Abundance in Yellowstone

We just got home from our fifth trip to Yellowstone National Park, and this time, we saw the most animals we’ve ever seen.  We had the good fortune to see around 14 black bears; 12 grizzly bears; 11 wolves; 10 moose; 2 foxes; 1 golden eagle and 1 bald eagle; and 1 osprey with a baby in the nest.  In addition to all of these, we saw countless amounts of bison, elk, deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep.  As most of you might know, the visual hunt for wildlife can be tricky; one minute you see an animal, and the next minute they are gone into the trees.

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Black Bear & Cub in YNP

For half of this trip, we stayed in our now favorite town of Cooke City, Montana.  From here, it is only a five minute drive to the entrance of the park; and then another thirty minute drive to get to the beginning of Lamar Valley – our favorite place to hang out in YNP.  We found a great bar across the street from the hotel; The Ore House Saloon – it has three flat-screen tv’s – the perfect place for watching your favorite game after a day in the park!

Most of our time in the park is spent driving between Hayden & Lamar Valleys.  This year, we “trolled” this stretch of the roads at least six times each day!  We’ve seen a wolf or two from the pack that runs in Hayden Valley, so we try to spend some time scanning the tree lines there.  We love to hang out in Lamar Valley… because of the opportunities to see the most wildlife:  Bison, Elk, Moose, Bear, Wolves, Coyotes, and Pronghorn.  Slough Creek is nearby, and it is currently home to a wolf den with new pups, so we spent some good time there too.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see the pups, but we did catch a glimpse of one of the wolves.

Everyone who visits Yellowstone has a different wish list of what they want to see.  There is an abundance of wildlife, water and geysers to be seen by all.  Last time we went, we didn’t even go see the geysers; but this time we did take half of a day to go visit Old Faithful.  There is so much water in YNP, we are fascinated each time we visit.  In addition to Yellowstone Lake, the park has 14 rivers and over 160 known creeks!

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Yes, it’s that blue!  The Grand Prismatic Spring in YNP.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, getting around the park takes time.  From Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris, there was road construction, and we had a thirty minute wait; on the other hand, sometimes the wait isn’t so bad.  From Canyon Village to Hayden Valley, there was minor construction and we only waited for three minutes.  If you add everything up:  the reduced speed limit, wildlife viewing and road construction, it can take a little over an hour just to go 33 miles.  But it’s a rewarding 33 miles if you’re lucky enough to see some wildlife along the way!

This time we got smart and took a powerful monoscope with us.  A scope really pays off if you want to see the far away predators.  One morning the guys left the hotel at 4:30 a.m. to go into the park and look for animals.  It paid off as a Moose ran across the road in front of them; and then once in the park, they saw two grizzlies up on the hillside in Lamar Valley.

For the other half of our trip, we tried a new location, and stayed in Gardiner, Montana.  Gardiner is a neat town with three main streets; I didn’t see much shopping, but I did see a lot of restaurants and bars.  I think the town has some great opportunities for white water rafting; just do your research if that’s your favorite hobby.

We always find it tricky to actually get to Yellowstone from New Mexico.  We have found the easiest route to get there is to go up through Colorado to Cheyenne and then on up to Cody.  On the day to head home, we left Gardiner and drove through the park one last time.  Our goal was to get to the East Gate (towards Cody, WY), and it took 2 hours and 20 minutes to get to the gate; and a total of 3 hours and 10 minutes to actually get to Cody.  Hopefully all of these time measurements will stress the importance of making sure you plan for plenty of time.

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Traffic Jam in Yellowstone

This year we went at the early end of the Season (the first week of June) instead of during the middle of July.  There were still plenty of people, but maybe not as heavy as in July.  This time we allocated eight days for this trip.  One-and-a-half days were dedicated to driving up-and-back; the remaining five days were spent in the park.  Each day we’d enter the park around dawn and leave around dusk; this time of year, that makes for 13 to 14 hour days – in early June it’s dawn around 5:00 a.m. and dusk around 9:40 p.m.

#BeRoundTripReady:  I really can’t stress how enjoyable it all is if you can spend a minimum of four days in the park.  Visually hunting for animals is a tricky hobby, as they are not in a set place at a set time every day.  If you are patient, you’ll win the jackpot!