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The Grand Adventure - Summer 2018 - Part Six
Grizzlies, wolves, and bison, oh my!
This was the first time we camped in Yellowstone National Park. It was an entirely new adventure for us. We envisioned crowds, huge campgrounds, more crowds; not our cup of tea. But our friends, The Teds, go to Yellowstone once or twice a year and love it. They are avid wildlife watchers. They, very kindly, invited us to join them.
Our entry into the National Park was right out of our fears. It was backed up out to West Yellowstone. We crawled along patiently.
The Teds pulled up as we were checking into Madison Campground. We had made reservations months prior for one night. This had to be the largest campground I had ever seen in my life.
We both - the Teds and us - settled into our assigned campsites and the Teds took us down for a walk along the Madison River. What a beautiful place! What a beautiful river! I thought about Lewis & Clark naming this river after James Madison - Secretary of State under Jefferson and would follow Jefferson as our fourth president.
After our time at Bannack, great great grandpa Sam was still on my mind, so I couldn't help but recall, while standing along the Madison River, that Sam - obviously a very proud American - named his oldest son, my great grand dad, James Madison, and, on top of that, named his second son James Monroe.
The walk along the river and the company of our good friends made it a wonderful afternoon. Tomorrow, Monday, the Teds would show us the ropes. Teach us how to score campsites in the small, much more intimate campgrounds that are first come, first served.
We followed Ted's lead and instructions and secured excellent adjoining campsites in Pebble Creek. We popped up our camper tops and made breakfast. On our drive along the Lamar River we saw two wolves bedded down out from a large crowd of wildlife watchers parked along the roadside. We found out later the drama that was unfolding and had the watchers' rapt attention. A bison calf was killed by a vehicle. A grizzly was trying to claim it. Ma bison and a friend were attempting to keep the bear from reaching the carcass. The wolves were patient and just waiting their turn for fresh buffalo. We weaved our way through the crowd with our truck and arrived moments later at our first bison jam. When these huge lumbering beasts feel like crossing the road they just do it, in mass. Vehicle travel comes to a halt.
After breakfast we all climbed into Ted's truck and drove across the Yellowstone River to the Tower Fall area. "You can get good ice cream here!" Ted explained as he led us through the packed parking lot where we had claimed the only open parking space. We would come to discover - at the popular areas - an open parking space was a gift from god and to be celebrated in the humblest and most devout way possible.
The Teds, along the drive, showed us osprey nests, wolf den sites, golden eagle nests, and other inside information that we are sworn to secrecy never to divulge. I am keeping my promise. The Teds also pointed out one high spot that is called "the phone booth" - a very special place. If you turn just right, you can get a cell signal that allows checking in on the daily wildlife sightings reports so you can plan where you want to be the next morning, well before sunup. On our way back from ice cream the grizzly was now on the bison carcass.
There was no parking spot .
We returned to the viewing area that evening with hopes that the grizzly and maybe wolves would return to feed on what remained of the little bison. We brought dinner along with us, set up tripods, spotting scopes, cameras, and our chairs and joined the group. What a nice group of people! Everyone pointed out what they were seeing, offered views through their equipment, and shared stories of all they had seen during their current visit to Yellowstone. It is a delightful community, these folks who so enjoy wildlife viewing in our oldest National Park. We met and talked with people from several different countries.
Alas, no grizzlies or wolves. Bison were everywhere. Young bulls practiced battle.
The old, established bull watched over what was his.
With some unknown signal, they decided it was time to cross the road.
We returned to our campsites. We sat out and swapped stories as darkness settled around us. The two resident bison bulls grazed right across the road from us. We made a note to pay attention when we got up in the middle of the night to pee.
The Teds left well before dawn Tuesday morning. They come to Yellowstone for the wildlife viewing. You need to be in place before the sun.
The Lady and I relaxed with our morning coffee and watched the boys across from our campsite.
Our plan for the day was to explore the Yellowstone backcountry on foot. We drove up the highway into Montana and started at the Warm Creek Trailhead. We'd climb up and over the high ridge and drop into the high upper meadows of Pebble Creek . We'd hike down Pebble Creek back to camp a distance of around twelve miles.
The climb was glorious and we appreciated the warm morning sun.
We started down and saw our first evidence of grizzlies, fresh claw scratch marks in the trail.
The high open meadows at the headwaters of Pebble Creek were incredible and came with a special bonus, we had not seen another person.
We were welcomed by a pair of Golden Eagles.
The vastness enveloped us. Our awareness of everything around us heightened as we moved through expanses of willows.
Fall with its new colors was already evident here in the high country.
A large bull moose moved along with us.
This hike required five fords of Pebble Creek.
At the crossing pictured above, we met a nice couple from Carbondale, Colorado. They were heading out the direction we had come, enjoying a few days of backpacking. They were the only two people we saw in the backcountry this day.
The valley slowly narrowed as it turned into a canyon.
We moved through dense forest, open meadows, willow choked riparian areas, high ridges; all touched with the colors of the coming Fall.
With one last ford of Pebble Creek, we found the Teds back at camp. Ted moved one of the boys away from his truck so we could all retrieve our truck parked up near the Northeast Entrance.
The Lady surprised me during our hike. She told me that on Wednesday, the next day, she'd really like to see some of the touristy spots. We were in Yellowstone National Park after all!
What were the Teds planning for Wednesday? After stopping at "the phone booth", Ted and Donna announced, "There's a carcass in Hayden!" They were going to Hayden Valley.
Our Yellowstone adventure will continue in the upcoming Part Two.