pointed up the hill across the shallow stream. 

"Heading away from us right?" I asked looking down at Shorty and holding her a bit closer. 

"Who knows? He could double back." The man said. "It's our first bear sighting. We got here a month ago and haven't seen one yet! Did you see the claw marks on the tree near the outhouse?"

I hadn't but would go back and check it out on our way back to the car. I told him of our grizzly sighting the first five minutes in the park (Blondielocks and the Three Bears, see part 1) and the mama and cinnamon bears from earlier in the week. They looked at us in astonishment. Shorty backed me up shyly nodding and saying "The baby bears were so cute." 

We talked for another few minutes and decided to find the rest of our family. As we walked away I asked lady luck to consider a donation to this couple. We had been blessed with an abundance so far. Not that I was complaining. She smiled and pointed upstream. The rest of our group was there with a gaggle of die hard naturalist. Two of them had spotting scopes and were very generous letting us all gawk into them. 

My mother in law was hogging one scope and talking a mile a minute. She fit right in with the die hards, being one herself. She told us a red fox and pup were up in the woods about a quarter a mile away. We looked intently up the hill and saw trees and shadows. Waiting my turn, I got a peek in the scope and helped Shorty see as well. 

The mother fox was lazing between two trees. She glanced in the pup's direction flattening her ears nearly rolling her eyes and looked away. Her offspring must have been driving her batty -- I knew the look. In another scope we could see the pup stomping his little feet in the dirt creating a cloud and running back up a small hill having an absolute ball. With the naked eye you could see a puff of dirt in the shadows but nothing else. It was amazing to see fox in the wild so comfortable in their surroundings. I couldn't help but think of the bear not too far off and hoped it wasn't doubling back for a pup snack.   

Red Fox watching her pup.

As the sun lowered in the sky we decided to get back to the Lamar Valley with its wide open spaces to see more animals with nary a single tree to block the view.  

Lamar Valley, where the deer and antelope play.
On our drive there we saw movement in the hilly woods above us. We stopped the car and pulled out our cameras. It was a black bear who kindly answered the age old question for us -- "Does a bear poop in the woods?" He confirmed this with gusto before our very eyes standing on the end of a log -- His large bear ass pointing in our general direction and let loose. We all laughed and had to explain the saying to wee Shorty. I marveled at how outrageous Lady Luck was with her excellent timing. I was going to have to give her something more than chocolate. 

Does a bear poop in the woods? Yes. Off the end of a log apparently.
We ended our day making our way up the Yellowstone River marveling at all the glory of the park. We had all been blessed with so many special memories during the week with all the bear sightings topping them all. Even our poo stories were special.

Yellowstone will always be in my heart and we hope to go back in a few years. It is such a huge place there is no way to see it all in one visit. Next time we will explore the southern half and maybe find Lady Luck again.  For more information on Yellowstone, visit their website:

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  1. A joy to read! I was lucky enough to have a black bear lazily cross my path on the Blue Ridge Parkway some years ago.

    1. How cool! Glad it was lazy and not hungry! :D Thank you for stopping by!

  2. Wow! America is such an exciting country for wildlife. Seeing all of that first hand must be really heart warming. I've never seen a bear of any kind 'in the fur', not even in a zoo.

    1. Wow, really? You should see a bear in person, they're so much bigger than you can ever imagine. Beautiful creatures, but scary. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I've got another Yellowstone blog if you're interested. Such a spectacular place.

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