Daily Archives: July 6, 2009

Car Hike

elk in YellowstoneAdmiring broad vistas of nature while hiking along a trail is an exhilarating experience.  The only drawback is that it isn’t very time-efficient.  Even an experienced hiker in good physical condition can only cover a few miles in a day, which limits the amount of natural beauty one can see.  That’s why I invented the car hike.  It’s in the road-trip family, but a car hike takes you off the main highways and onto the scenic byways.  It allows you the opportunity to travel much greater distances than a traditional foot-hiker can attain, thereby revealing far more scenic beauty.  To get the additional thrill of “roughing it” that hikers enjoy, I recommend turning off the car’s air conditioning and rolling down the windows.

Yellowstone National Park is an ideal spot for car hiking because of its vast expanses (3,468 square miles).  A foot hiker can only take in a tiny portion of it, but a car hiker with a map and a careful plan can enjoy a generous sample of its geysers, canyons, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and wildlife in a relatively few days.  To illustrate how a car hike in Yellowstone works, here is my report of one.  It’s just the afternoon hours, mind you — of September 9, 2008:

Sally took the wheel after lunch and we found a road off the main highway — it’s called Firehole Lake Drive.  Along the way we saw some cars parked and decided to investigate.  It was the site of a geyser called White Dome.  Several people had been waiting there quite a while, but within minutes of our arrival it erupted — a pretty impressive show, too.  It wasn’t as high as Old Faithful, but the eruption seemed to last longer, and the cone was taller.

The plan was to work our way back toward our hotel in West Yellowstone, allowing time for stops along the way.  One sight that caught our eye and made us pull off the road was a fly fisherman sharing the Madison River with an elk.  They glanced at each other occasionally, but neither seemed to feel threatened by the other…

While looking for the perfect spot to have the “refreshments” I had in the trunk of our rental car, we came across a frustrated romance.  A male elk with extravagant antlers was in the company of seven females.  His bellows — and aggressive passes — made it clear that he was strongly interested in mating.  The females all claimed to have headaches, though, and managed to thwart his advances.

Eventually we found a quiet spot near the Seven-Mile Bridge (Madison River).  We got out of the car and walked a short distance to the bank of the river, where we enjoyed our drinks along with some mixed nuts.  We weren’t alone for long — on the opposite bank several female elk and a couple of juveniles came down to the river’s edge for their evening drink…