I've seen a lot of wildlife in the park. Eventually, I stopped taking pictures of every marmot I saw, because they were more numerous than people. Some animals were too far away to get a good shot without my telephoto lens, like the moose I saw on day one.
Speaking of black bears, two more rangers warned me of the one at Phelps Lake. While hiking up the long ascent to Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes, I stepped aside to allow a convoy of park rangers, EMTs, and a woman with her left arm bandaged to her torso, pass by. From yards away, I could see her dislocated elbow was not connected to her funny bone.
“Yeah, several,” I said.
“The bears are active because of all the ripe huckleberries. Hopefully that will keep them from approaching hikers for food,” he said.
“That’s a big trip,” the other ranger said while glancing at my itinerary. "Why do they keep saying that, it’s barely fifty miles," I thought.
When they walked away, he mumbled something I couldn't hear, to which the other ranger said, “Yeah, he seemed legit.” Have I become something I wasn't before? Do I appear to belong in the mountains? I grinned and felt a sense of pride. Or maybe after a few days in the mountains, I just smelled like a legit mountain man.
I could hear its heavy foot falls as it rustled through the leaves, perhaps searching for huckleberries. I clacked my hiking poles together, but it didn't seem to notice.
I tried clacking my hiking poles together again. A panicky bear cub finally heard and ran up a tree. An adult bear was still on the ground. I crept along the trail beside it, making noise along the way so it would know I was there. I whistled, I sang Fat-bottom Girls by Queen. It just couldn't care any less that I was there.
So I continued to Phelps Lake. When I was close, a sign had been posted on the trail that read, “Ryan Grayson Party (Party of one, I thought). Phelps Lake Campsites Closed." The ranger said the bear caused more trouble, so they closed the whole area. I also learned that I really like seeing my name on a sign.
I decided that since this was my last night in the park and I only had five more miles of trail to my car, now was as good a time as any to begin my next visit on this road trip. I walked up the nearest road and hitched a ride back to my car, a ride perfectly timed, as cold rain and lightning began to fall from the sky.
I think I'm ready for Yellowstone now.
A Backpacker's Life List by Ryan Grayson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.