My Christmas in Yellowstone was not filled with a Christmas Tree, bright lights, Christmas carols, piles of wrapping paper, family and grandchildren but it was the best in all of my many years as a single person without a family.
For nearly three months now I have been living right outside of Yellowstone and have spent much time in the park. I have been greatly disappointed by the lack of wildlife sightings and that has me feeling frustrated at times. But, still, I enter the park with optimism and the sure knowledge that it will be a new day. I don’t much understand the way things are going, what with wolves being killed right and left and the way the park feels so empty, but do know that one day, I will drive in and everything will change.
There is a huge drama unfolding and it might not be the way that I would like for it to go but I am committed to staying and watching what will happen next.
But while I am waiting to see what happens, I am determined to find the best that Yellowstone has to offer. I will watch the sun move over the mountain tops, look in the shadows for wildlife, crane my neck to see what is moving on the rocks, look for the otters swimming in the river, keep my eyes peeled for birds and stand in the cold and look through a scope to find canines off in a distance.
Some days I just sit in the car and watch, and on others I take off down a trail. I haven’t gotten the great sunrise or sunset, the perfect wildlife moment or even a landscape that I am especially proud of. But I keep studying and learning what this place and the people who frequent it have to teach me.
While Christmas was filled with beautiful landscapes, friends, good food and a lot of time in the park, it was also filled with the harsh realities of Winter in Yellowstone. There were many reports of bison trying to get around on three legs and each animal seemed to be located in a different part of the park. There was an elk carcass at Little America, a deer carcass at the North Entrance Gate, and a bison bull that fell through the water at Blacktail Lakes and after hours of struggle was unable to get out and so rangers put the animal out of its misery. There were some wolves off in a distance – I saw three – moose eating willows in the park, eagles, a lot of coyotes and reports of the big horns coming down to the Lamar River. Not so bad, not really. The elk are moving to lower elevations and are more visible, including some beautiful bulls. Fewer wolves means more coyotes and they can be pretty entertaining to watch and shoot.
I came here to see life in Yellowstone, which also includes death. These are not pretty sights always but they are fascinating. And, despite how tragic it was for the bison bull, the next day I stayed and watched as other animals filled their bellies. It was good to see the coyotes full and running with joy or rolling in the snow. That bison was doing its final job.
Christmas was simple and without expectation and I wonder if maybe that is the way it was meant to be – celebrating life and death without frivolous trimmings and petty arguments. I have no decorations to take down, just a lot of good leftover food to eat, and turkey soup stock on the stove.