On the road again.....
Trip Start Apr 20, 2012
120Trip End Sep 01, 2012
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Just after we entered the park, the Yellowstone principle swung into effect and when we saw cars stopped, so did we and we were treated to the sight of multiple bighorn sheep grazing, climbing and traveling on the rocks far above the road. Although we have seen bighorn sheep before, this was the first time we saw such a large mob in action high up on the rock faces. What a great and auspicious start to our day. We then found a campsite at Mammoth Hot Springs campground, returned nearly to the park entrance to ring Uncle Pete and tell him where we were staying and then we were off to explore as much of the park as we possibly could by 6pm.
We had been told several times about heading to the Lamarr Valley as that is where the wolves tend to hang out . The reintroduction/experiment of returning wolves to Yellowstone has been a stunning and well-documented success. I won't quite get all the details and number correct, but as I understand it, wolves were reintroduced in 1999 and since then their population has steadily grown and now they number over 200 and there are several packs operating throughout the park. As a result, the herds of elk and buffalo are much healthier as weaker animals have been predated by the wolves (and occasional grizzly bear).Even though it was the middle of the day, we intended to make this our first stop after setting up camp just on the off chance they might be out and about
Just around the next corner was the largest wildlife jam we had yet seen, binoculars and spotting scopes were set up along the side of the road and there was a barely concealed sense/buzz of excitement as we heard the word 'wolf' whispered several times
We spent the rest of the day driving a large loop through the northern half of Yellowstone. At times this travel was extremely frustrating as we got stuck in long traffic jams which often had to do with nothing more than an RV at the front of a queue of 50 cars, stopping in the middle of the road to take a picture of an elk or bison and then staring for another minute before moving on. However, the rest of our drive resulted in many more wildlife sightings and before we share the geothermal wonders that we saw, here is the list that Lily compiled (verbatim) on what we viewed in one day in Yellowstone: Bighorn sheep (mob), Grizzly bear 1x, Elk (heaps), Pronghorn Antelope (20), Bison (heaps),(3 big herds and lots of baby bison), 2 wolfs, 1 Osprey, Canada Geese (heaps)
Yellowstone is also on top of an active volcano and as a result there are stunning geothermal features throughout the park, from bubbling mud pools, to sulphur caldrons and from geysers to hot spring terraces; like those that used to be found in Rotorua. There were so many options about where to stop, stare (and try not to smell the sulphur), photograph and wander amongst. Some of the highlights were the sulphur cauldron; a yellow bubbling and steaming pool, the bubbling mud pools (see the videos we posted) and The Dragon's Mouth which roars due to the explosion of heat and gases from within the cave. Too soon we had to wind our way back towards our tent in order to cook tea and hope that Uncle Pete was going to be able to get away and join us camping. Sure enough, he showed up before 7:30 and bearing (as he put it - "the perfect things to contribute) two bags of ice and a bottle of bourbon (Tim's favorite - Maker's Mark). We had a great dinner of spinach,lemon couscous and wood roasted pork tenderloin. We all hung out and had a grand night. Tim's favorite moment was when Uncle Pete crawled into the tent to tuck in the kids and lay with them for about half an hour talking about the park, horses, being a vet and anything else that came to the kids' minds. We simply relaxed and enjoyed the time the kids got to spend with Tim's brother. It is quite clear that on the back of Pete's visit to NZ this past Christmas and the week we spent in Bozeman, that he and the kids are forming a strong bond and special relationships. Maybe when they turn 14-17 we can farm them out to Montana and Uncle Pete?!?!?!?! It was perfect day and too soon the fire had died down, the kids were sound asleep and with the cooling temperatures it was time to crawl into our sleeping bags.