During our stay in the north end of Yellowstone, I noticed something on the map called the Yellowstone Trail. A quick google search filled me in on its history. The Yellowstone Trail was the first transcontinental automobile highway, formed in 1912. You can still drive on this “highway” from Washington all the way to Massachusetts, although it would surely take a very long time as it is mostly single lane dirt roads. Still, it was an interesting bit of history that I did not know about. You can access a portion of the trail right outside the Roosevelt arch at the north entrance to the park, and we parked the car there to walk the dogs. We also drove down the road for about 10 miles as it ran right along the Yellowstone River.
After our drive we had lunch in the very cute little town of Gardiner at a restaurant looking over the river.
Our second to last night in the park was a doozy. We were sitting in the RV after dinner, and noticed a group of 4 adult and 1 baby elk right outside our RV. Seeing elk in the Mammoth Campground is very common, and we were very careful around them after our experience with them last year. We’d been making sure not to get too close to them, and doing our best to not let the dogs bark or get too excited by them. As we were watching the group of elk outside the RV on this particular evening, we noticed that one of them had knocked over our gas firepit and was licking the side of it.
In hindsight, I should have just left it alone, but Deas was worried the elk might damage his beloved firepit. So I opened the door just a crack, and stood in the doorway and attempted to yell at the elk to make them leave. I think when I yelled it trigged something in the dogs – in a split second, Shorty ran between my legs and charged right towards the elk. I was instantly terrified – I know how protective the elk are of their babies, and 35-pound Shorty would be no match for them. I threw open the door to run after him, and of course Jake and Nikki took that as their cue to participate in the chase. So now all 3 of our dogs were charging across the large field above in pursuit of the elk, who thankfully decided to run away rather than attack.
I went running across the field barefoot, but of course I couldn’t keep up with any of them. Nikki held back and looked at me with a look like “I don’t think we’re supposed to be doing this…” and she came right back to us. Jake ran to the left and Shorty went to the right, and was headed right towards the road. Thankfully traffic stopped because of the large elk running in front of him. At that moment two teenage boys on bikes came flying up out of nowhere and yelled “Do you need some help?” We yelled back “YES!”, and they went flying off in pursuit of Shorty. Since they were on bikes they were able to catch up with him pretty quickly and I heard them yelling out his name. These sweet boys managed to herd Shorty back in our direction and he came running right back to me. I scooped him up in my arms and looked in the direction that I had last seen Jake – and saw nothing. He and the elk he was pursuing were long gone. Jake is very, very fast, and very, very crazy. He has run off a few other times, and when he’s “wilding” as we call it, he will not come back to us for anything. I started heading back to the RV with Shorty, when a very unhelpful RV neighbor yelled at me “Keep your dogs on a leash!” Um, thanks, dude. Not really helping the situation. We always keep our dogs on their leashes. I yelled back to him that the dogs had run out of the RV – it was an accident.
Once we got Nikki and Shorty back in the RV, Deas headed off on foot in the direction we last saw Jake, and I got in the car. Another unhelpful RV neighbor informed Deas that the rangers were going to give us a $500 ticket for letting the dogs loose. I found it interesting that two teenage boys were the only ones that pitched in to help us, while all the adults just wanted to point out that we had screwed up. The teenage boys were still racing around on their bikes looking for Jake – I never saw them again, and I felt really badly about that because I would have really liked to tell them how much I appreciated their help.
As I was driving down the road looking for Jake, I was convinced he was a goner. I thought we either wouldn’t find him at all, or we’d find him injured by an elk. I found a ranger and got out of the car to tell him what happened. He was very sympathetic and offered to help us, probably because I was bawling crying at this point. He said he had to drop off another ranger but that he would come right back to the campsite to help us.
I continued driving around, when my phone rang. It was Deas – and he had Jake! I couldn’t believe it! About 30 minutes after he ran off, two women were driving into the park and saw a dog playing the Gardiner River, about 2 miles from our campground. They of course thought this was odd, and decided they should report this to a ranger. Then they saw Deas walking down the road, and on a hunch asked him if he was looking for a dog. They picked Deas up and drove him back to where they saw Jake. When they all 3 got out of the car, Jake was on the opposite side of the river. When he saw Deas, he jumped right into the river and started swimming across. But the current was so strong he started getting swept downstream. Deas and the two women started running down the river bank, and amazingly Jake finally made it to a point where Deas could grab him and pull him to shore. Jake was soaking wet, and happy as could be. As far as he was concerned, he’d just had the best day of his life.
I still can’t believe we were lucky enough to get all 3 dogs back unharmed. The helpful ranger did come back by as promised, and I told him we had found Jake. And he didn’t give me a ticket!