Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yellowstone: land of variety

Wednesday June 12 dawned drizzly and overcast. It rained in the night as well; makes us extra appreciative of the RV versus a tent! Unfortunately the children didn't get much playtime in the creek beside us. But we did enjoy the mammoth wheat Montana cinnamon rolls warm for breakfast!


As we ventured out, the rain came and went; seems it often stopped at just the right times for us to hike a trail. We drove back to Mammoth Hot Springs, then east on the top loop of the figure 8. Pulled over at Undine Falls where a kind lady offered to take a family picture,

Cora has her wildlife check-off game paper in hand

Undine Falls
More rain made hazy views. We saw a herd of 10-15 bison grazing close to us on a hillside. We stopped at Petrified Tree, but viewed it from the van. Later we were told a mama black bear with 2 cubs frequents that area.

What do you know, next we came upon a "wild animal jam", which happened to be for a bear! We caught a short glimpse of it as it ambled over a hill into the trees.  Apparently a mama deer with a fawn charged this black bear very close to the restroom near Roosevelt Lodge. The crowd of spectators clad with cameras, tripods, phones, and ipads, drifted in the direction the bear had moved. A few of us stayed up close to the ranger station and were able to spot it again walking through the forest, but it was a fair distance away. 

We also saw a couple bison resting a few yards from the road and as we traveled on, a grayish-white coyote came out and up a mountain beside us. At Tower Fall, Cora and I walked the 150 yards to see it tumbling down. It started to rain again, so we ate our picnic in the shelter of our van.

It cleared off enough for us to see a sizable herd of elk and a few buffalo, with binoculars, far down in a valley. We started up over Dunraven Pass and drove by snow! Cooler and very windy. We passed small waterfalls trickling down the mountain under crusted snow. Very neat in the summer month of June!

It was pouring rain when we got to Canyon Education Center, so the ranger program was outside under the porch overhang. A very apt older park ranger MCed a Wildlife Jeopardy Game. 30,000 people visit Yellowstone everyday in the summer (outnumbering the elk 3 or 4:1)!

Yellowstone Canyon

We walked the Brink of Lower Falls Trail that was a short 3/8 mile but dropped 600 ft. 

a snow patch near the falls and river 

looking over the plunging falls

the brink

Back in the van to drive along the north side of the canyon, then stopped again at Grand Overlook. We could see a huge nest on the very top of a craggy rock! Even with binoculars we couldn't determine if it was an eagle or an osprey.

the lower falls- we had just been standing on a platform just to the right of the brink

looking for baby birdies in the large nest

Oh, this was quite humorous! The traffic was backed up because one lonesome buffalo decided to leisurely stroll down the road. Thankfully he was on the other side, so we could cruise by and get a great close up view. The poor folks just a few cars behind the buffalo didn't even know why their line of traffic was inching along.

We did see plenty of buffalo sporadically spotting the hills as we drove south, and far away herds of elk. Anytime cars were pausing in the roadway, it meant wildlife had been spotted! 

Next stop: Sulpher Cauldron, Mud Volcano, and Dragon's Mouth. The aroma was rather odorous and the mist warm.

Views near Fishing Bridge:

Near dusk we saw our first bull elk up close, about 75 yards away walking through the pines. We finished up on the loop road that is on top of Mammoth Hot Springs, then back out of the park to Eagle Creek Campground. Our plans for a hot dog campfire were rained out, so we enjoyed pizza soup & salad inside instead. Snuggled in bed to the story of Joseph where our family is reading in Genesis.

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