Phase 1 – Bear watch: On foot of our bison carcass intel from Woody we set out just after 6:30 with the kids still in bed (but in their seat-belts) to see if we could spot an elusive bear. By all accounts bear sightings are rare so we were only somewhat hopeful. When we got to the right spot in Hayden Valley there was already a small crowd dotting the road-side and a lot of telescopes and long lenses seemed to be focused on a dot in the distance. We found a dicey parking spot and jumped out with our binoculars. Is it…could be a bison…no..it’s a…BEAR!!! We did our bear checks and ID’d it as a Grizzly. Result! We watched the bear roam around for a while as it’s made it way towards its breakfast. A ranger then yelled at us for our bad parking so we had to move down the road to a better spot. Lauren, Ryan and I then walked back up and a very nice couple let us take a look through their scope. We got a really great view of the bear munching on bison. We moved up the road again for one last look and time ran out on us. We were all super-excited to have seen one of the park’s elusive stars.
Phase 2 – Horse-riding (girls), Brekky (boys). We dropped the girls off to the Canyon corral for a 2 hour ride and myself and the boys had a delicious brekky of eggs, bacon and short stacks.
Phase 3 – Picked up the girls and headed north to Mammoth to check out more thermal features. Had our lunch there and managed to dodge a thunderstorm.
Phase 4 – Drove to Lamar Valley (North America’s ‘Serengeti’) to spot more wildlife. Lots of large bison herds. Amazing scenery.
Phase 5 – Kept going east through Lamar, needed gas so decided to leave the park and make an unplanned stop to Cooke City, MT to take a few pics for the Ma (coz she’s a Cooke). Had a nice pizza dinner and headed back to the park for Lamar Valley Part 2.
Phase 6 – Lamar Valley at dusk. Dusk and dawn are the best times for animal sightings. It was amazing to see multiple herds headed in the same direction back into the center of the valley as we drove past. We spotted out first prong horn deer – another box ticked. We spotted a small crowd off the roadside, usually a tell-tail for something interesting. We learned that they were observing a wolf den high up on a nearby ridge. We scanned the landscape for the next 20 minutes as darkness fell but did not get to see any wolves.
Headed back to camp over Mount Washburn in the darkness. A challenging drive but Day 9 was the day we really got into the swing of moving around the park in the RV with many stop for animals and thermal stuff.
We slept soundly after a very busy and exhilarating day.
Day 9 verdict: From Lauren….”I love Yellowstone – I will bring my own children here someday”.
Photo Note: Most of the photos today were done with the ‘good’ camera so what you see here are a few opportunistic snaps with the phones.
Yellowstone Pro-tip: If you are planning a trip and don’t already have the following then I’d highly recommend the investment:
Good binoculars and/or a spotting scope. Have more than one if possible. The binoculars became the most sought after piece of kit at every stop as we shared one pair between 5.
A tele-photo lens. Use as a binoculars sub and then take better close-up shots.