We had a great day today!
I think I will send out emails more often whining about what we haven't seen or done so far... because apparently the gods of Yellowstone heard me and wanted to make sure that we weren't disappointed.
Our day started early... we needed to be on the road no later than 8:00 a.m. but preferably earlier... which, of course, meant that we were leaving the hotel at 8:00. We were headed to Canyon Village which is a magnificent part of Yellowstone where the Yellowstone River carves its way to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone dropping in two beautiful waterfalls. Now you have to understand (for those of you who have never been to Yellowstone), that it is a very common occurence to drive past many spots where cars are pulled off to the side, people standing about with cameras or binoculars, pointing and gesturing. We have come to realize that many times the wildlife being viewed is either elk or bison... both of which we find amazing but when we are short on time we tend to drive right past. This morning however, elk and bison were clearly NOT visible so K2 and I were scanning for what was getting all this attention. At first I thought maybe moose because I saw a distant brown object in this small meadow... All of a sudden, I am yelling, "BEAR! It's a BEAR! Pull over!! Pull over, it's a bear!!" J is trying to find a spot safe enough to pull over which when he barely does the girls and I are out of the van before it is shut off and running across the street (I do not recommend letting your kids do this under normal situations.) Sure enough there in the middle of this small meadow was a huge, and I am talking HUGE! black bear. (The black bears that I have seen in WI have been small, cute almost cuddly critters.) He was just ambling his way across the meadow and into the woods... I missed a picture and 30 seconds later would've completely missed the bear... but I have to tell you all... it was FREAKIN' AMAZING! His coat was so like liquid coal... black, black, black. And did I mention he was BIG??? I think K2 snapped a pic I will try to find it on her camera and post it.
So after our excitement of the bear, we sped off to our Ranger walk barely making it on time. Our Ranger walk was titled "Life Beyond the Rim"basically taking us on a 3 mile hike near the Canyon explaining about the wildlife that inhabits the area and some history into the wildlife of Yellowstone. We were only 15 minutes into our walk when we came upon a heard of bison grazing in the distance, not really a problem for us since we were more than the alloted distance from them. However, they became something of a problem as we continued along the trail thru a forest and circled back to the meadow where our trail no goes directly thru the middle of the herd. Our ranger had to lead us off trail and further around the herd but we were definitely noticed. This big guy with his "female" and baby watched us intently the whole time we passed by.
Our walk then led us back to the upper falls of the Yellowstone River, which were amazing.
Following our walk, we spent a few hours in Canyon Village at the Visitor Center and had lunch at a diner. It was then time to attend a second Ranger Walk titled Walking the Rim. It was on this walk that we were able to see the Upper and Lower Falls and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. I took pictures but they don't even begin to show the incredible beauty of this place. Up to today, most of the natural attractions we had been seeing were the variety of hydrothermal features of the park... geysers, hot springs, fumeroles. Today was a day of magnificent beauty... although honestly the entire park is beauty magnified.
It was still relatively early (only 5:00) and while we didn't want to make a late night of it, we weren't quite ready to go home yet. On both of our walks, the rangers had mentioned that the bears were primarily centered right now in two locations... Hayden Valley (which we had driven thru a couple of times and had seen bison, elk and even distant wolves) and Mt. Washburn (which we hadn't driven by yet). So off we headed...
We were still climbing in elevation when an oncoming driver flashed us (his headlights! Get your mind out of the gutter!!) J began to slow which was a good thing because two cars in our lane were completely stopped... we all looked and once again I am yelling, "BEAR! It's a BEAR!!" Only this time, he is right on the opposite side of the road! This time we all grabbed our cameras and are trying to take pics from the van. Here he is... smaller than our morning bear but still glorious all the same. Two bears in one day... the gods of Yellowstone were smiling down on us today.
After our bear sighting, we took a dirt road up Mt. Washburn and walked a bit towards the peak but the winds were so strong that we soon headed back to the van and headed for our temporary home. We were almost to the West entrance when we came across this pretty thing on the side of the road... her friend had just crossed a few cars ahead of us. I had to snap her picture to show you how large the elk are... this is a female... you should see the "daddies"!
Since we ate out for lunch, we made chicken tacos in our room and I got some laundry done. The alarm is set for 5:30 because we are headed south to the Tetons for the day. So night all!