Our next full day off (with semi decent weather) we went to Mammoth Springs, with the goal of going to Lamar Valley. I wanted to make it all the way Lamar Valley, but the farther north we got the more snow showers we saw. Still it was a good drive, and since we left early we got to see a grizzly along the way. Once again I would like to stress that the best bear sightings happen before 9am or after dusk. If you are a late riser and a person who likes to be in by happy hour there are still lots of beautiful things you can see here, but bear sightings probably wont be included in them.
We also saw a bison jam on our way up, which I have to say I really enjoy. Lee not so much since he is driving, but I love the way these “furry cows” own the road. I may be less entranced as the summer goes along, but for now it tickles me and Jack gets VERY excited when he smells them.
One of the most interesting things about Yellowstone is how quickly the topography changes with the elevation changes. On the ride to Mammoth Springs we went through at least 4 different environments (including weather) and the variety is endlessly fascinating. What I wasn’t expecting was an amazing canyon area with a waterfall and some of the most beautiful rock formations I have seen since Utah. What a lovely surprise.
While we were taking pictures of the waterfall a buffalo starting walking down the main road and he owned it. I got this great picture of the road, the waterfall, and the buffalo that I loved.
Right past that spot there was an awesome pullout behind some rocks and we got out and let Jack run around a bit. It was a magical little spot and made more so by the little patch of beautiful sunshine. I took a bunch of pictures but here is a gallery of some of my favorites.
After this section we came to a huge meadow area with lots of elk and bison. We saw our first “red dogs” which are what they call baby bison up here and got up close and personal with some elk. It wasn’t the prettiest area we have been in but the animal population was great.
Finally we arrived at Mammoth Springs and it started snowing again. This area’s claim to fame are huge hot springs area, but the weather was really not nice enough for me to walk around it. Instead we went to the visitors center which we both thought was the nicest one we have seen so far. The upstairs had animal information and the downstairs had the history of the park. Initially they only had a few rangers and the poachers ran rampant. Finally the Army stepped in and took over management which paved the way for the Park service as we know it today.
We also drove around the employee campus here which is where the workers stay. 50% of the seasonal employees are usually made up with college students from other countries but this year they are having a lot of trouble getting them Visas. Subsequently the park is incredibly short staffed and some of these facilities are empty.
The town is OK, they have Elk wander through town, but the weather wasn’t great so we kept moving east. I still wanted to get to Lamar Valley, but we did stop to see one more waterfall outside of town.
We were getting close to Tower Roosevelt when we saw lots of cars pulled over. There was a grizzly up on the hill and Lee wanted to test out the long lens he borrowed from the camera store. For me the lens was too heavy and here are the shots that I got with my 100-300.
Not bad but here are the ones that Lee got with his borrowed 600 lens.
Amazing right!! The difference was enough to make me think about getting a bigger lens but as you can see below the 600 is a bit much for me to handle.
We spent a long time watching the bear and were getting to leave when the bear stopped to take a poop. Then it slowly started making his way down the hill so we stayed right where we were at. A ranger came walking along (with a shotgun) and encouraged people to get into their trucks.. which we promptly did. Other people weren’t that smart though and were standing outside.
Finally, after much hesitation, the bear crossed the road directly in front of our truck!!! I got a video of it from inside the car and you can hear Jack let out a low whine. He was not so much a fan of the bear. It was really cool though and most importantly we were safe although the other folks just got lucky. Tremendous bear sighting and quite the thrill!!
After the bear we did make it to Tower Roosevelt but the lodge was shut down and it started to snow harder. We headed back the way we came and decided to go to Gardiner (outside the north entrance) and grab a bite to eat. Gardiner was a cool little town, but I will say I like West Yellowstone better. Gardiner does house the original stone marker for the park though and we had a great lunch at the Cowboy Lodge and Grill. I am not kidding it was delicious and the elk/bison chili was by far the best I have ever had.
It was a great day but weather once again stopped us from making our final destination. Still there is so much to see and do here it was still a great day.
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