Sunday, August 18 – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

As I write this (Sunday afternoon) a fire is burning a few miles west of here and is threatening our campground. It’s called the Alum Fire and it was caused by a lightning strike a few days ago. It flared up yesterday and many of the long-timers and year-round employees quickly began predicting that we’d be evacuated within a day or two. They’re still saying that today so actually a little bit of angst. We’ve already cancelled the hike we had planned for Monday just in case. We just got word that we’re on standby to go on 2 hour notice.

alum fire

Monday we decided to go on a picnic. I foolishly thought we’d go to one of the cool new quiet locations we had scoped out, but Mary Ann had other ideas. She wanted to go to our favorite Nez Perce spot from last year. This time of year the bison are in the rut and are literally swarming around that area. So I asked Mary Ann if she was driving. The next thing I knew, I was in the passenger seat, we were a half mile from Nez Perce, and we were standing still in a massive traffic jam. Every few minutes we would inch forward about the length of a car.

Finally, 75 minutes after we left, we completed the normally 20 minute drive and arrived at our destination. As we got out of the truck we could hear the bison grunting all around us. We walked about 50 yards from the truck to a shaded picnic table along the bank of the Yellowstone River and set up our folding chairs. I scoped out an escape route just in case a bison wondered in and blocked our primary route back to the truck. We relaxed for a couple of hours, enjoyed our lunch, watched bison after bison use the wallow across the river, watched for eagles and blue herons, and just enjoyed ourselves. Until…

I got up to take a look downstream and spotted a male and female bison strolling right in our direction about 200 feet away. I called Mary Ann to bring her camera and by the time she was ready the pair was running toward us. They were now in the middle of our escape route. We kept thinking the pair was going to make their way across the river and I’m sure the male shared that opinion, as he repeatedly tried to nudge his mate in that direction. But she was having none of that and they continued in our direction.


small bison

Sensing evacuation might be eminent, we gathered our things and picked up Kalaig so we could make a hasty exit and stood ready. As the bison closed in they began veering in the direction of our main route to the truck, so both our routes would be blocked. I told Mary Ann we better beat feet or we’d have to swim for it so we dashed down the path toward the truck. As we neared the truck the first few drops of rain began to fall. Then, looking over our shoulders, we could see that the bison were right on our tail. When we reached the truck, big fat drops of rain began falling with serious intent. We through open the doors, tossed in our belongings and Kalaig, and jumped in. The bison by this point were at the front of the truck, literally up against the grill. They weren’t interested in us, of course, but we were certainly in their way. They slowly made their way along the perimeter of the parking lot and soon had two hapless women trapped  in the bathroom a few yards from where we were parked.

At this stage of the season we’re running 5 trips a day beginning at 9:15 and the last trip of the day leaves at 4:30. The first 3 trips each day are narrated by interpretive rangers so whichever of us isn’t driving is basically ballast. On Friday the last of the “ranger trips” had Richard driving and me as ballast. No sooner had we pulled away from the dock than a baby, possibly a year old, began screaming her head off. This wasn’t your typically crying baby. This was incessant, ear-piercing screaming with attitude and purpose. I’m pretty sure this youngster had a score to settle with mom and dad and she figured this was her best venue for maximum attention and effect. The baby and her parents were in the back row which is where I normally stand when I am in ballast mode. As she continued to make her feelings known, heads began turning as other passengers began to realize the ambiance was going to be other than anticipated.

The baby was passed from mom to dad several times as the mortified parents futilely attempted to determine the nature of the youngster’s displeasure and end the audio assault. Nothing worked and more and more heads turned to observe the situation (and also, I suspect, to visually let the parents know they needed to quiet the child). The parents’ frustration turned to annoyance as the dad began letting the onlookers know that they were babies once, too. I began getting concerned there could be a fight.

To my absolute shock, one of the onlookers came back and picked up the baby and she immediately turned quiet. I was amazed that the parents didn’t object! I asked the dad if he knew the onlooker and learned that it was his brother. Ahhh. Of course! But, soon the baby squirmed out of her uncle’s arms, toddled back to her parents, and resumed her screaming. The child was still on the floor so I offered her my index finger, which she took, quieted, and promptly led me on a walk up the aisle. At the end of the aisle I picked her up and she began playing with the name badge over the pocket of my shirt. I carried her to the back of the boat where her parents were smiling in amazement. I asked if they minded my carrying her and, of course, they were fine with it. I held her for about 30 minutes before she finally gave in and conked out. All she needed was a little shut-eye. Richard now calls me the baby whisperer.



Note to readers: Publishing this Monday morning and so far all is well.

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2 Responses to Sunday, August 18 – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

  1. Gary Buckman says:

    Love these blogs – Be safe out there as we hear that the fires are a huge problem!

  2. Maggie says:

    The Yosemite fire made the Jacksonville paper this morning (8/24). Hope you are safe.