Thursday, July 30, 2009

Upper Loop

Huge bison with some grass stuck in his mouth. And yes, definitely HIS.For our last full day in Yellowstone we had several objectives — see Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Falls and as many animals as possible. We also wanted to collect the remaining stamps.

Alena on one of the flower covered hills.Our first stop was Canyon Visitor Center. We discovered that we passed the canyon itself a while back, but since we would have to take the same route home we decided to proceed to Tower Falls. The road there passed through some of the highest mountains we had to go through in the park and all Tower Falls.the hills were covered in a thick layer of flowers of different kinds and colors.

The falls themselves were nice, but it was hard to impress us at this point after we’ve seen all the stuff that Yellowstone is really famous for. The part of the canyon here was pretty deep, but again, it got nothing on the actual Grand Canyon.

Next point on the map was Lamar Valley. We were told that it would be the best place to spot animals and it was also a location of hard to find stamp. Of course we wanted to see bears more than anything. Yellowstone, after all, is home to black and grizzly bears. Second on our list was a moose, then wolfs and coyotes and we have seen several bison by now.

Small potion of a large bison herd.What we didn’t expect was to see huge fields filled with bison. Big and small, young and old. Huge herds roam the lands of Yellowstone. We also managed to spot several more pronghorn antelopes, and we saw a bull elk with huge horns hiding in the forest behind the trees. But alas, no bears.

Deer chilling near Mammoth Hot Springs Visitor Center.Our next destination was Mammoth Hot Springs. On our way there we encountered massive traffic. This usually is a sign of construction or an animal sighting. Seeing people running around and looking into the mountains I decided that I need to join the “search” party.

I saw one guy pointing into the distance, but I couldn’t see anything. I started using my 200mm lens that I had on the camera as a telescope and what do I see? Two round brown ears sticking out from behind an old thump. Could it be?

An awesome black bear of brown color. Don't ask.And right after that our fuzzy brown friend decided to come out. I started yelling for Alena and Eldar to drop everything and come see. It was a real wild bear roaming in the forest and paying absolutely no attention to all the people and their cars. We took several million shots and got back into the car. Our level of excitement was over the top. We were simply ecstatic.

At Mammoth Hot Springs Visitor Center we showed the pictures to a ranger and she told us that it was a black bear and taught us to tell the difference. Grizzlies have a noticeable hump on their back, smaller ears and are more uniform in color.

Mammoth Hot Springs.Then we drove up to the upper trail of Mammoth Hot Springs and took a short hike. Surprisingly (we thought we saw everything) we did end up liking the formation. Sadly our pictures didn’t capture the beauty of it.

And that was it for the main objectives. We arrived too late to Norris to get our last 2 stamps, but we had plenty already, so it was not important.

Roaring Mountain is so hot that nothing grows on it.On our way back we stopped by Roaring Mountain — apparently an extremely hot mountain which nothing can grow on and it produces a hissing sound from all the vents that are located on it.

Canyon by Tower Falls.We did stop by a canyon on our way back and saw 2 pretty big waterfalls, but we were tired for any hiking and the sun light was coming right from behind the falls, which pretty much guarantees bad shots.

River goes in loops.We also saw a lot of beautiful landscapes and again got stuck on our way back because of another huge herd of bison chilling on the side of the road. Naturally massive traffic formed.

The day was over. We managed to get to our hotel 10 minutes before the restaurant closure, ate our dinner and took off to beds. This was our last night at Shoshone Lodge and the next day we set out to Grand Teton National Park.
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