Yellowstone | Pelican Valley
I was itching to get a little more of a backcountry hike in at Yellowstone. Explore a place that even less people visit than our hikes on Elephant Back and Mt. Washburn. I studied our map and read through Top Trails: Yellowstone & Grand Teton again. Finally, I decided that we should explore part of Pelican Valley. It was our last morning in Yellowstone and we were looking for something nearby. It was also a bonus that the trail would be relatively flat. A nice easy morning before heading down to Grand Teton.
Our morning actually began before that with an early morning drive in search of wildlife. We know that a lot of the animals in the park are active around dawn so we headed out looking for them by car. Sure enough we had a few encounters with bison walking in the middle of the street, elk grazing in the distance, and a mule deer. Satisfied with our car journey we headed to breakfast and to pack up before going to Pelican Valley.
I had read that Pelican Valley is closed in the spring due to high grizzly activity. The Pelican Creek goes through the valley and is a popular place for the grizzlies to hang out and look for cutthroat trout. Being late summer I figured we would be fine. Jayne was less than pleased with my choice when we arrived at the trailhead to find signs warning of grizzly activity and that you should hike in groups of four or more. Almost every other trail we saw or read about only said hike with three or more. I convinced her that we wouldn’t have a problem and that the trail was out in the open so we could be seen by any animal. Well, this isn’t totally true. We did end up in the woods and I think Jayne truly hated me during this time. I, of course, had to take a picture of her to show later on that she survived the scary woods.
We sang our way through the wooden area and were beyond relived to make it back out to the open valley. An added bonus was that we saw a group of people in the distance. We weren’t the only crazy ones going out on a trail that doesn’t allow camping and is restricted to the daylight hours. Coming out of the woods not only could we see the trail stayed out in the open but we could see the Sulpher Hills and 8000+ feet tall mountains surrounding the valley.
We crossed paths with the group of trekkers who only went as far as the small patch of shade along the trail and were heading back. They said there was a couple herds of bison visible from there and enjoyed just spending time at that spot, enjoying the view. I cannot blame them for stopping there. It was a great spot to just sit and enjoy nature. Unfortunately for Jayne I wanted to continue on. Actually by this point she was much happier and snapping away taking pictures with her camera. As we continued along the trail a large bison decided to walk parallel to us. As much as I wanted to be looking out into the valley I had to keep watching him to see if he was moving toward us or just staying along the edge of the woods.
The bison and I were both content with our selected paths and happily stayed away from each other. We guessed he was the dominate bull to the herd that was down by the creek. As long as we kept our direction and didn’t go toward the herd we could coexist and enjoy the valley together. Initially I wanted to go all the way down to the creek and look for fish, not to go fishing, just to watch, but the midday sun was hot and we still had to drive to Grand Teton National Park.
We continued on to a trail junction that had a perfect heart shaped rock helping to keep the sign in place. At this point our bison friend had disappeared into the woods so I had to keep checking back to make sure he, or a grizzly, or a wolf didn’t decide to come out for a visit. In the distance we could see a whole lot more bison, easily over 100. It was the largest gathering of bison we had seen in our few days at Yellowstone. We just stood there taking in the bison and towering mountains.
As we headed back we noticed another group that seemed to be content just going to the shady spot we had come through. As we got closer we saw it was a family with five small children. They, like the other group, had not seen any bears, just bison. Of course this made Jayne very happy. A little after we passed them I came across fur stuck in some branches. I took it off and ran back to give it to the kids. I told them it was bison fur. Thinking back now some of it could have been bear fur since they were two pretty different types of fur. Shhh, just don’t tell Jayne.