"A laundromat and bathrooms are here and here," the receptionist says to us as she hands us a map to the RV Park we're staying in for the night. "Oh, and make sure to shut the gate behind you if you arrive late. The bison like to come in."
We've been in Yellowstone for less than 24 hours and already we have our share of bison stories - everyone does around here. Since our last dispatch, we've left Texas and made our way almost entirely through Wyoming with visits to Grand Teton and, now, Yellowstone national parks. We also found two of our favorite camp sites (maybe ever!). Here's one of them.
But back to those bison.
It's basically impossible to mention the American West without also mentioning bison. And trust us, they're everywhere.
Yesterday, while the two of us were heading back to our camp, we spotted a herd of bison (and, inevitably, tourists) outside some of the iconic barns that make up Mormon Row. So, naturally, we stopped, got out of our cars and moved a little closer to see what they were up to.
Now, wait. If you're thinking we're idiots for approaching dozens of 2,000-lb. wild mammals without protection, you're probably right, but, to be fair, the two of us made sure to follow the 25 meter rule. (Note: There are signs everywhere throughout GTNP and Yellowstone telling visitors to stay 25 meters or more away from bison. And they're not subtle. Upon entering, visitors receive a bright yellow flier that depicts a person getting gored by a bison. This is not a fate either of us wanted...)
So we stood there watching these bison as they walked with their young, grazed on grass and scratched themselves on wooden fence posts.
We also watched them charge at tourists who got too close.
It may seem obvious, but perhaps this needs repeating: stay away from wild animals. Many of you have heard the stories we're sure, but the more we travel, the more we see firsthand how important getting that perfect shot has become. Such encounters, some fueled by selfies (yes, #bisonselfie is a thing), others by pure ignorance about nature, lead to encounters that are dangerous to both people and animals.
Moral of the story: Be respectful, keep your distance and let the wild things stay wild.