Returning to Yellowstone for my fourth visit and Alan’s third, we decided to explore some portions we have never seen before. Actually, that’s almost three fourths of the park. We always enter at the Western entrance from Montana and exit through the Southern exit to the Grand Tetons. Concentrating in the past on the geyser basin, home to Old Faithful, in the southwestern region, we had missed out on so much.
The park is huge, so trying to explore the entire area is a taunting task. Stretching over 3749 square miles, it provides a tremendous variety of wildlife and landscape.
Each year over 3 million people visit Yellowstone; so competing with crowds can be an issue during the busiest months of July and August. Traveling in the less popular areas of the park or outside the peak season can help solve that problem. Also getting out of your car and walking any of the 1000 miles of trails will get you away from crowds. Our walking consisted primarily of treks to various rivers with the hope of catching some trout. Alan hammered his previous dry spell by catching 7 trout within 30 minutes, fishing in a downpour along Soda Butte Creek. Fishing 50 yards down the creek, I left empty-handed. Not wanting to be greedy, we packed up our gear and headed back to camp, where we enjoyed a tasty fried trout dinner.
Grizzly and black bears are present in the park, so heading out into the wilderness areas needs to done with caution. Posted recommendations suggest groups of 3 or more, carrying bear spray (which is available in park stores), and talking, singing or making noise as you walk so the bears will know you are there and will avoid you.
Putting about 200 miles on the Honda in 3 days, we drove to the Lamar and Hayden Valleys, to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, over to Mammoth Hot Springs and down to Norris Geyser Basin. We were rewarded by seeing countless bison, herds of elk, mule deer, tundra swans, pronghorn antelope, white-tailed deer, and gorgeous and, sometimes, bizarre landscape.
One morning, Alan headed out to do some plein air watercolors. As he finished painting and packed up his gear, he walked over Fishing Bridge, and up along the Yellowstone River toward the Lake. He noticed a bear print, looking around and across to the other side of the river, he saw the grizzly lumbering out of the water. Apparently, this was the same fellow, which had left the prints only moments before. Luckily, Alan got there when he did and not a few minutes earlier. Also, he had his point and shoot Canon handy to document the sighting.
Our visit was, in a word --- AWESOME.
Traveling quickly to the west, we will soon be along the coast of Oregon. Will be writing again soon.