I saw a camel in South Dakota, grazing on some delicious grass by the side of the road. An actual camel. No, it wasn’t a yellow-colored bison, and no, I wasn’t on anything–though it did seem like a hallucination.
Max and I are on a road trip with our friend Matt, who is moving to San Francisco. It’s only been a few days, but we’ve seen so many extraordinary things–sights so breathtaking that we each feel lucky to have experienced them, and then there is always something else around each corner. (No, the camel was not one of them. Camels should not live in South Dakota.) We went hiking in the Badlands on Tuesday, and one of the first comments I made upon beginning the hike was, “Wow, I really feel like I am walking on the surface of the moon–you know, minus the zero gravity and lack of oxygen.” Then Matt informed me that they say that the Badlands is the one place on the earth that most closely resembles the surface of the moon. It was really great. Then, on our way out of the park, we happened across fields just full of chirping prairie dogs! They were everywhere, poking their heads in and out, running over to others’ holes and having meetings, wiggling their butts at us while they ran up to the road and crossed to the other side. You can’t get much cuter than a prairie dog.
Devil’s Tower was amazing as well, quite surreal–you could feel the energy surrounding the place. We arrived around sundown, and it was so exhilarating to see the rock stand out against the fading sun and then the moonlight. So calm, so peaceful (and luckily there were no climbers there!). We spent Tuesday night in Sheridan, Wyoming, and after stopping off at the T-Rex Museum along the way, we made it to Yellowstone with just enough time to make it to the middle of the park before the sun went down. Yellowstone is so, so beautiful–words cannot really describe. We were unable to camp there this evening because all of the campgrounds in this part of the country are closed at this time of year, there is snow on the ground, and it gets into the teens at night.
Oh, and then there’s the bears. They’re all over! (And apparently in their “super-eating” phase, or hyperphlagia, as they prepare for hibernation.) About 3/4 of a mile outside of the park, I thought to myself, “It would be so great if I just saw a bear out there on the side of the road. Not 5 seconds later, there he was, about 500 feet or so in from the road, just ambling along, occasionally looking over at us. Wow. A real, live grizzly bear living in the wild. Awesome. Ok, and maybe a bit scary. When we told the ranger at the gate about it, he seemed pretty excited. Then we asked him about how safe it was to go hiking in the park because of the bears…and he laughed a bit and gave us the most disconcerting response. Basically made us even more nervous about the bears–without coming right out and telling us we could really get attacked. Hahaha (I laugh, as I write my final blog post.).
Not too long after we saw the bear, we came upon three bison just moseying along the road in the left lane. I never would have thought we’d get so close. Bison are huge animals! And they were right there, just walking along, minding their own business as we rolled past. It was unbelievable. How grateful we all felt to be so close to such majestic creatures, living in their natural habitat. Later, we saw what we believe to be a caribou, and maybe a wolf (and lots of deer).
Driving through the park at night was like driving through a silent film. The landscape was so incredible that it didn’t seem real.
Well, I’m off to bed now. We’re staying in Montana tonight, but will go back into the park to hike and see Old Faithful tomorrow. Here’s to hoping we don’t get attacked by bears or anything else!