This morning I woke up in my car at a gas station in Norris, MT. I drove another 20 miles and had to sleep again for a couple more hours. When I woke up again I put on some warmer socks and got myself some coffee and a big donut! (love those donuts) I still had an hour or so to go until I got to the entrance of Yellowstone.
On the drive there I saw a fox running in this meadow and I slammed on my brakes to see if I could catch a shot of him. I did but it was a little dark. Then I noticed that I was standing in front of this sweet pond that was dead still and the mountain was reflecting in the water. I love shots like this.
I made it to Yellowstone at 6:45 in the morning. I thought I was really early but there were already a bunch of people driving in. I paid the lady at the gate my $25 and was on my way in. Never having been here before I didn't really know what to expect. All I knew was there were 2 shots that I needed to get in the park. One of Old Faithful and then one of a bear. Obviously I can't really control whether or not I see a bear but I was hoping and praying (and maybe talking out loud to myself) that I would see a bear.
This is the first shot I got after entering. It was a chilly morning and there was a lot of steam coming off of all the water around. I'm not sure if you can make it out in this pic very well... Right after taking this pic I saw a bald eagle but didn't get a great shot of that.
Then about a mile up the road traffic was slowing down and I was wondering what for. There were only a few cars and a bus on the road but they were all stopped. Then I saw these guys. There were like 5 of them just walking down the side of the road. I've seen buffalo before but not this close. They are freakin' huge!!
So I kept moving toward Old Faithful. Once you enter the park it's like another 30 miles to get to Old Faithful. I guess I never knew just how big Yellowstone is. The crazy thing is the middle of it is one massive caldera that is 1350 square miles!! The fuel behind all the geysers is magmatic heat! It's really amazing when you see it in person!
When I got to the geyser it had just gone off so I had a little time to wait around. I scoped out the site for the same location my grandfather would have taken the photo. A few things have changed I'm sure like the buildings and these benches. But the geyser itself and the hills behind it have remained unchanged since the last time this volcano erupted 640,000 years ago.
This little guy was just sittin' around staring off into space. I got about a foot away from him before he even looked at me and then he just turned for a second and went back to staring at the geysers. It looks like his calm attitude has served him well in charming food out of the hands of tourists.
So here is Old Faithful from the exact perspective and approximate distance my grandfather saw it in 1937.
After getting that shot I was headed out of the park at a leisurely pace hoping to catch a glimpse of some more wild life. A bear in particular.
First I ran into some more buffalo.
They were all over the place! It was insane. They have buffalo in Yellowstone like we have geese in Minnesota.
I entered through the west entrance of Yellowstone and I was leaving through the north entrance. From Old Faithful it was 51 miles to the north entrance. It's one of the rare times in my life where I intentionally drove slow so I wouldn't miss anything. About 1/2 to the north entrance I noticed a big traffic jam. Now I'd learned through the morning that when a car is pulled over or stopped in the road there is usually some sort of animal off in the distance. The more cars you see, the cooler the sight. The traffic jam in front of me was massive! I'm talking buses, vans, cars, trucks, bikes and whatever else you can think of. They were parked on both sides of the road and traffic was having trouble getting through. There were even park rangers out directing traffic. I rolled down my window to ask what was up but I already knew I wanted to go see for myself. The lady I asked was almost out of breath. Apparently there was an enormous gray wolf that had attacked an elk. It only wounded it and then backed off. It was sitting on the edge of a pond... waiting... I found the first open spot I could and grabbed my camera and rushed over to the edge of the tree line. I saw an elk, but no wolf. DANG! I was too late. But I got some cool shots while I was waiting. I wanted to stick around and see if that wolf was going to come back to finish the job! How sweet would that be to see?!
Here's a pic of the elk in the pond. It's back right hind quarter was bit.
Here's one of all the other people that were waiting around for the same thing. I wish I had camera lenses like these guys! Look at these things!
After about 30 minutes of waiting around I decided the wolf probably didn't want an audience and I took off. I still had a ways to go and some more wild life that I needed to see. I was still hoping for a bear... and maybe a wolf now. As I was pulling back onto the road a guy told me he saw a bear up the road about 1/4 mile. BINGO!!! So I buzz on up there and see only two cars parked. I get out with my camera and walk up to this couple that is standing on the edge of their door frames looking around. I'm on the street and I ask them if they've seen anything. Just as I get the last word out I look to my right and in the trees, not more than 5 feet from me, is a grizzly bear!!! Holy s*&%t! I back up closer to my car and this bear walks out of the woods and stands up on her hind legs with her front paws up in the air and growls! I think maybe she wanted to say "Hey BooBoo, how about a picnic basket?!" Hahahaha! It was freakin' awesome! That bear was like 15 feet from me! Unfortunately I had a zoom lens on my camera and I didn't get a good pic of her standing up. Then she walked out into the street and I got this.
I don't know bears well enough to know if she was big or not, but she was big enough! Look at the claws on her!
And this is how I know that it was a female... The babies were super cute. I would have tried to follow them into the woods for more pics but those babies could tear me to shreds and I don't even want to think about what that momma bear would do!
After that I was happy! I got all the shots I wanted and then some. I was just going to enjoy the scenery on the rest of the way out of the park. As I was passing through Mammoth Hot Springs I saw a bunch of elk just chillin' in a park.
People all around, cars, stores... these elk were just grazing away without a care in the world.
When I got out of the park I started to head north to meet up with Interstate 90 again. I realized that there was really nothing left for me to see on my trip. There was only highway between me and home. Eastern Montana and North Dakota didn't interest me that much so I decided to drive straight home. I got some coffee and a 4 pack of Red Bull and set the cruise control. 15 1/2 hours and 991 miles later I arrived home!
I didn't want to break stride to take a sunset pic on the way home but I got this pic in western North Dakota. I think it's kind of cool. The sun setting for the day and for the last time on my trip just over my shoulder in the rearview mirror.