Merriott column: A dream trip to Yellowstone |

Merriott column: A dream trip to Yellowstone

Frosty Merriott
Frosty Merriott

Hopefully you caught Part 1 last month talking about Winter in Yellowstone in 1983 on a wildlife photo workshop with Clyde Lockwood. I vowed then to see Yellowstone in all its glorious seasons.

In the late 1980s when we arrived it was summertime and what a remarkable contrast. Carly, me and my 7-year-old Jeremiah made this trip. The decision was to spend the first few days as tourons and stay at the Old Faithful Inn. Then we would spend a few days in a remote log cabin and make it more of an adventure. We flew into Jackson, Wyoming and would fly out of Bozeman, Montana. That way we could stay in Chico Hot Springs our last night, in memory of my Winter in Yellowstone. We took the ski tram at Jackson Hole before heading to Yellowstone and witnessed a glorious treat going right over a mother moose and her two new calves as they foraged. Talk about adorable.

Anyhow back to our summer adventure to Yellowstone. Now there were 10s of thousands of people visiting but the wildlife seemed unbothered except for Griz. No fear of humans and coexisting in relative peace the way we could/should be doing in Colorado — especially in the Roaring Fork Valley. Our stay at Old Faithful Inn was a real treat. We spent almost a day in the Lamar Valley where we were able to see all the critters in Yellowstone not unlike the Serengeti in Kenya and Tanzania. We did a couple bus tours and especially enjoyed spotting a mother elk teaching her fawn how to swim in the Firehole River about 30 yards from the road. We pulled over and got to observe them for 30 minutes or so just us and them.

Middle of the week we reluctantly left Yellowstone and headed for our “cabin” near the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Unfortunately, we got there after dark and it could maybe have been a little too rustic. On the road driving to the cabin the trees were smothering the rental windshield and appeared to be moving closer as if the road was just going to come to an abrupt halt. Just then Jeremiah screamed out from the backseat, “There’s a man in the road with an ax!”

I was terrified to look at first as all I had was a Swiss Army Knife. Thank goodness it was only a huge bull moose with an equally huge rack. By golly the paddles did look like Norseman axes! This successfully set the stage for the cabin which was around the next curve in the road and the road did end abruptly. We got in and excitedly unpacked our rent car for our nights in the Wilderness and then Carly read the welcome sign. Electricity and water will be shut off from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. There was a flashlight and a lantern, but I was still thinking about Norsemen in the road with axes. This was a total deal killer for Carly and Jeremiah. Maybe I did not want to be a mountain man after all?

So it was back in the car and on to Chico Hot Springs in Pray, Montana. I am sure this is what Carly was indeed doing at the time and thinking about that damn tennis pro that she had been dating who kept telling her she was marrying a lunatic.

The third trip to Yellowstone was spring in the late 1990s on a Yellowstone Coalition sponsored trip to see the wildlife of Yellowstone and the wolves that had been reintroduced a few years earlier. It was just Shiloh and me on this trip and I was a little nervous without Carly around until the Pillow Pet came out, which boosted my confidence immensely. Why you say? We were staying at what I guess you would call a “Yellowstone Ranch property” with about 12-14 guest cabins. They said to watch out for griz (not wolves) and latch the screen doors. Strange sense of humor.

One of the highlights of the trip was attending a very informative lecture by Doug Smith and watching a spectacular movie on the Misunderstood Predators of Yellowstone and their successful reintroduction. Doug Smith co-wrote the book (Decade of the Wolf) and led the successful reintroduction of wolves.

We were then taken to see the Druid pack and observe some of them circling a herd of over 100 elk. The lead cow finally had enough and charged straight at the alpha male. He turned tail and I mean she was right on his ass — maybe 10 feet back. He swerved and she swerved I bet for a good quarter mile. Later in the day we were amazed by the pack howling back and forth. I mean it was incredibly beautiful. It gave me goose bumps and literally brought me to tears. A Beethoven symphony could not have moved me more. After all it was Alpha Male No. 10, the first Canadian wolf out of his pen in 1995 who undeniably was the largest, bravest and most gorgeous of the reintroduced wolves. Alpha Male No. 10 became the first wolf to roam our nation’s first park Yellowstone in over 60 years. In late April Alpha Male No. 10 was the father of four male and four female pups creating a new generation of wild wolves that eventually resulted in the Druid Pack. He was illegally shot and killed on April 23, 1995.

Have we learned anything yet? I guess we are about to find out.

Frosty Merriott of Carbondale is a CPA and former Town Trustee and member of the Chamber Executive Board and the Environmental Board.

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