Wild Beasties in the Backyard Jul11


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Wild Beasties in the Backyard

The Bison Channel. That’s what we called it. Every evening we’d walk the four minutes down the trail from our campsite out to the banks of the Madison River to watch our big, brown, furry friends grazing in the field. It was a herd of 15 to 20 of them that visited that same area each night, complete with two babies that were still nursing and a couple of feisty teenagers that hopped and galloped at each other occasionally.


We discovered them by accident on the first night we were in camp. We had taken the bikes out for a spin to explore, staying on the paved roads and going in and out each of the loops at the campground to check out all the sites, the tents, the rigs and of course, the people. Most notable was a site at the end of our section. It had a large tent and a long clothes line strung up between 2 trees that was carrying three cheery colored muumuus and three bras. We visited down that way each night hoping to catch site of the muumuu person, but always the clothes line stood alone in the empty camp, stoically wearing its embarrassing duty.


Passed the moo moos, the road led down to another section of the campground that was closer to the river. We pedaled our last people-watching circuit and then spied a dirt trail that led out to the water. No bikes allowed, so we leaned them up against a big log that was lying on the ground and headed out to the river on foot. Very quickly the trail forked up to our right over a tall hill that we couldn’t see around and out to our left along the bank of the river. We hadn’t really decided which way to go yet, we just walked the 10 feet beyond the trail right out to the water to stick our hands in and admire the view. When we turned around again a couple minutes later, there they were.

While we had been busy ooo-ing and ah-ing with our backs to the trail, two bison had walked down off the top of the hill and were making their way up river right behind us. We froze like rabbits, two very large, hairless rabbits. We murmured to each other, bits of useless exit strategy ideas, mixed with a few holy shits and oh my gods. I’m sure the bison saw us out of their one big brown eye that faced our direction. I could practically count the long eyelashes as they blinked at me, but they just kept on moving by.


So that’s how we discovered the Bison Channel which was best tuned into from atop that hill. We saw lots of birds, elk and plenty of bison during our stay as we drove around to different areas of the park, but these bison, the ones that ate dinner every night along the river a hundred yards from our campground, were “ours”. On our last night, as we stood up on the hill quietly basting ourselves in gratitude, watching the show, I broke the silence and apparently jinxed us by saying, “I actually feel pretty safe up here on the hill.”

Just after that, one of the guy bison that was on our side of the river started walking. He was close enough that I encouraged Ali to try taking a video with her camera. She started filming and he kept walking, and walking, and walking, heading right up the hill straight for us. I don’t know if he did it on purpose, maybe we were just standing in the way of where he wanted to go, but that bison kept on comin’. Ali did her best to keep the camera rolling as we backed ourselves away and behind a tree, but eventually we needed to turn around and get the hell outta there.

Beautiful mountains and waterfalls, yes, electric blue hot springs and fascinating geysers, all of that made Yellowstone an incredible experience, but it was the wild animals and my trembling smallness next to them as I stood in their world, that added the real thrill. We didn’t see any bear, or moose, no wolves, or sheep, but there were still plenty of wild things to get excited about – elk, our bison and of course the muumuus.