It's early Thursday morning and as always I am an early riser. As I peer out the window into the slowly disolving darkness, I am reminded of other early mornings and things that go bump in the night. We were staying in a small cabin at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park with our good friends Gary and Rosie. It was three years ago and the first week in October. A long time fishing visitor to the Park during mid-summer, a fall trip for wildlife viewing was a new experience. My three companions were late sleepers. I, being of the early rising variety, decided that rather than stare at the ceiling for a few hours, I would sneak out, book in hand, and walk over to the hotel restaurant to get my early morning cup of coffee.
The previous day we had driven up into the Lamar Valley for some great sight seeing. We saw plenty of elk and buffalo and did a short hike up into the small but colorful Pebble Creek canyon. I even had a chance to talk to some of the "wolf watchers" with their huge scopes and cameras.
The cabin we were staying in was quite small with a bedroom, two double beds and a bathroom. There was a small compound of these cabins surrounding a grassy area. Also attached was a very small wooden porch with a railing and a few plastic chairs. Book in hand I quietly opened the cabin door and took a half of a step onto the porch and into the darkness. It was very dark. Darker than I expected..... especially when the darkness moved. Suddenly, aware that a large buffalo was standing crossways on the porch and blocking the path, I literally leaped and fell over backwards back into the cabin.
Yes, a loud profanity was uttered on my part and the lights came on, with three rather disturbed people questioning my behavior and perhaps sanity. After resolving their concerns by showing them the nightime visitor, still standing on the porch, order was restored. Later, Gary managed to snap a picture of the culprit, who had slowly followed a path up the hill behind the cabins. It should be noted that several park visitors are killed each year by getting to close to these placid looking bovines. I still get up early but look carefully before I step out into the dark.