And many of them have four legs. Every fall right after Labor Day, the population of Yellowstone Country sees a rather dramatic change.
Many of our revered attractions, like the cowboys who compete in the Cody Nite Rodeo and our local actors who perform in the nightly Cody Gunfighters show, have carefully packed away their saddles, trophies and costumes. I will continue to see the Cody Trolley for a couple of weeks as it takes visitors through our town on an entertaining hour-long trip. And Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue will continue to perform until Sept. 26. But most vacationers have returned to their homes, unpacked their bags and stored away their photos and mementos from their authentic Cody vacation.
But the population that doesn’t have to think about things like soccer practice and teacher conferences is still around, and this time of year, they like to show off.
When fall comes to Yellowstone Country, the wildlife come out to play. Don’t get me wrong. They’ve been there throughout the summer. Autumn, though, is the season when they are often most viewable from the road, and it’s the time of year I find myself driving the road to Yellowstone so I can say hello. From a respectable and appropriate distance, of course.
On my Labor Day drive along the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway – the road to Yellowstone National Park — I saw three road-side bears. One black bear was wandering through the valley south of Sleeping Giant Ski Area foraging for berries and nuts for nutrition before she becomes den-bound for the winter. Like all travelers who are in-the-know about wildlife viewing, I brought my binoculars. (The same camo-colored 8 x 32 binoculars I bought during my spring bling fling.) And I watched this beautiful bear wander through the trees and valley for 30 minutes before she disappeared. She wasn’t stressed and she paid no attention to me or the other road-side viewers. She simply and slowly wandered as if she had no responsibilities and no timetables. At least that’s what I imagined as I watched this enormous but somehow graceful animal go through part of her day.
Then shortly after that I saw a majestic moose and calf wander through the willows. On my return to home I spotted three bighorn sheep right along the road, several elk, pronghorn, deer and even an eagle.
Upon my return I went fishing, and I caught and released a dozen blue-ribbon trout that were this big. I swear.
When I got back home I started thinking about that beautiful bear and the other creatures I saw that day. The bear knows that winter is coming and she needs to prepare for it. But on that beautiful Labor Day, she was simply living in the moment, something I strive for but never quite achieve. And I silently thanked her for letting be a part of it.
Until next time, I’ve loving life and appreciating our four-legged fall friends here in Yellowstone Country.