Sunday, 3 June 2012

Yellowstone National Park, WY

The day we headed up to Yellowstone it was snowing which made it difficult to stop off at some of the places on the way. The roads in Yellowstone form the figure eight and for some reason we always seem to do things anti-clockwise, so we went up the right hand side. After visiting the information centre where we joined a ranger talk on bears which was very informative, if not a bit intimidating. As we hadn’t got around to buying any bear spray we decided that we would not do any hikes.

West Thumb geyser basin
First point of call was the West Thumb geyser basin, our first look at the thermals in Yellowstone and full of tour buses and tourists. These are mainly just hot mud holes. It was mid afternoon so we just drove around Yellowstone Lake to come to our campground at Bridge Bay. The next morning we visited the Sulfur Caldron, the Mud Volcano, Upper and Lower falls around Artists Point.
Artists Point
Artists Point is my favourite, beautiful coloured rocks with a waterfall flowing down into a canyon. Lindsay was worried about getting a camp site up at Tower Fall so we drove straight there not stopping at any more spots. Tower Fall campsite is quite a small camping ground closest to the Lamar Valley – the other campsites in the Lamar don’t open until about mid June. On our first afternoon there we saw a black bear and her two cubs. We drove along the Lamar Valley and saw herds of bison. We had to laugh about how we had been so excited to see them in the Grand Tetons that we had walked in a wet paddock to still be so far away that I doubt the pictures will come out. Now they were everywhere with their calves.

We stopped off to catch up with Michel and Carole and while we were talking Michele noticed a grizzly coming down from the hill towards us. I got a few shots before I decided he was getting a bit too close. He then disappeared into the sage bush – all eyes were trying to see where he went and about five minutes later he crossed the road about 30 metres away – completely circumnavigating us all. Over the next couple of days we saw coyote, wolf, some more black bears, big horn sheep, red fox, squirrels, badger and deer. It is an amazing place and we will definitely come back. It is very hard not to get lens envy around here with so many people with 600mm lenses. We should have bought my other camera along as it would have extended my lens further by 1.6x. We know for another time. The best animal viewing time was when the weather was horrible and it rained nearly every day around 7pm which made if difficult to cook dinner. When the weather started to fine up, the animals seemed to disappear. The deer move up the mountains and so then do their predators.

big horn sheep
red fox
black bear
Moving on around our circle we went to Mammoth where we saw some Elk by the side of the road. Mammoth has some hot springs and you walk around the terraces, only the ones on the right hand side are worth looking at. The town of Gardiner is to the north and a good place to have a shower at the local Laundromat, we used the disabled one so that we could shower together. Lunch was at the local pub. Michel had told us to stop off at Sheepeater Cliff if we wanted to see some marmots. After walking in a fair way, we gave up and the skies had started to blacken and we could hear thunder. On our way back out, there was one marmot sitting on a log! Not the group that we had hoped for, but a marmot none the less. I was happy.

We got a camp at the Norris campground just in time to make a cup of tea before the rain really set in. The final day in Yellowstone was spent seeing the other geysers including the famous one “Old Faithful”. Our plan was to camp back at Gros Ventre in the hope that we would see some moose. But they hadn’t been sighted for a few days. We got up before sunrise to photograph the barn on Mormon Row which has a beautiful back drop of the Tetons.

Because of our booking in Yosemite we hadn’t finished the deserts in Utah on my list, so back we went.

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