Since the Labor Day crowds finally died down we headed back into the park in search of some animal sightings. Lee heard about a buffalo carcass at work that wolves were hanging around so we got up really early and headed north towards the Roosevelt Tower area. Unfortunately it is a long drive and despite the early (for us) start we missed the wolves by a half an hour. More importantly the carcass was super far away and although I brought a book to read just in case Lee didn’t really want to sit there in the hopes they would come back.
As I have mentioned before many of those great wolf pictures are from very far away and only visible through a super long lens or spotting scope. Folks will sit for hours peering through those scopes for their shots but that’s not really of interest to me or it turns out Lee. We like our wildlife close enough to see with the naked eye and with wolves in particular that is pretty rare.
Still it was a beautiful day so we popped over to see the petrified tree. This is the remains of a Redwood tree which shows that at some point Yellowstone had a tropical climate. It was pretty cool although I wouldn’t make a special trip just to see that.
Since we didn’t have anything special in mind we decided to check some smaller items off our list, but first I needed to stop and go to the bathroom. When we stopped at the gift shop near Tower Fall we saw a big crowd and walked over and I got some cool shots of a black bear. That was a nice bonus!
Next we decided to go to Wraith Falls but along the way we saw the Blacktail Plateau Road was open. This road has been closed every time we have passed it, so it was cool to travel along it. It was a huge wild stretch of gravel road traveling through grassland and then forest and although we didn’t see any animals it definitely seemed like a great spot for them. I highly recommend ALWAYS taking these side roads if they are open, because they are open and closed throughout the season and every one of them is pretty cool.
We finally made it to Wraith Falls although unfortunately it was largely dried up. We have been really lucky with waterfalls this year and I definitely want to visit this one again earlier in the season. The walk is about a half mile up and the ground is pretty rocky but the viewing platform is nice and we had a great time watching a chipmunk go crazy eating berries.
On our way back towards West Yellowstone we got really lucky though and saw a Royal elk (10 tines; between 7-9 years old) close to the road. We stopped and took a bunch of pictures and even got to see him lay down in the grass. I was amazed at how an animal that big could “disappear” in the grass and his antlers just looked like sticks. Based on that I wonder how many times we have passed right by moose or deer because it was extremely well camouflaged.
We probably should have left it at that, but Lee wanted to see the Ranger Museum at Norris Basin and that parking lot was PACKED. We got lucky enough to find a parking spot but the crowds were pretty crazy and a little overwhelming. The ranger museum was nice though and I particularly loved the diversity of the park rangers going back to the 1930’s. I highly recommend a stop but would definitely plan a visit on a less crowded day.
It was a nice day but to be honest we probably won’t be spending many more in the park itself. Our season is starting to wrap up and we have lots of tasks and errands that need to be completed before we leave. Because you never know about the weather (as of this writing we have had two consecutive freezing temps overnight) we need to be ready to leave at any time. Lee’s contract is until Oct 15th but the agreement is we can leave if a significant snowstorm heads this way. Basically we are playing it by ear from this point forward and our planned route allows for the flexibility to leave at any time. I’ll keep you updated as events warrant.
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