The Ironic Bear: All the Things I DIDN’T See On My Summer Vacation




I’ll take historic places for $800. 


Native Americans have lived in this region for nearly 11,000 years.  It covers roughly       3,500 square miles, boasts multiple ecosystems and hundreds of geothermic features, and         in 1872 became the world’s first national park.   


 You would of course say “What is Yellowstone?” and you would be correct. 



   Last summer, I had the chance to visit Yellowstone for the first time.  Here is a partial list of the things I hoped to see: 


  • Old Faithful
  • giant bison  herd
  • moose
  • big-horn sheep
  • wolf
  • bear
  •  antelope
  • pronghorn
  • otter
  • Beehive geyser in action


     And here’s what I actually saw: 

  • Old Faithful
  • antelope

     Before I go any further, I should point out that my family and I stayed in the park for nearly a week.  We had ample sightseeing opportunities, and we were with my sister-in-law, a federal park ranger who lives and works in Yellowstone.  She knows, among other things, where the buffalo roam.  In fact, she knows where all the various attractions are at any given time and made her best effort to give us the full Yellowstone experience.  Unfortunately, she didn’t get much cooperation.  Somebody must have told Smokey, Bullwinkle and the rest that we were coming.  They decided not to clutter up our beautiful landscape photos with a lot of other natural wonders.  We saw NOTHING! 

     Okay, so that’s not entirely true.  We did see a whole bunch of antelope on our first day, and Old Faithful did it’s thing all week long.  The same cannot be said for Beehive geyser.  Beehive is far less predictable than Old Faithful, but it’s larger and much more impressive.  It also has what’s called an indicator, a mini geyser that will go off right before the big one.  It’s sort of like the heavy breathing right before… well, you know.  When that indicator starts to get worked up, Beehive usually climaxes within twenty minutes.  There’s one disclaimer.  It’s shy, and evidently won’t do anything if we’re watching.  We saw Beehive’s indicator at least three times.  Beehive itself never did a thing, at least not when we were around to see it.  How about some salt for that wound?  On July 31, 2013 (less than two weeks after we left) Steamboat Geyser, one of the largest geysers in the park, erupted for the first time in over eight years.    

     On one of our last days in Yellowstone, we took a drive through Hayden Valley.  In early to mid July, there are typically so many bison in the Hayden Valley area that it leads to what’s known as a bison jam.  That’s when bison are either blocking the road, or the road is blocked because of everyone stopped to take pictures of all the bison.  We were led to believe we wouldn’t be able to swing a dead cat without hitting a bison.  By the way, you can add dead cats to the above list of things we didn’t see.  We sailed right through Hayden Valley without ever once touching the brakes; and, although there were some bison in sight, thore weren’t many and they were all well off in the distance.  So, no big bison herds; likewise no wolves, otters, pronghorn or moose… or should that be mooses?  Meese?  Well, call it what you want.  We still didn’t see any.  My wife had a bear sighting at the top of her list.  We didn’t see that either.  We had a wonderful time in Yellowstone but couldn’t help feeling a bit cheated. My sister-in-law dropped us off at the airport, and shortly after, emailed a picture of the herd of big-horn sheep blocking the road in front of her.  Incidentally, seeing a big-horn sheep was at the top of my list.  Better luck next time.    

black bear     Fast forward about thirty-six hours.  We’d made it home safely; my wife left for a business trip and the kids and I were sitting around watching a ballgame.  All of a sudden, the dog started going ballistic.  We didn’t think much of it.  He’s got the IQ of tapioca pudding and has always been good at barking at nothing.  Still, my daughter went to the back door to take a look.  That was followed by some hyperventilating as she said, and this is a direct quote, “BEAR! BEAR!BEAR!  We have a stone patio off the back of the house.  It’s about fifteen feet across, and then there’s a few feet of lawn and then a hammock.  The Bear, large and in charge, was between the patio and the hammock, no more than twenty feet from where we’d been sitting.  I’m sorry to say that we didn’t get a picture.  The way the dog and my daughter were both carrying on, I guess he/she decided it was just too noisy.  We of course told my sister-in-law what had happened.  To this day, I still don’t think she believes us.  .                    


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