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A Mostly Yellowstone Report

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Acting on a tip from a couple we met at Slough Creek, we headed to the still closed road to Tower Falls (this year's road opening dates https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm ). They had seen a black bear sow with 2 cinnamon cubs while walking along this road. And there they were right in the meadow by the road.



Mom looked up at us and went back to feeding.



We were the only people there and got to watch for a while before others started arriving.



Cub butts!



We walked a bit farther up the road and by the time we headed back down, there were two rangers and more photographers walking up. One photographer looked like he might have a heart attack carrying his equipment. The sow and her cubs had moved up the hill. We imagined what this scene might look like when the road opened tomorrow and said good luck to the rangers.


We drove down the road to Petrified Tree again (we had done this several times) and this time there was a black bear sow with a single cub on the hill.



She started heading down the hill.



And we got a better look at her.



While her cub climbed up a tree.



There weren't too many people here. We found that with the exception of Slough Creek where there was a known den, sightings off of the main park roads weren't overly crowded. We also learned from a ranger that many smaller and female bears will stay near the road to seek protection from other bears.

Edited by Patty
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We spent the good part of a day driving through the Sawtooth National Forest stopping for lunch in the town of Stanley.   Some of the many pronghorn we saw here.   A sandhill crane   Redfish

Our only previous trip to Yellowstone was in February of 2006. Our winter trip was magical and I would highly recommend it. The northern road through the park from Gardiner to Cooke City Montana is op

We wanted to take a different route home than we took out so we headed south through Provo Canyon and eventually got on Highway 50. We stopped at Great Basin National Park near the eastern border of N


Fantastic! Love this report of my current backyard! :)

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We stopped for hot dogs at the market at Mammoth and started heading south toward Old Faithful running into another bison jam. We never minded bison jams as it gave us an opportunity to see them really up close.







We stopped to see the Mammoth Terraces.



We had been searching for trumpeter swans without luck so took a detour toward West Yellowstone to scan along the Madison river. I kept saying let's go a little farther, let's go a little farther until finally I said "backup!" OK we didn't actually backup on the road but Mark was incredulous as he turned the car around thinking for sure I'd spotted a white trash bag. And such a lovely white trash bag it was! :)



We drove through Firehole Canyon and then stopped at the Lower Geyser Basin.



We circled the lot at Grand Prismatic Spring but couldn't find parking so we continued to Old Faithful and checked into the Snow Lodge.



A golden-mantled ground squirrel



We headed over to the Old Faithful Inn to see the inside as it wasn't open during our winter trip.



There was park memorabilia such as this bear warning.



We had made dinner reservations for the Old Faithful Inn dining room when we reserved our room at the Snow Lodge back in February though I'm not sure it was completely necessary to book that far in advance. We were a little apprehensive as we hadn't heard too many flattering comments about the food. They offered a prime rib buffet and a la carte options. We thought the food was fine but had mentally set a very low bar of "hopefully not atrocious" going in :D



In any case, we enjoyed the atmosphere of the historic dining room.



There's a nice second story patio from which to view Old Faithful but we decided to head outside for a closer view after dinner. A great end to a great day!


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Wow, what a fantastic trip! The fox sighting was amazing, and so many bears including cubs - and even wolves! I definitely think I'm going to take a page from your book and try to do a similar trip around the same time of year!

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Great stuff @@Patty really enjoying this. I've thought about a road trip up to Banff and then heading down through Yellowstone and back up through the Black Hills but wanting to go in the summer the crowds would really be a turn off. I'm really surprised at how busy it is even for May but it seems to be a better option than summer for sure.

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@@SafariChick the mousing fox was one of our favorite moments of the trip.


@@dlo it seems like the "season" is stretching longer each year and more people are traveling earlier or later. We'd love to do a loop of Glacier, Banff and Jasper.


Coming up... grizzly cubs and a very lucky wolf sighting in the Tetons.

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We took an early morning walk around the Upper Geyser Basin on Friday.



We thought eating breakfast at the Obsidian dining room at the Snow Lodge right when they opened at 6:30am would be a good idea. Little did we know there were two tour buses leaving soon so the place was packed. It took about 45 minutes to get our breakfast entrees. I'm not sure how the park facilities cope in summer. We finished eating and went back to our room to pack and check out. The road from Old Faithful to West Thumb, Lake and the south entrance would be opening at 8:00am this morning. We thought about driving over to Yellowstone Lake and up through Hayden Valley one more time but I'd been reading about bear and wolf sightings in Grand Teton National Park so we decided to head south and make the most of our limited time there. We got to the road block (along with everyone else) a little early thinking it would be open already. Nope, they're very serious about opening exactly at 8:00am.



We quickly pulled into the parking lot at Kepler Cascades before we got boxed in and enjoyed the falls until the cars started moving.gallery_5741_1555_804983.jpg


Lewis Lake



There's no entrance station to Grand Teton coming from Yellowstone. Just a sign to let you know you've arrived. It didn't take long to make our way to the Colter Bay area and just before Pilgrim Creek Road we came across a bear jam.



It was a collared grizzly sow (610) with 2 cubs.







We watched for a while and continued on to Pacific Creek Road which had some recent wolf sightings. We didn't spot any wolves but drove to the campground at the end of the road and had our picnic lunch there.


The bear spray slinger



Toilet paper and bear spray, the two wilderness essentials



I had booked a hotel in Jackson before I realized Signal Mountain Lodge opened on May 6th. We ended up eating there a couple of times as it's in a convenient central location and had decent food for in park dining. The lakefront setting was very nice and I'd consider staying there next time. We headed south toward Jackson exiting the Moran gate. Shortly after exiting the gate, Mark spots something crossing the road in front of us. OMG it's a collared gray wolf!


It quickly jumped a fence.







And crossed a field with some bison.





We watched until it was out of sight, ecstatic that we'd seen a wolf so close up!


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We spent two nights in Jackson Wyoming. We ended up liking the Tetons quite a bit. The size of the park is very manageable and it was very quiet compared to Yellowstone with the exception of bear sightings along the highway which were just as busy. It seemed somewhat overlooked and we wished we had allotted more time here.


Downtown Jackson





We headed back into the park in the late afternoon and stopped at the Moose visitor center to see if they had any wolf information. The ranger offered a map I could photograph and said that wolves numbered about 50 in the park with half of them collared. Given the location I'm guessing the wolf we saw is part of the Phantom Springs pack which is the largest pack in the park.



We scanned the Snake River to see if we could find an otter and found a moose instead.



We had dinner at Peaks Restaurant at Signal Mountain Lodge and enjoyed their trout and chicken schnitzel.





After dinner we decided to take another drive up Pacific Creek Road. There were a few other people here scanning the hillside where there had last been wolf sightings but no luck tonight. We came across some skittish elk and a marmot that disappeared quickly. Of course at this point we were pretty happy even if we saw nothing else in the park at all.


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@@Patty wow, fantastic wolf sighting, not to mention the mother bear and cubs! We also loved the Grand Tetons on our Yellowstone trip. Also, so far two different moose on the trip - I'm jealous! We didn't see any in the wild on this trip or our trip to Alaska :(

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Thanks for sharing @@Patty, I'm really enjoying this. I have to start doing a better job of exploring the wildlife options available in North America, I seem to always be wanting to go really far away when there's some really interesting options closer to home. The bears and wolves are great, but the fox mousing is such a cool thing to see.


@@SafariChick, if you want to see moose, go to Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario (Canada) in May - with the snow thaw they like to hang out near the road to get the dissolved salt. The only thing you miss is the big antlers. I have some photos here (sorry to slightly hijack your thread Patty):


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@@Zubbie15 oh thank you, very cool - lovely photos!

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Nice moose @@Zubbie15!


We ended up seeing two more moose on this trip. One unexpectedly in Park City.

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Yellowstone is super!!!

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I wish to go there someday! ! Immense beauty !!

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We started our morning on Saturday at Schwabacher Landing.



While looking for river otter, we spotted a coyote and a beaver.



We looked for wolves along Pacific Creek Road again and proceeded to the Oxbow Bend area to try our luck at river otters there. There's something moving on the opposite shore but with the vegetation we can't be certain what it is.



The bonus was a grizzly nearby :)



After a breakfast of trout cake benedict at the Trapper Grill at Signal Mountain Lodge, we headed up Signal Mountain Road to the overlook. Near the top we found a displaying dusky grouse by the side of the road.







We headed for Colter Bay next and went for a short hike along the lakeshore. A drive down the road to Cattleman's Bridge produced a distant river otter. At first we thought we spotted a rock but then the rock started to groom itself ;)



Another scenic view of the Tetons. This one is from the Willow Flats Overlook I believe.


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On our last morning in the Tetons we decided to look for more moose. We found one right off the bat along the Gros Ventre River.



We checked out the Mormon Row area and did some birding in the National Elk Refuge.



The morning looked pretty grim and it started raining on our drive to Park City. The weather would stay like this for 3 days but we were happy we lucked out during our week in Yellowstone and the Tetons.


Park City Utah



Since the weather wasn't great, we used Park City to catch up on our sleep. We had an unexpected moose sighting while taking a walk near our hotel.



It looked like a young(?) moose and zigged and zagged across the field.



Just when we thought it would head into the woods, it would change direction again.



We also visited Utah Olympic Park where the coolest thing was the 70's and 80's ski fashions exhibit. Had they been running bobsled rides, we definitely would've been up for that.


Edited by Patty
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Great photos and report! You had great luck with bears, far better than I had the last few times I was there, well done!

I'm sure the rangers would love to spend more time helping people out with wildlife sightings, but are up to their ears this summer (with the big 100 year National Park anniversary going on) with dealing with the usual "protect the park from the people, the people from the park and the people from each other" trials. Andrea Lankford's book "Ranger Confidential" is a great read for anyone curious as to what goes on in America's parks. Full disclosure I'm working as a ranger in a small state park right now so I'm probably extra sympathetic :D

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We wanted to take a different route home than we took out so we headed south through Provo Canyon and eventually got on Highway 50. We stopped at Great Basin National Park near the eastern border of Nevada. The road was open as far as Mather Overlook but the low cloud cover made it hard to see much.



Then it started sleeting.



We headed to Ely where we spent the night. There aren't too many towns along 50 through Nevada. It's dubbed the Loneliest Road in America but wasn't as lonely as some areas of Texas we drove through. The drive was surprisingly scenic (we weren't sure what to expect!) and we saw many pronghorn along this route.



As it got closer toward the Carson City end, the landscape became more desert like. We enjoyed this road more than Interstate 80.


Sand Mountain



Near Fallon we stopped at Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge. There wasn't much wetland in the refuge as water is diverted for agricultural use.


A yellow-backed spiny lizard



Cliff swallow nests



We saw a few blacktail jack rabbits but none were being cooperative for photos.


We arrived back in Tahoe, the south side of the lake this time, to much nicer weather than on our way out.



We had dinner by the lake to celebrate our 20th anniversary!


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Thanks @@ellenhighwater! Mark happened to buy that book while in Yellowstone and I'm reading it next. That's why I didn't bug the rangers in the field for information. I figured they had their hands full. And I guess it's hard for the rangers who aren't in the field to know what's going on. I had one visitor center ranger ask me what happened at Otter Creek.

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@@Patty.... Have really enjoyed reading about your trip.We will be following in your footsteps ( Gardiner, Old Faithfull and Grand Teton ) come September, after spending five nights in Glacier. Unfortunately my travelling companions have less of an interest in wildlife than me, which causes me more of a problem now I have read of your experiences!

I was surprised to hear just how busy it was when you were there and expect it may be the same for us in mid September. Suggestions of places to eat have been added to my travel notes.....many thanks for that!

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@@Seniortraveller where in Glacier are you staying? Good luck with wildlife sightings in September!

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@@Patty Happy 20th! Ours is in October and to celebrate we're going to (where else) Africa (though not until February)! But your trip seems an equally splendid way to celebrate.

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@@Patty we are staying at Travelers Rest, East Glacier Village. There is still no accommodation available in the park and as we fly in to Denver ( flights booked before we decided to include Glacier ) we felt we needed a reasonable number of nights in one spot to recover from the flights, plus two overnight stops!

We will be close to the Two Medicine area and I think it should take about ninety minutes to reach Many Glacier. We are 'ageing' hikers, but I must admit the thought of bumping into a bear is quite scary. The programme for ranger led hikes in September is not available yet, but we hope to be able to book some of these.

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Thanks @@SafariChick! Where in Africa are you headed in February?


@@Seniortraveller it did feel a bit eerie at times walking around in grizzly territory.

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While we were in Ely our friend who was rabbit sitting for us texted to say "feel free to extend your trip." Who could resist such a temptation? It took us about 20 minutes to decide to go for it. I did some checking of availability and lucked into a couple of last minute cancellations at Sequoia and Kings Canyon. But first some time in the foothill town of Murphys.


We headed out of Tahoe and took Highway 4/Ebbetts Pass which had just opened for the season on the 13th across the Sierras. The views are gorgeous and the road is very narrow in spots. I can certainly see why it would be almost impossible to maintain in winter. A bit later in the week, it was temporarily closed again due to a storm.


Ebbetts Pass



A douglas squirrel at Calaveras Big Trees State Park



Murphys California is a cute Western Sierra Foothill former mining town turned wine town and we left with our share.



The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee in nearby Angels camp happened to be going on so we had to check that out.







I haven't been to a county fair in over 30 years (I still have my blue ribbon from the last one though not from jumping frogs ;) ). It felt like a step back in time and was a little slice of Americana you don't see much anymore.

Edited by Patty
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