After witnessing the much anticipated eruption of Old Faithful, we ambled through Yellowstone taking in the lake views, a rippling beach, and more smoking pores in the earth’s surface – some right next to the lake. Slowly we advanced with the intention of seeing the little ‘Grand Canyon’ in the park. Hayden Valley beckoned us off the road as my husband spotted a small herd of elk on the top of the ridge above the pullout. He motioned to a vehicle behind us – the friendly sign that we had spotted something and wanted to share the spectacle with them. They pulled over and we engaged in friendly banter while we all grabbed binoculars and admired the herd.
We learned they were Dan and Jan, farmers from Minnesota. When a bull elk appeared Dan set up a telescope and let us share his close up view of the majestic animal. After a while, they went in search of a campsite and we meandered toward the canyon, only to be shut down in the road by a herd of buffalo. Caught for a moment too long and seeing the sun fading away, we realized we probably wouldn’t get all the way up to the top of the canyon so we settled on the south rim for the best dusk view.
Signs were posted as we turned into the drive, warning us to stay in our vehicles. And the trails had barricades up – closed. We spotted another small herd of elk cows along the south rim and tried to see if there was a bull among them. This delayed our progress even further and by the time we got to the end of the drive and start of the trail, light was dim. I knew the prospect of walking down the canyon trail far enough to look back up for a picture, would prove too dark for a good shot, so I only walked to the edge and then back to our SUV.
I had no idea at the time that the trails were closed due to someone’s untimely demise and possibility of grizzly bear attack. I knew about the attack of the man and his wife a couple of months prior and assumed the signs were up due to that.
It was only later that I learned about the man in his sixties who had been found dead on a trail with bear sign and scat near his body. And, that the bear might be in the very area I would have been walking through had I not been delayed by the elk sightings.
I hope for the man’s sake, that he died of natural causes and the bear simply scavenged an easy meal.
But I can’t stop thinking about him and the kind of day he may have been having in the beautiful surroundings before disaster struck.
It is a sobering sign indeed, that we are not always going to be able to avoid the harsh realities of life and that even on our best day, something tragic can be waiting around the next bend.
It is also a reminder that wild animals are not spectacles, but living creatures with their own needs which are vastly more important than our afternoon of enjoyment.
I am including no pictures today. I will resume those tomorrow. Life does go on. But for this post – I would just like to send the hope that this man’s family will be able to be at peace with the outcome, whatever it might be.
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Now that gave me a chill; a special thanks to the Elk who delayed you. What a well written and heartfelt post, thank you. MJ
My belief is that everything happens for a reason. Glad you had delays that kept you from being in that area at that wrong time. And prayers for that man’s family. Stay safe!
Update: News reports from several outlets including CNN and local news channels confirm that 59 year old John Wallace from Michigan did indeed die from traumatic injuries inflicted by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone near the Hayden Valley on Mary Mountain Trail. Officials from Yellowstone National Park are seeking the bear, saying that DNA can be obtained and used to match that left at the scene by the bear responsible for the attack. Our thoughts and prayers are with this man’s family and I urge everyone to use caution when traveling through wildlife areas.