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Yellowstone after Arnica

This will be my last trip to Yellowstone this fall. The Park is winding down and, because of the fires and snow, a lot of the roads were closed.  I went with some friends from BBHC through the East entrance.  Dunraven Pass and the road to Lake were closed.  Old Faithful access from the south (Madison to Norris access has been closed for repairs for the season a long time ago) was closed as well, but open from 12-1 only, I suppose so people could get out of the hotels. So, we had no choice but to head towards Canyon and Mammoth via Norris.

The day started late, around 8 am, but with a bang.  Way before the Park gate, on the Northfork, we spotted two moose–a young bull and a cow.  On the way up Sylvan pass there was another young cow moose.

Near Sylvan Pass

Near Sylvan Pass

There was lots of snow up and over the pass, and Sylvan Lake had a partial ice cover.  We headed for Norris Geyser Basin with a stop at the Mud Volcano.  Mud Volcano

Norris Geyser Basin

mud pot

mud pot

Colors in hot springs

Colors in hot springs

I realized that I’d overlooked this wonderful area.  Norris Geyser Basin has got to be one of the best geothermal spectacles in the Park, and yet its tucked way back in near the Junction so I think people whiz bye without thinking to stop.

Norris Geyser Basin

Norris Geyser Basin

Hot springs plants in fall color

Hot springs plants in fall color

Norris

View of part of the lower basin at Norris

View of part of the lower basin at Norris

Once in the car and on the road we spotted some tourists standing literally at the edge of a hot pool in the meadow, taking photos!  Yikes I could just imagine that thin crust breaking and cooking them.  Really folks, that’s a stupid idea as those pools are hot.

After lunch at Mammoth, we headed down towards the Lamar.  We hadn’t gone too far when we spotted a wolf.   Besides spotting wildlife yourself, the trick is to watch the tourists.  Check for the ones with the spotting scopes set up.  These are the real serious wildlife watchers, usually looking for wolves or bears.

We parked and watched a collared wolf hunting voles in the grass along the river bank.  Every so often he’d pounce way up in the air for his prey.  One of the bystanders said “That’s a coyote.  I’m leaving.”  Well yes, the coloring was similar, but the size and shape of the head was the giveaway.  Besides, he had a collar.

Collared wolf.  Compare his size and colors to coyote

Collared wolf. Compare his size and colors to coyote

He (or she) looked pretty healthy.  No mange and that was good to see.  On down the road we saw about our 10th coyote for the day.  So many tricksters in one day, and all were busy hunting voles.  I’d swear the purpose of rodents on this earth is for eating.

Coyote hunting voles

Coyote hunting voles

Although Dunraven was closed, we were able to get up from the Lamar side as far as the Specimen Ridge overlook.  Several ewes were grazing along the road.  It is incredible to realize that they get up and down the sides of these mountains with ease.  Way down below near the river there’s natural mineral licks they’ve used since ancient times.Ewe and view

Ewe

On the way out of the East Gate, we spotted a snow goose, rare in these parts.

Snow Goose

Snow Goose

All in all, we spotted six moose.  The last one was on the way out again, past the East Entrance, not too far from Pashaska Teepee on the National Forest.  Another nice thing is seeing Bison on Shoshone National Forest.  There are no grazing allotments on the forest outside the East Exit of the Park so the Bison wander there, especially in winter.  I sure wish Montana would ‘cowboy up’ and do the same at the North and West Exits.

All in all, for one day in the park that’s a lot of wildlife watching–6 moose, 10 coyotes, lots of bison and elk, one wolf, several bighorn sheep, trumpeter swans and various waterfowl.  A woman we met said she saw a cougar near Mammoth that morning.  One fall day in the Park can’t be beat!

Northfork moose

Northfork moose

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