Cloudy with a chance of lightning and bears

I’m absolutely mindblown by the pristine wilderness, teeming wildlife and naturals wonders of the Wild West. We started our trip by exploring the majestic Grand Tetons and after having a picnic by the emerald-hued Jenni lake, we drove to Yellowstone and spent three wonderful days there. Possibly the world’s first national park, Yellowstone rests atop a dormant volcano. The volcano’s magma chamber is the source of its many erupting geysers, rainbow-hued hot springs, bubbling mud pots and many other geothermal wonders.

Yellowstone is notorious for its fickle microclimate and Mother Nature kept playing tricks the whole time, bringing in a blanket of dark, brooding clouds to conceal the sun. After a few sprinkles of rain and hail, the clouds would part again and the sun returned for a brief period only to get shrouded in clouds very soon. When it was not raining we snuck in a few hikes and when it poured, we drove to the viewpoints. The landscapes and wonders are so varied, dramatic and striking, we were in a perpetual state of awe.

One of my favorite hikes was to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and watching the Yellowstone River tumble over the steep cliffs with a thunderous roar.

As if the natural wonders are not enough, there is wildlife everywhere in the park; the snow-capped craggy peaks, the golden valleys, and meadows are teeming with grizzly bears, black bears, elks, moose, bison, elusive gray wolves and bighorn sheep to name a few. We were lucky to see shaggy herds of majestic bison and elk grazing in the plains and bear cubs scurrying up trees for berries. Ok that sounds like we saw a ton of bears but full disclosure, we saw only two bear cubs, but witnessing Yogi bear and Boo-Boo bear up close is EVERYTHING 😛 I was kicking myself for not ordering the 100-400mm telephoto photo lens earlier. Darn it Amazon! Taking three days with your “two-day” Prime shipping. Oh well! We even caught a glimpse of a pack of gray wolves and a lone black wolf chilling by a lake one misty morning. Easily, one of the highlights of the trip was listening to these wolves howl and hearing their cries faintly echo through the valley, chills running down our spines.

As night fell, the temperatures dipped to dizzying sub-zero making things all the more “enjoyable” for us warm-bodies. (except Nishant who relished these freezing temperatures, rightfully earning the monicker “The bison”, a running joke throughout the trip 😛 ). I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was, but we ended up camping in this brutal weather and our nights were punctuated with heavy downpours, thunder, and lightning. The campground is also frequented by bears and we were advised to keep all food locked up in our cars to keep the grounds odor-free. The rangers cautioned us to keep even water bottles out of out tents since they didn’t want the crafty bears with their heightened sense of smell sniffing out traces of food from the fingerprints on the bottles. Our neighbors didn’t give a hoot about any of this advice and left freshly cut vegetables outside their tent LOL, while we tirelessly tried to remove all evidence of food and odor after each meal. Each morning, we discovered fresh animal poop a few feet from us. We still don’t know which animal it was, although I’m (not so) secretly hoping it was bears. I can’t believe we made it out in one piece lol and that our tent (pitched by camping n00bs) stood strong against the raging climate. One of the nights, the ominous clouds over the campsite briefly parted, revealing a dramatic canopy of stars and constellations. Of course, nature kindly threw in a lot of lightning soon after to culminate the performance.

On our way back to SLC, we stopped at a gas station that quite unexpectedly had showers for truckers. We joked that these showers would be dirty and we were shell-shocked to discover that they were luxurious and all the four of us bought coupons to shower. (one of the) BEST SHOWER of our lives in a hilarious turn of events.

It feels darn good to be sleeping on a regular bed now, but I wouldn’t trade our crazy adventure for the world. What impeccable timing too, the National Park Services just celebrated 100 years of service. 🙂 Shout out to my crazy fun homies Prem, Gree, and Nish for organizing the whole affair. Of course, my contributions included my awesome company :P, pitching the idea for Yellowstone and a buttload of hand warmers and feet warmers, which even The Bison ended up needing.