I arrive at Tony's a little past midnight and they had just closed. So, I figure I'll just wait until they open at noon. Having nothing else to do and feeling bored, I decide just to drive through the park and bide my time until Tony's opens. At sunrise I find myself in Lamar Valley watching the animals and thinking about pizza for my wife. While in Lamar Valley, I call Tony's on my cellular and order their best double cheese double pepperoni pizza. I arrive at Tony's just as the pizza is coming out of the oven and head for home.
Can you believe my wife was a little miffed at me when I arrived home??!! After we ate the pizza and I explained my efforts and concern on her behalf, she started to settle down and things were not too bad. After three days she started to talk to me again and we are just about back to normal. After all the sacrifice, thoughtfulness and consideration on my part to please my wife and make her happy - she was mad. Women, go figure!
Oh, by the way, did I mention that I saw the wolves and grizzlies........ pizza anyone?
The guy in the front seat reaches into his vest pocket and brings out a small plastic box. He pulls out a beautiful Royal Coachmen and holds it to my jugular and calmly states that if I don't drive them to Yellowstone so they can fly fish the Lamar River, it would be the last mistake I would ever make. From the steely eyed look he gives me I know he is serious. I start to scream and yell, but then I feel the prick of the hand honed hand tied fly on my throat and I stifle my cries (I don't think that hooray and yippee would help anyhow)!
So I drive slowly out to the highway and they keep looking around nervously to make sure we are not being followed. I fill the car with gas at the 7-11 but they won't let me go inside, they make me pay at the pump. Luckily, I don't have to go to the bathroom or I could of left a note - man why didn't I think of that! Oh well, when your life is in danger, you tend not to think as straight as normal.
We drive all night. All the while, the guy in the back seat is tying stone fly nymphs and May flys on his small portable fly tying outfit. I give him some permanent markers so he can match the exact colors of the hatch that was going on right now. It is a very hair raising experience. As a matter of fact he pulls a couple of my gray hairs and uses them to tie a beautiful gray wooly bugger. Man that hurts, but I can spare a few, like I have a choice!
Every once in awhile, I try to look and motion to passing cars, but they just wave their fly rods back at us. Phil (the guy in the front seat) presses the hook a little closer to my jugular, and with that fierce squinty look of his tells me to take my last breath. Then Tom (guy in the back seat), talks him out of it - something about catch and release. I don't know what they are talking about, but it works every time Phil goes psycho on me.
We stop in Idaho Falls and have a snack at Jake's and fill the car with gas. They keep me in their sight the whole time and each one have a whole bunch of flies on their hats, so I can't make a move for my freedom. We're out of there in record time and on the road again. They want to be in Lamar about an hour before sunrise, so we keep to the road.
Tom finishes tying flys and starts talking to Phil about how they are going to fish the Lamar River. I tell them about a few good holes around the Soda Butte area and they let their guard down just a little. Then we drive to the west gate, but wouldn't you know it, no one is there that early in the morning. I get the feeling that I'm stuck going all the way to Lamar Valley with them and maybe I'll never see my family again!
As we drive into Lamar everything is peaceful and beautiful. A magnificent clear day with a lot of possibilities. I mean possibilities to find my chance to break loose from these crazed fly fishermen and make my way back to my wife and family, who must be terrified by this time because I haven't returned home. Tom comes with me to a phone near Roosevelt so I can call my family to let them know I am okay, but they won't accept the charges... and say they don't want to wake mom up... what a bunch of kidders!
Just as I think I am finally going to get my freedom, we pull into the Lamar Picnic grounds. Phil tells me to get out of the car. He shoves a fly rod in my hands and tells me to stay between him and Tom so they can both keep an eye on me. Here I am thinking I'm home free and now I'm stuck fly fishing the Lamar River at dawn! Man on the first cast my rod is just about yanked out of my hands as I coax in a beautiful grayling. Tom and Phil can't believe it! Phil starts to reach for his pocket and I'm thinking this is it, you don't want to out fish your kidnappers, I'm going to die! But he pulls out his flies and finds one that matches mine and he is off like a flash.
Tom changes his fly and I'm left alone fishing and watching ever so often with my binoculars for bears and wolves and maybe a ranger to help me get out of this dangerous situation. With every cast, I'm fearing for my life! After pulling in and releasing 25 grayling and rainbows, I see Phil and Tom glancing my way and overhear them talking about forgetting the catch and release rule if I catch one more fish. So I take off my fly and put on a number 10 non-lead split shot and fish with it. What a bummer, I have them both beat put together.
I am tempted to put a worm on and fish with it. That way every Yellowstone ranger and game warden in Wyoming and Montana would show up in about a minute or less. But, wouldn't you know it, not one "bear" hook on the vest! Man, these guys think of everything!
All of a sudden the fish go into a feeding frenzy. Phil and Tom don't even notice as I edge my way back to the car. Just then a ranger stops and I run up to his Bronco. He recognizes me and gets out to talk. He asks how is the fishing. When I tell him how many I caught, he looks kind of skeptical, but then he's a fishermen so what can he say. Then he asks about how many bears and wolves I have seen. I tell him. He wants descriptions of the wolves and bears so they can keep track of what was seen that day. After we finish getting all this over with, I begin telling him my story. He listens very intently, and when I finish, he keeps yelling "stop" as he is laughing and rolling around on the ground. He gets up wiping tears from his eyes. He shakes my hand and tells me that that was the best tall tale he has ever heard. Go Figure?!
Here I am fearing for my life, knowing at any moment Phil and Tom are going to stop catching fish and look around for me and come after me, and this guy - ranger - is rolling around laughing and crying. Well I don't know what to do as he starts to walk away and opens the door of his Bronco. So I yell at him - I'm a freeman! His face goes dead serious for a few seconds and then a big smile cracks his face and mine as we part company. Man, Ranger Rick is one hard nut to crack.
Now I seize my chance and sprint, well jog, okay walk fastly to my car. Phil and Tom are still catching fish, so I start the car and head for home - just totally terrified from this whole experience. I may have to go to therapy for a long time for this one. Dr. Bare likes to take people back to the place where they have had bad experiences so they can slowly adjust to the real world. He is also one heck of a fly fisherman.
Then I remember that I still have Phil's fly rod, vest, hat and extra waders. What to do, man I'm in a panic, then I think, I'll just give them back next week when he comes over.... or I mean when I see that they are picked up on America's Most Wanted!
It was around 6:00 am and we had just passed the road to Slough Creek Campgrounds driving east up the hillside. When I looked over to my left, to my and our great surprise, there stood a griz about 200 yards off the road on an open hillside. I pulled over and grabbed the camera but it was too cold and would not function (it was a cold June morning). Carlene then handed me the video camera and I filmed our first close encounter with a griz. About twelve cars passed us, they slowed down a little, but there was a buffalo about 20 yards off the same side of the road as the griz, so they thought I was taking pictures of the buffalo. No one stopped to ask what we were filming, they just kept driving towards Lamar in hopes of seeing some grizzly bears.
We had the griz to ourselves. It just walked over a small spring and up and over the hillside as we watched in awe and filmed this great experience of a lifetime. When the bear disappeared, we continued our drive to Lamar and stopped at the second turnout past the small wooden Lamar Valley sign. Some of the folks who had pasted us were there and came over and asked why I was filming the buffalo. Buffalo, I said, we were not filming the buffalo, but a griz just 200 yards up on the hillside.... they couldn't believe it and were really upset they hadn't stopped and asked what was going on. As a matter of fact, a couple of them jumped in their cars and went back to the area to see if they could find the griz. That is what had happened earlier this morning. Now back to the Rock Hawk....
About a mile past the Specimen Ridge Trail Head sign, we noticed a car pulled over. We decided to stop and see what was going on and it was a great open area for spotting. We met a young couple from Rexburg, Idaho who were working in West Yellowstone for the summer making money for college. We watched some elk and buffalo together. Joseph and Rebekah told them about the griz we had seen this morning and the couple got really excited. I told them, if they wanted, they could come along as we were going to see if we could find some tracks. I really didn't have to ask as they were in their car in a flash and we were headed for the area.
We parked our cars at the turnout and walked out through the small open hillside. The five of us spread out a little and looked for anything that closely resembled a bear track. We found two tracks, one where the griz had stepped on an ant hill and one down near the soft marshy area the spring ran down through. We found proof of our first grizzly bear sighting as a family. I did not have any plaster of paris to make prints, so we just looked and talked about our great good fortune. It was fun.
We then parted company, the couple continued up the road towards Lamar and we headed back to our Roosevelt cabin. There are a series of small ponds on the north side of the road in early spring just east of the Specimen Ridge Trail sign and paved turnout. These ponds are great areas to watch migrating birds and this year we saw a muskrat paddling around in one. These ponds are surround by large glacial boulders that were dropped as the glacier melted or receded across this area.
As I was driving past these ponds and rocks, all of a sudden, Joseph yelled, Whoa dad.... Backup! There is a great big hawk sitting by a rock. Rebekah and I looked at each other as I brought the van to a halt. I checked for any traffic, the road was clear. I started to backup to the rocks on the small hillside on the north side of the road. As we pasted one particularly large boulder, there was what appeared to be a large bird of prey. But a corner of the boulder had broken off at an angle and was sticking out. It was small at the bottom, rounded in the middle and small at the top... it looked exactly like a hawk sitting by the rock. We sat and looked and laughed.... It was duely dubbed, "Joseph's Rock Hawk" and it was a beauty. We have seen plenty of rocks that looked like bears and wolves, but this is the first and only one that "really" looks like the critter it is named for.
When you cross over the Lamar River bridge headed west towards Roosevelt, about a mile west of the bridge, you will see the ponds and boulders. If you drive slowly and look to your right or the north side of the road, if you look closely, you will see at the base of one of the larger boulders, Joseph's Rock Hawk. Our family has its location memorized and would be glad to show it to you, especially Joseph!