With only one day on our travel itinerary to explore Yellowstone National Park last June, we knew we had to make the most of the visit. First on the agenda was setting up a trail run for me so that I could keep up with my half marathon training. I researched the options the night before and had a loop trail in mind. I was pretty excited: 5 miles, moderately strenuous, close to the the north entrance of the park where we were coming in.
On the drive down it dawned on me though that hiking and running in Yellowstone was different from the parks I was used to back home in Washington. Higher altitude and drier conditions were two things I was thinking about, but my biggest worry was bears. Since I’d run the trail on my own (while Bergen and Slaed hiked and explored), one of my “protectors” (staying in a group) against an incident was taken away. I also didn’t have bear spray. When we entered the park, I began to worry even more when we received a flyer warning us of bears and other wildlife in the area. One of the top cautions was DO NOT RUN.
I decided I’d check-in at the Ranger Station at Mammoth Hot Springs, talk it over with one of the rangers, and decide. The ranger felt that I wasn’t taking a huge risk. While it wasn’t a high traffic trail, there would be other hikers around. She assured me that the “do not run” warning really means “do not run AWAY” from the bear given the rare encounter. She sent me on my way with a few suggestions that I dutifully followed. I was definitely nervous, but felt confident with the ranger’s advice:
- Clap hands frequently to make noise and show presence on the trail.
- Use voice, especially when the trail is not visible ahead (coming around a turn, up a hill, etc.) Example: “Hey Bear, I’m here, Hey Bear…”)
- Keep a distance away and turn around slowly and go back if bear is on the trail.
The beginning of the run immediately took me uphill and as I huffed and puffed, I began to question whether or not I should continue. Maybe this was a sign that I should just call it a day? Seeing my first fellow hikers on the trail changed my attitude though. It put pep in my step, and along with the fact that the hardest climb of the loop was now behind me, I knew I could go on.
Wildflowers were scattered all over the trail’s edge and I loved looking off into the distance to see the great mountains that surrounded me. No beavers were spotted (by me) when I reached the ponds, but nonetheless, they were a neat sight to see. I felt lucky to be away from the crowds of some of the more popular and “drive-up friendly” parts of the park. I also cherished the time that I was spending alone in my own thoughts.
Toward the end though I was happy to see Mammoth Hot Springs get closer and closer into my view. I knew I could stop worrying about bears and whether or not I could run the entire 5-mile loop. I was done. Meanwhile Slaed and Bergen (22 months) hiked the loop in the reverse direction. They decided not to take on the entire distance, but the pictures shown throughout the post are thanks to their explorations.
Have you explored Yellowstone National Park? What did you enjoy most? Not explored the park yet? What’s on your list of sights to see?
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