We really enjoyed our 10-day visit to Yellowstone National Park in May so we felt doubly blessed and privileged to be able to spend an additional three weeks in the park in September/October. It wasn’t the original plan. To begin we planned for eight days. Time we had gleaned from shortening our trips to Missoula and Glacier National Park. However, Mr. Misadventures was like a kid in a candy store and it was hard to resist an extension, even if it meant we would pay the price with longer Red Bay delays.
I mean, when will we get the opportunity to spend three weeks straight again? (Answer: a long time!)
In May, there were a lot of bears and bison to be seen, eating after a long winter was a priority, that and showing the new babies how it’s done. In September there were a ton more elk around, the males with huge antlers for mating season. We also saw a lot more migratory birds than in the spring.
There were more open roads allowing us to get to spots that had been closed in May. We did close to 7000 miles in the park in the three weeks we were there, it is huge! Now that we have been there for spring and fall, there are two more trips we want to do in the future: winter and backcountry. But for now, I wanted to share highlights from our trip.
It was so enjoyable to see drive along the Madison and Yellowstone rivers in the early morning and evening and see the fly fishermen. Each time I saw them it reminded me of A River Runs Through It.
We tried several sunrise shots but the weather did not cooperate, the fog was persistent and we couldn’t always guess where it would be. Me not being the photographer in the family I can tell you that some mornings I was a bit grumpy after getting up at 4:30 and sitting out (or in the car) in zero-degree weather only to be thwarted by the fog! However, Mr. Misadventures did end up with three shots, one from Nymph Lake, one at the Madison River, and a session from the Nez Perce Creek (also here and here).
Thus our main activity became wildlife viewing. We still did early mornings, just not sunrise early. Between very good binoculars, a very good camera and the naked eye we got to see a wonderful variety of animals. It’s the best thing we’ve done all year.
And despite not going off-road we were able to see a lot.
This little guy was none too happy to have his breakfast interrupted when Mr. Misadventures visited his tree to relieve himself. We found out later there is a $400 fine for doing that, oops! The hubby heard this squirrel chirping at him, told him to stay put, and ran back to the car to get his camera so that he could capture him. Guess what? He stayed!
I’m a pretty good spotter and one of my first spots, and my greatest, in my opinion, was this amazing owl called a Great Gray. Isn’t it a beauty?!
A few days later, Mr. Misadventures went off in the woods for a couple of hours with a hunter he met from Minnesota and captured this gorgeous Great Horned Owl.
It was the only two owls we saw during our time in Yellowstone, but it was a terrific opening act. Along the lines of rare sightings, we saw this coyote hunting mice in one of the meadows. We had briefly seen coyotes two other times, but only for a split second. This guy gave us a show. He was catching mice at a rate of one per minute and it was so fun to watch him hunt, pounce, and swallow whole!
As I mentioned, we saw a lot more elk in September than we had in May, (although still not as many as we say in Grant Teton) and we spent many mornings in various spots watching the dominant males gather their herds and preen.
Their call is pretty crazy, like a new bugle (or maybe a clarinet) student trying to do scales, and it’s loud! (Listen to it here!)
For Mr. Misadventures it’s all about the bears, his favorite animal. And we had plenty of sightings! At this time of year, the black bears are focused on getting every last pine nut off the cones in the trees and on the ground. We visited a favored spot almost every day and almost every day was rewarded with a mama and her two cubs foraging away undeterred by the dozens of people who were watching them.
This is our least favorite way to watch the bears, but bear jams are a reality in Yellowstone you can’t get around. We were just thankful for the few times that we could spot them alone without anyone else around. Nonetheless, the trio of black bears certainly entertained. At one point one of the cubs got himself into a crook in a tree and couldn’t quite seem to figure out how to get down, so he stayed there for a while just watching the world.
While mom checked out the ground game! She wasn’t the least bit concerned about her cub getting down!
We didn’t see any grizzly bears until our last two days in the park. We watched a very large male forage for tubers in a meadow, but he wouldn’t cooperate when it came to photos, Mr. Misadventures wanted to venture closer, but there wasn’t a real practical way to do that without disturbing the bear, and we are super sensitive to being respectful of the fact that we are in these animals’ home, not the other way around.
Our very last night in Yellowstone we got to see a huge mother grizzly and her two cubs. I think grizzly cubs are adorable, so fluffy looking. I got a great view in our binoculars, but it was a little too far out of range for a good photo.
The hubby loves his bear, I love the bison. I can’t get enough of them, which is no problem because they are everywhere! I never tired of watching a single bison or an entire herd and I’d love to see them in the winter with a layer of snow in their beards!
Depending on where you are, you can get stuck as they cross the road, always taking their sweet time and sometimes crossing multiple times! We got stuck behind a group one morning moving from the warmth of the geysers where they had spent the evening to the grassy meadows to feed.
During the early afternoon, we often played tourist visiting the geyser areas. We still didn’t do Old Faithful, I abhor crowds and it is just a mess down there. Finding parking, seating, etc. We drove over once and then abandoned the endeavor. There are geyser eruptions all over the park and we were able to catch the Great Fountain Geyser right at sunset. We were lucky, it erupts once every 9 to 15 hours and we made it just in time!
Per our usual modus operandi, we did a lot of earlier mornings, but because of a new moon, there was also an opportunity to take some star shots, so we had several nights out in various spots trying to capture the Milky Way. Mr. Misadventures wasn’t super happy with how they turned out, but I like them!
This was an evening at the West Thumb Geyser Basin looking over Yellowstone Lake. I was pretty nervous because I was afraid we would have visiting bears while we were out there by ourselves, but between talking and playing music we were fine. We just had to battle the headlights of cars driving around the lake.
We did an evening near Mt. Washburn, the highest peak in the park, but just couldn’t get a shot that the hubby was happy with. And then we also did the sky above the Madison River.
It was a magical three weeks in Yellowstone National Park and while I don’t think we’ll get as much time on the next visit, we are hoping that the next visit is soon!
How about you? Have you visited Yellowstone before? Is it on your bucket list? If you have visited, what was your favorite part?
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