Last week I fulfilled a long-time ambition by staying in our family’s Wyoming cabin in the winter. My Dad built the cabin in the Sunlight Basin north of Cody back in the 1970s and since then I have stayed there many times, but always in the summer.
I’ve always fantasized about spending a winter at the cabin, and from what I saw last week, that would be even more beautiful than I ever imagined. We arrived last Wednesday afternoon in the middle of a snow storm that made the trip over 9,000-foot Dead Indian Pass quite an adventure.
Near the top of the pass we saw a moose struggling to navigate through waist-high snow. On the back side, as we wended our way down the sharply curved road into the basin, there were mule deer gathered in conversation at every corner– but the stars of the show on this trip were definitely the elk!
I had not realized that the basin serves as the winter shelter for thousands of them. In the summer we almost never see an elk outside of nearby Yellowstone Park, but last week they were everywhere. I could literally count hundreds of them just by looking out our cabin window the first day
They seemed surprised to see us intruding on their winter turf at first (there are only a few ranchers who live in the basin year-round) and we did not see them so close again for a few days. By the end of the week, however, they had grown accustomed to our presence and we had about 50 bed down in our front yard for the final night.
We did not see any Grizzly Bears although the Park Service issued a warning that they would soon be emerging from their winter hibernations. The bears don’t really like to come out of their warm homes until the snow cover is gone.
Friday was also a big day for local wolves. We have a number of packs in the Sunlight Basin that have been driving the local ranchers crazy. The restoration of the wolf to the Park and surrounding territories has been so successful that the wolf was officially taken off the endangered species list last week.
This is not necessarily all good news for the wolves because now they can be shot by the ranchers seeking to protect their cattle. I hope there will not be a blood bath.
As Bob Dylan sang years ago, “Time passes slowly up in the mountains.” It’s a world of almost total quiet where the only sound you can hear is the ringing in your own ears. (BTW if you suffer from what is called tinnitus, here is an interesting article about it.)
When things get too slow its only an hour ride back over the pass to Cody and we made the trip twice to break up the week. Cody, as the Eastern Gateway to Yellowstone, is a big tourist town in the summer, but obviously struggles in the winter.
I picked up a poster that the local Chamber had produced urging people to “Be Loyal, Shop Local First.” Sounds like good advise for all small town residents and I am looking for a sponsor for a local version of that poster.
I returned Tuesday night with a new growth of beard and a refreshed attitude. If you want to see the closest thing to a real Grizzly in the East, come to the town planning board meeting on Monday!