Thursday, July 25, 2013

Yellowstone N.P.

DAY  THIRTY-ONE (Tues., July 23rd): Today began in Bozeman, MT which had been sort of a compromise in terms of location - not as close to Yellowstone as we would have liked, but available and affordable. At the motel, I called Yellowstone Reservation Service to see if anything was available for tonight in the park, so that we could have more time in the park. If we couldn't stay in the park, we'd have to drive all the way to Alpine tonight, which would severely shorten our stay in the park. I got the reservation clerk - and indeed there was nothing available in  the park . . . except one place . . .  the Suite at Old Faithful Inn. Wow! Cost?  $500!!  I really wanted us to stay in the park tonight. I have always wanted to stay at the Inn - ever since I first saw it in 1980. It's sort of on my bucket list. But $500? I couldn't justify it. So I turned it down. This left me in a somewhat glum mood and as the morning went on, I was sort of kicking myself for not taking it. But we headed out,  and had a nice breakfast at a cafe in Livingston, MT which is an attractive town. We got into the park very late morning, arriving at the Northwest entrance, at Mammoth Hot Springs.  We got Mimi's Junior Ranger materials, which were pretty hefty for Yellowstone, and headed up the boardwalk to see the Springs. The crowds of people were incredible - more than I've ever seen. It was hot, full, glaring sun, a steady climb up stairs after stairs after stairs. I started to feel light-headed. So I stopped, and Ellen and Mimi, who had gone ahead, saw me and came back, concerned. So we gave up on the Hot Springs and headed to a 2pm ranger talk at Norris which was part of Mimi's Junior Ranger regimen. We got to Norris, found a parking place (no small feat!), and Ellen and Mimi went on to Steamboat Geyser for the ranger talk while I sat on a bench. Then I went to the car and got some lunch out of the box, as it was by now after 2pm. That revived me a bit and we headed for Canyon area. Every opportunity where I had cell phone coverage - which was rare in the park - I would call Yellowstone lodging reservations - nothing available.  When we got to Canyon, Ellen and Mimi went to get ice cream and I went into the Registration center just on the off chance there might have been a cancellation somewhere in the park. But no. But the clerk said it could change at any time. So about fifteen minutes later I went in again, this time to a different clerk. She said there was nothing . . .but . . . there might be something in a half hour. I left my name and went back in just ten minutes and she gave me a thumbs up! She had a cabin for us there at Canyon. YAY! I was so happy. This opened up a whole additional day in the park. And boy did that pay off. We found our cabin there at Canyon, so we would know how to find it after dark, and then we headed up to the Lamar Valley, because Mimi wanted to see wildlife and that is where it abounds. And boy did it ever. First off we saw a coyote, not far from the road, with something in its mouth. At first we thought it was carrying a pup, but then we realized it was prey. It would drop it, eat a bit, then pick it up and carry it again. But then, a badger appeared and seemed to challenge the coyote. The coyote did not attack the badger - they seemed equally matched.The badger was big and muscular - closer to the ground than the coyote but a fierce fighter. The badger grabbed the prey and ran off into it's den. The coyote went off up the hill. The badger came out of his den and followed the coyote! The last we saw of them they were going off into the sunset like buddies! Remarkable behavior. My camera doesn't have very powerful zoom (I'm using a little Canon 495 Powershot, not an SLR), but I managed a shot of the coyote. There was a guy standing next to me taking shots with a telephoto lens about a yard long (well, two feet) - I'd love to see the photos he got.

Coyote in the Lamar Valley, Yellowstone N.P.
That was quite a start but it got better after that. We encountered 100's of bison right by the road and going over the road, at several different locations. Then we saw a gaggle of people looking at something and Ellen and Mimi followed them down the road and saw a grizzly bear across the river - I had stayed behind so I didn't see it. Then a bit later we saw a group of pronghorns. Coming up into Roosevelt Lodge, we saw a doe mule deer and a fawn. Quite a tally! The next day we added some elk. Junior Ranger Miriam was thrilled.

Herd of bison

Why did the bison cross the road?

Checking us out

Jr. Ranger Miriam

Fawn by the road

We had a lovely late dinner at Roosevelt Lodge, which stands at the entrance of the Lamar Valley. We really like Roosevelt Lodge - it is smaller, rustic and sort of old-fashioned, and the restaurant has a diverse menu and good food. After dinner we headed back to Canyon, were treated to the full moon rising over the mountains,  and got to our cabin after 10pm. A very satisfying day.

Moon over the mountains

DAY THIRTY-TWO (Wed., July 24th): Our second day in the park we great too. After breakfast in the Canyon cafeteria, we went down to the Canyon of the Yellowstone and got some great views of the Lower Falls and the canyon.

Yellowstone Grand Canyon

The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River


The we went down to the Mud Volcano/Sulpher Caldron area which is above Fishing Bridge. There we saw very interesting bison behavior - a whole bunch of bulls standing around near the mud pots grunting and growling and being aggressive. We learned later that rutting season is just around the corner. We had lunch at the Lake Lodge Cafeteria, added elk and a bald eagle to our wildlife-seen list, and then on to Old Faithful! We just missed the 5:04pm  eruption so we hung out for the 6:39pm one. I got to see again one of my favorite spots: Old Faithful Inn lobby  - but I was sort of glad I hadn't jumped on the $500 Suite  -  not only because we ended up with a cabin which is much more our style, but also because the Inn was a zoo! People everywhere, standing in lines. Old Faithful was gratifying as always and it was especially fun to be surrounded by a Japanese family and watch the reactions of a couple of very cute boys in front of us on the benches. 
Bison at Sulpher Caldron

Old Faithful Inn Lobby

Mimi stalking elk with her pad

Old Faithful

Bald eagle
On our trip down to Alpine we were again treated to a beautiful display - this time sunset behind the Tetons. 

The end of a lovely day!

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