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Published: September 23rd 2014
Today I woke up with a red nose. And forehead. All the hiking in the unusually warm sunny fall weather has given me a sunburn. Who would have thought that I would travel from Georgia to Wyoming in the fall 1 week after they had 2 snow storms and I would go home with a sunburned face. And they are expecting more snow next week. I guess we did pick a good week to visit. A little sunburn is much better than being snowed out of the park. Everyone else woke with sore muscles.
The whole crew was up and ready early today. We stayed at a bed and breakfast log cabin in Cooke City, MT and enjoyed a tasty home cooked breakfast before heading back into the park. It rained most of the night and was still a bit drizzly. But for us that was a good thing for being out early and the wet weather would bring the best chances of seeing wildlife, and that proved to be true.
A couple of miles after entering the park we stopped at a pullout along with 2 other cars just to see what we could see. And as luck
would have it, there was a mountain goat high on the cliff. He was too far away to capture with the camera, but he was there. A few miles later we reached Lamar Valley and it was again crowded with cars just as the evening before. We stopped and saw a bald eagle sitting in a tree out in the middle of the valley. We went a little farther and saw another group of people pulled over beside the road. They were watching a bear so of course we stopped and watched too. He was a big beautiful grizzly. He was located in an area directly behind where the phantom animal watchers sat the night before. Just imagine their surprise if he had shown up last night while they had their backs to him. We watched him for a while, took a few dozen pictures and then headed on down the road. People are always a good indication of wildlife opportunities.
After a visit with the grizzly, we were stoked. The morning was turning out to be great for wildlife viewing. We traveled a little further and see several people and their long lens up on a high hill
watching. Well they must have something exciting spotted - so what did we do? Stopped and climbed the hill right along beside them. They were watching wolf pups. What we did not know was that the wolves were quite a distance away and could not be seen with the naked eye, the camera, the zoom lens, or the binoculars. Everyone else on the hill had some type of expensive spotting scope. One individual was kind enough to let me view one of the pups through his scope, so I can technically say I saw a wolf. They stated that they were about 2 miles away from where we were. That was a very powerful scope to bring it in that close. It would seem that these wolf watchers are members of some secret wolf watching society. They all know each other, know exactly where to go to view them, know when to view them, know when they have made a kill. They all also look to be of retirement age. What a life - retired to an area around Yellowstone, traveling around with their secret society members, using their expensive scopes, and watching wolves everyday. How does one get inducted
into that group?
By that time the morning rain had vanished, the sun was shining and the clock was ticking. We traveled on around the east side of the park passing buffalo herd after buffalo herd along the way. We passed a group of pronghorn and the official name of animal debate began once again. Are they antelope or pronghorn? I do believe they are one in the same. We continued on to the Mammoth Springs area and exited the park through the north west entrance and visited a couple of shops in the small town right at the exit. Then we went right back in and ate lunch at the Terrace Grill in the center of the 'town'. That area is its own town. It has restaurants, general store, post office, hotel, staff housing, and a few other buildings. This is also the largest concentration of people we have been in the middle of and majority were Asian, not American.
A couple of the roads on the west side of the park have partial closures due to construction, not sure why they couldn't wait until after our trip to start the construction, but they didn't. So we
rode a little past the springs before turning around and going back the way we came in. It is the long way around. The very long way around. We did stop by a short 1/2 mile trail to a waterfall which felt great to get back out and walking. I am sore from not hiking, so that trail did me quite a bit of good. We decided it was time to head back around. But the wildlife was not done for the day, for again we saw buffalo after bison after buffalo after bison. We kept looking for a bull moose - the one animal we have not seen yet. We saw a female moose, but no male. We labelled him as Bullwinkle, but in this case I guess he would be the Hidden Bullwinkle. Maybe he will come out of hiding within the next 2 days.
After making our way back around the top end of the park, we began crossing Dunraven Pass again and came upon a gravel road. David did not realize it was the road to the trailhead for our other big hike and started up. The road itself is very steep and climbs so
high you feel like you are on top of the world. Just as we began the ascent, a coyote came out of the grasses searching for food. We made it to the top of the parking lot and the views were amazing. You could see for miles. You could also see the steep trail to the fire tower. I am afraid seeing that has put doubts in my hiking partners minds about making it up there. It is a steep and hard climb so that hike may get knocked off of our itinerary. The weather up top was quite a change from where we came from - it was hold onto your hat windy and grab that winter coat cold. Going from hot 80 degrees at the springs to a blow you down 50 degrees on the mountain was a bit shocking.
As we came down the mountain the weather turned a bit dreary and we were back in the rain. We continued to the middle section of the park which was our access to the nights lodging due to the road closures. A quick stop by Gibbons Falls and a slightly longer stop to watch a bull elk,
we headed out of the park into the town of West Yellowstone. There we found our hotel, found dinner, found a few tourist shops and we found the candy shop. A little sweetness to end our day - another great day in the park.
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