This morning dawned bright and clear for a perfect back drop for our short drive south along the Yellowstone River to Yellowstone National Park. Upon our arrival at the entrance station, I engaged our emergency brake in order to be able gather our park passport and ID for free access to the park. Because setting the brake is so natural, I didn't think about the release of air pressure in the system as the brakes are set. Since we were in a narrow lane between two stations, the loud hiss of air being released was amplified and the ranger greeting us let me know how hard on her ears that act was. Apparently this happens frequently and she was getting tired of the assault on her hearing. Well sorry about that, maybe a little warning might prevent the problem.
Once we had our map and park information, we eased through the narrow passage and into one of America's most popular parks. Since it is late September we had assumed the park visitors would be fewer. We quickly learned that all time attendance records have been exceeded and visits so far this year eclipse the highest record based on 12 months.
We were able to get a campsite at Mammoth Hot Springs when we checked in around noon, but other available spaces were quickly taken. Once set up in our space, we headed up to the Hotel for some lunch.
It has become typical in our country to see large numbers of Japanese tourists at popular American tourist spots, but this visit we noticed even larger numbers of Chinese visitors. In West Yellowstone, we heard about many Chinese investors buying most of the available commercial real estate in that community. Interesting how international economics ebbs and flows.
We have always seen several elk in the vicinity of Mammoth Hot Springs and today was no exception. They were in abundance around the hotel and managing to create havoc with heavy traffic as they slowly sauntered back and forth across the only road through town. Therefore, rangers and volunteers were high numbers, attempting to keep the traffic moving and not stopping on the highway to snap pictures of the wildlife. All in all it seemed to create light chaos and for us, lots of humor. If you just stood back and watched.
The Chinese pretended not to hear the shouts from rangers or pay attention to the warning signs and freely approached the animals for pictures up close. Well this of course is a big NO NO in national parks. Anyway, it provided us with some amazement and laughs as we waited to get our lunch near the hotel.
As we engaged some of the ranger and volunteer staff, we quickly learned about some of the prominent elk players. Most important was "Big Guy" and his immediate for the moment challenger "Pretty Boy." And then there was a large herd of about 4 dozen does, who seemed to be bit players. That is, none of them had names like the 2 dominant males.
As you can see from the pictures, Big Guy's name suits him well as does Pretty Boy's. This is the season for gathering the herd and protecting it from other buck wannabe's. Pretty Boy thought his chances were good, but he had miscalculated Big Guy's determination and size. Each time he slowly approached the herd from any direction, Big Guy was up and on his feet. That movement alone seemed to be a clear enough message to Pretty Boy to steer clear and get out of Dodge, so to speak.
But Pretty Boy didn't leave, he continued to graze very close by, on the grass and flower beds, casually glancing greedily at lovely does nearby. But the Big Guy's eyeballs never left sight of this relatively younger intruder. With this atmosphere, it seems clear you would not want to put yourself in danger by being anywhere to close to these majestic guys. A good example was when a car stopped to let the brood cross the highway and Big Guy lowers his massive antlers and places them squarely into the stopped vehicle. Impressive and expensive damage to the vehicle. Now once again, why would any sane thinking person want to be within charging distance of a fully inflamed testosterone loaded buck elk? The plus side, the car was still driveable.
Since we are on somewhat of a mission, time wise, we only spent a couple of days in the park. We had spent a lengthy period here just a few years ago. My next entry will be primarily pictures taken between West Yellowstone and the park's east entrance.