Bikers should always look both ways. At a bear jam.

I always admire people who bicycle around national parks.

I mean, I enjoy working out too, but I’m not sure I have the drive to bike day in, day out; up mountains, down mountains. (Okay, the down the mountain part looks pretty fun.)

Plus, these masochists have to deal with the elements on top of the exhaustion – bone chilling wind, painful hail, steady rain…and bears.

bear on the road yellowstone

One of our favourite photographers, Jackson Hole’s Bernie Scates, was looking for – you guessed it – bears with us early one morning on Yellowstone’s northern loop between Norris and Mammoth.

We had heard about a uniquely coloured black bear that had been hanging out near Indian Creek campground and we were determined to photograph it.

Eagle-eyed Jill spots the bear – and its mate – on one of our swings along the road. We had a system in place with Bernie: If one car failed to return to the specified rendezvous spot by a certain time, the other had the bear. We knew Bernie would find us any moment.

We pulled ahead of the mating pair to give the bears some space and as we climbed onto our respective window sills, balancing our telephoto lenses on the car’s roof, we notice that the bears have split up, one on each side of the road.

No big deal.

Unless you’re the biker riding around the corner at that moment.

Noticing us frantically holding up our hands, gesturing for him to stop, the biker looks up and spots one bear. His point-and-shoot camera is out and activated. Probably should have kept watching our gestures and realized there was another bear. Closer.

When we yell for him to look the other way, he looks to his left and as he processes the second bear, you can just picture the bubble caption coming from his lips: s***.

bear on road yellowstone

Thankfully, as predicted, Bernie wasn’t too far behind us and as his blue van rounded the corner, you can see the biker almost weep with relief.

black bear on road yellowstone

All’s well that ends well. The biker uses Bernie’s van as a bear shield – and gets his point-and-shoot shot. We – along with Bernie – get some fun photographs of each other photographing the bear bear between us. The bears get to meander in peace. And Jill even gets to name a bear: Mohawk, the odd-coloured bear (it’ll catch on any day now Jill).

black bear on the road yellowstone

Moral of the story?

If biking your way through Yellowstone, make sure you look both ways at a bear jam.

– D. Simon Jackson |

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