Friday, July 11, 2008

Yellowstone, Part 1 (or How We Survived the Killer Bears in the Dead of Night)

Click for Larger Image of Old FaithfulOur bus was filled with Escapade attendees on an overnight, pre-Escapade trip to Yellowstone. On day one, we boarded early, made it to Yellowstone, toured some of the highlights, and then spent the night in the park at Grant Village. The next morning, we boarded the bus for the return trip to Rapid City, SD. Little did we know that the trip back would take a very different turn.

Click for Larger Image of Tensleep WagonThe return trip took us through the canyon walls and rolling hills of the Big Horn Mountains. Our dinner had been prearranged at the elegantly restored Occidental Hotel in Buffalo, Wyoming, and we all looked forward to a pleasant journey. When the need for a stretch break came along, we stopped in the quiet little town of Ten Sleep, Wyoming. Ten Sleep got it's name because it was 10 nights into the journey between the southern Sioux camps on the Platte River and the northern camps at Bridger, Mt. In 2000, the population was 304, females leading males 154-150. The Ten Sleep Saloon, with knotty pine woodwork, friendly locals, a bartender from Chicago (who said she had been really depressed about the move to sleepy Ten Sleep, but after a year and a half she got used to it), and lovely, clean bathrooms that weren't located in the bouncing rear of a bus served as our rest area. Other than a gas station/convenience store, Ten Sleep had no other potential pit stops. When we reboarded, we noticed that our driver had been checking out the bus's systems, but thought nothing more of it.

Click for Larger Image of Joking About Pushing the BusAfter leaving Ten Sleep, the trouble began in earnest. The bus entered a canyon, and began the climb upwards towards the pass' summit. Almost immediately, we slowed to a crawl, and the driver explained that the bus was overheating. He stopped in the first available pull out, let the bus cool, and then started again up the road. Again, it almost immediately began to overheat, so we pulled off as soon as another viewing area appeared. We kept this up for several miles -- overheat, pull off, cool, pull out, overheat. While we did joke about everyone getting out to push, it was obvious now that this bus would not make it over the summit. Because we were in a canyon, no one on the bus had cell service. We needed to find a land line, but there was nothing in the area except gorgeous mountain scenery.

Finally, a local woman in a red car pulled over and asked if we needed help. She took the information from us, and called the bus company from her home. She returned to tell us that another bus was on its way, but would not meet us for about two hours. By the time the new bus got to us and we drove to Buffalo, it was 11:30 at night. The restaurant had stayed open for us and kept dinner hot -- and it was an excellent dinner indeed.

While waiting with a stranded bus for a couple hours wasn't exactly fun, there was a serendipitous find -- this lovely cascade, tucked away off a side road where it was totally hidden from view for those on the road:


Click for Larger Image of Falls

The preceeding is how it really happened. But should anyone ask, we all decided that the story would go like this: we were stranded overnight on a secluded mountain road. We divy'd up the few snacks and water we had, and began to wait out the night. It wasn't too bad until the snow started, and by the time it was done 6 feet had fallen. The bears came after the sun had gone down, and tried mightily to get in the bus -- but the weight of all that snow pressed against the door and kept it from opening. Frustrated, they moved to gouging deep claw marks along the sides and back of the bus as they attempted to get in anyway they could. Finally they went away, daylight came, and we were rescued. If anyone asks, we really don't know why our count came up one person short when we got back, but amongst ourselves we're sure that the skinny guy who went out the window just before the bears coincidently left made it back on his own.

1 comment:

Wandrin said...

Loved the last paragraph. Next time consider starting the story with your last paragraph. :-)