Thursday - July 12thToday was a great "bear day" with lots of sightings throughout the park!
It started at 5:50am with a frigid wake-up of just 36F after overnight thunder-boomers that rocked my van between 10:00pm and roughly midnight. The entire Canyon Village area was socked in with dense fog; even the bison around the junction were difficult to see.
This part of the park is also a well known area for bears, with many sightings and photos posted from June. I was excited in anticipation of what I might see today. Heading over the Dunraven Pass, my hopes were that I might see the bears from last night. Having measured the distance from Canyon Village to that point, I knew to start looking closely for them about 10 miles into my drive. Fortunately the fog had cleared by that time, but alas, no bears.
I continued on in a westerly direction, stopping at a turnout to change out of sweats into more appropriate attire for the day as by 7:30am the sun was up and the air warming. Having read that the Blacktail Plateau was a good wildlife viewing area, I had a lot of anticipation as I drove through the area not realizing that there was an actual six or seven mile one-way loop road that ascended up to the area known as Blacktail Plateau. NOTE: The NPS Yellowstone brochure with map was clear in this matter, I had just not looked at it close enough to recognize it as a separate drive route.
After returning to the main loop road, I again headed west towards Mammoth Springs and the North Entrance. As I made the large curve in the road, I noticed a family pulled off into a turnout using binoculars into the ravine below. I stopped to check out what they were looking for, to learn that they thought they had seen something moving around in the dead timber. I fished out my binoculars and started looking with them. They spotted the large black bear resurface as it came up from what appeared to be a dry creek bed. How exciting - a bear sighting in the morning daylight as it approached 9:00am.
The bear ambled around for a bit, then climbed up on one of the dead logs, walking across it much like a gymnast on a balance beam. It rooted around seemingly looking for grubs to eat, hopped down and then disappeared into the thick brush.
In Gardiner, I enjoyed my ham & egg on english muffin sandwich and hot tea, as well as the free WiFi at the Tumbleweed Bookstore & Cafe. I also filled up my gas tank, paying the expected $3.699 as posted on Gas Buddy before I left Milwaukee.
Back in Yellowstone NP, I continued back through the Mammoth Village area, stopping in at the visitor center to stamp my NPS Passport and snap a few photos. The area was very busy with tourists and finding parking was a bit of a challenge. This is one of the older areas of the park, with lovely old buildings many of which are used for park employee residences.
From the Norris Junction, I head back towards Canyon Village so as to continue my counterclockwise loop that would eventually land me back at Roosevelt Lodge and my cabin for the night. When I arrived in the area, it was really too early to check-in and go to the cabin so I figured I'd head up towards to NE Entrance at Silver Gate. Since the Lamar Valley is one of the better known wildlife viewing areas and there had been a black bear with two cubs seen in the area, it seemed like a decent way to spend a couple of hours.
I wasn't five miles from the Roosevelt Junction when I came upon a large back-up of cars complete with a couple of park ranger vehicles. I knew immediately the black bear momma and cubs were in the area. Unfortunately, it was next to impossible to find a safe pullout spot especially since the rangers were strictly enforcing the "100 yards" rule for being near bears. I continued further down the road and found a second turnout with space enough to pull in. I was far enough away from the action, however, that watching the bears munch on the sagebrush required the binoculars. The good news was that they were moving in my direction. The bad news would be that once within the 100 yards, I would be chased out of the turnout.
I continued on stopping at a small turnout alongside a rushing creek to fix a sandwich. In this area, the bugs (mosquitoes and biting flies) were pretty bad so for the first time I had to spray OFF on my exposed legs and arms to avoid them.
The drive on up to Silver Creek was uneventful so once through the gates I continued into the small town and turned around. At the park entrance I asked about bear sightings that day and he said there had been a grizzly seen in the area but no further reports for several hours. I kept my eyes open, scanning for the illusive grizzly, but to no avail.
The time from the NE Entrance back to Roosevelt Junction was about 75 minutes. Since it was close to 6:00pm I figured I may as well check-in. In the parking lot, I was met by my TA friend and roommate for the next two nights. I've "known" Nanc from the Alaska Forums on Trip Advisor, so meeting her in person and spending some time with her in Yellowstone was especially exciting!
Other than a bison jam and more pronghorn, there was not much else happening in the Lamar Valley, so we headed back to our cabin and called it a night. It had been a long day, and I was ready for sleep! The cabin was comfortable as we had a triple bed room and was just across from the bathroom and showers. There was also an ice machine with free ice, so I got my little cooler and put some diet cokes on ice overnight. I think we said our good nights and went to sleep around 9:00pm.
For the day, I drove 230 miles, with Nanc doing the drive out to Lamar and back.
I will close with the photo of this sign. I was very happy to see some of Obama's recovery money going to improve our National Parks. I had also seen similar signs in Grand Teton NP earlier in the week.