Bunsen Peak & Sheepeater Cliffs

trilobite holmes dome antler.jpg.jpgSpring decided to make an appearance today in Yellowstone and I relished the intermittent sun peaking through the rapidly forming cumulus clouds. I climbed Bunsen Peak (8,564 ft), and my feet traveled over rocks some geologists think are 50 million years old and the remnants of an ancient volcano. The 360-degree view from the top proved to be quite spectacular and the horizon revealed a number of mountain ranges including the Gallatin, Washburn, and what I think might have been the Grand Tetons.

sheepeater canyon.jpg.jpgAs I noted in a prior entry, Bunsen peak is named for the German physicist Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, who invented the Bunsen burner. His scientific work on geysers contributed greatly to their study, but he never actually visited Yellowstone.

The name Sheepeater Cliff at first struck me as something out of a horror movie, but I later learned the designation refers to the Sheepeater Indians, or “Tukudeka,” the only Native Americans thought to spend the entire year in Yellowstone. According to Anderson’s great guidebook, A Ranger’s Guide to Yellowstone Day Hikes, “there’s evidence that the Tukudeka herded bighorn sheep off steep cliffs.”

On my hike along Sheepeater Canyon and the Gardner River, I met three Israeli young men who were traveling on a five-month road trip in North and South America. We hiked together for the last few miles and I enjoyed their company. Two of them had just finished their military service and were taking this trip before beginning university.

view of gallantin range.jpg.jpgOne of my companions asked me, “aren’t you scared hiking alone in grizzly country?” My answer was yes. During my hike today, I exhausted my entire repertoire of U2, Eagles, Beatles, and Counting Crow songs. At some point I wondered if a grizzly offended by my poor musical ability would attack me, so I switched to reciting T.S. Eliot and Yeats poetry. Nothing like a recitation of “The Second Coming” to put the potential of being mauled into perspective. For the record, I do realize hiking alone in grizzly country is risky, but solitary wandering is one of my joys in life.

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