Greater Yellowstone

20180818-5
The morning light in Montana.

August 18, 2018

We left Red Lodge to head to Cody, Wyoming.  I love the Greater Yellowstone area.  It is beautiful and full of wildlife.  It is a large area with few roads.  The distances are long out here.

We didn’t have far to go to get to Cody.  When we arrived, I did some grocery shopping and took my time.  Then, we all sat outside in whatever shade we could find and I got antsy to get into Yellowstone.  I love that place.  It is 52 miles to the East Entrance of Yellowstone from Cody.  But, you get to drive along the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway.  I convinced Regis we should head out after dinner.  Wildlife is easier to find in the mornings and evenings.  We are usually morning people and go to bed early so we can get going early the next day.  But, I couldn’t wait.

I read that sometimes the moose hang around Fishing Bridge, so that was our goal.  If we didn’t stop along the way, I figured it would take two hours.  We left around 6:00.  That gave us time to enjoy the Byway but we didn’t stop to take pictures.

The Byway was beautiful.  I can’t believe how beautiful this whole area is.  All these scenic highways and byways are amazing.

My timing turned out to be okay, but the skies got cloudy and rainy in some areas.  It cut down a lot on the available light.  We saw some mule deer and elk, but we did not see any moose.

20180818-1
Mule deer in Yellowstone National Park.
20180818-2
Elk in Yellowstone National Park.
20180818-3
Mule deer in Yellowstone National Park. We saw a pair of these guys. Note the velvet on the antlers.
20180808-4
Mule deer in Yellowstone National Park. Not the velvet on the antlers.

I was concerned about the drive back in the dark and rightly so.  There are lots of animals out here and many of them are moving around at night.  There are signs everywhere warning you.  As we were heading down the mountain in Yellowstone, I saw two cars ahead stopped with their flashers on.  As we got up to them, we saw the problem.  There were two Bighorn Sheep in the road.  There was steep terrain on one side of the road and a guardrail on the other.  Apparently, the sheep came down the terrain, got spooked by the cars, but didn’t want to go over the guardrail.  So, they took off running down the road.  They were going pretty fast.  They must have run for a mile and the cars followed behind.  Eventually, they stopped to drink some water pouring out of the cliff on the side of the road.  The two cars in front of me slowly passed them and went on their way, but as we passed them, one guy got spooked and starting running up the cliff.  If we tried to do it, we would need rappelling gear.  Later I got to thinking, the bright orange and blue kayaks on the roof may have been why he didn’t like us.  Those two Bighorn Sheep were gorgeous.  They were healthy, in beautiful condition, and strong.

It took about 2 hours to get home in the dark and I was exhausted when we got back from scanning for animals the whole way.  It’s very dark out here and I tried to space myself from the car in front so I could keep my high beams on.  I came upon a large deer standing on the side of the road.  What scared me most is that no matter how much I was keeping an eye out, I didn’t see that deer until we were right up on it.

Our next best opportunity to see moose are in the Grand Tetons which abuts Yellowstone on the south.  But, to drive there is a long, long way from here.  The other place I’d like to go is the Lamar Valley.  It usually has lots of wildlife and is our best bet for seeing a wolf.  That is also a long way even though we are on that east side of the park and the Lamar Valley is in the northeast corner.  There are only two ways to get there from here and each way would take at least 3 hours, maybe more.  But, the scenery is beautiful.

We have plans for today, but have to decide whether to spend some time in Cody or drive a long distance for the possibility of seeing more wildlife tomorrow.  I’m always interested in the wildlife, but we’ll have to see how much driving we can stand since we still have to go about 2400 miles to get home.