Friday, April 23, 2010
Last night I ran into a rather dreadful amount of traffic on the way home from work and a twelve minute drive took over half an hour. Yellowstone in April doesn't have that problem and those who know the gate combination (it's supposed to be secret, but any staff in the park learn it almost immediately) and drive into the park will have almost the only car on the road. Ninety minute drives in the summer become forty minute drives in the spring.
But that doesn't mean there are no hazards. Spring is the worst season for finding animals in the middle of the road*, as the roads have been plowed while the rest of the landscape is still full of snow. For a small herd of bison, using the bare road is a huge energy saver just when they're weakest from a long, hungry winter. You have to keep your eyes open while you're flouting that 35 MPH speed limit, because you're sure to encounter some furry friends along the way.
* Except for Hayden Valley between mid-July and the end of August; that's the season of the bison rut and they tend to congregate in that area. Most of the year, bison will scatter across the land, but they come together during the mating season and in Hayden Valley they can block the road for an hour. Tourists love it; employees hate it.