We woke up early (as always) on Monday morning in one of the most comfortable places we have stayed in all six weeks. Flushing toilets, fluffy pillows, and lots of hot water elevated the Colter Bay Cabins to the top of the list. It was sad to say goodbye to the Grand Tetons, but we had such a great time while we were there – amazing hikes, swimming in Jackson Lake, and gorgeous sunsets made for some of the best moments of the trip. We had a long way to get back to Laramie, however, so the early start was necessary.
Our main activity of the day was learning about buffalo restoration on the Wind River reservation. Buffalo have been an incredibly important part of indigenous culture for a very long time until colonial people (and governmental practices since) have nearly exterminated them from the land. The place we visited was established to restore the species to its rightful place on the landscape and facilitate in cultural revitalization and ecological restoration of a keystone species. Bison engage in a behavior called wallowing, in which they essentially take dust baths in shallow pits on the prairie. These wallows increase plant and insect biodiversity as early successional plants regrow in abandoned wallows. Wallows as old as 100 years or more are still shown to be impactful on the local environment.
We got to get up close and personal with the buffalo herd as we learned about their importance – much closer than I would have thought possible. They truly are incredible creatures, with thick, shaggy fur and towering height. We were also taught about the cultural importance of the buffalo – how Native American tribes use every part of the animal and ‘leave only the grass in their stomachs’. This is such a difference from mass meat consumption, going to the grocery store to get an anonymous package with no connection to the animal it came from. The idea of being appreciative and thankful for our food is something that I think we have lost, and we are worse off for it.
The rest of the day was spent driving back to Laramie – a very long drive, but a good time to reflect on that amazing things we had done over the past 10 days. It was an incredible time and we experienced so much – we made such great memories and this trip will definitely be something I miss about Wyoming.