Yellowstone: Day Six – The Last Day

Posted by on October 31, 2011

Day six… our last day here before leaving.

The day started out by resting.  Yesterday wore us (as my daughter would say) “smooth out”.  We took our time getting up and then roamed Gardiner to do the requisite t-shirt shopping!  Gotta get the kids and grandkids all taken care of.  I wasn’t going to get one, but then I saw one that said “The mountains are calling and I must go. – John Muir” and had to have it.  It expressed my feelings very well.

So, once we got that all taken care of, and then shipped the box of t-shirts home because our bags were already full, we headed back into the park for one final day.  We decided to give the Lamar Valley one final shot before calling it a day.

As usual, we entered the park and went to Mammoth, where the elk were lounging around being the center of attention.  I love how this one was lying right next to the sign saying “Danger! Do not approach ELK” as if to say, “I dare you.”  The people were being good though and kept the distance.  No “tourons” (tourist/moron) out today.

Turning east from Mammoth, it didn’t take long for us to find yet another bison herd.  They decided they needed to cross the street in front of us, and since in the national park the wildlife has the right of way, we stopped and waited for them to pass.  Besides, they really are beautiful creatures even if they are abundant here.

Further down the road, we caught a view of a couple of them who weren’t really getting along all that well at the moment.  They were kicking up dust and pushing each other around with their heads.  We watched for a while, but then they grew tired and just walked off together.  Maybe it was just an exhibition match for our enjoyment!

As we made it to the Lamar Valley, it became very overcast and rainy.  We stopped at the footbridge pullout to watch for wildlife, and I promptly fell asleep.  It was so peaceful, and with the sound of the light rain on the hood of the car, the next thing I knew I woke myself up snoring.  I turned to Karen and ask how long I had been out.  She said, “about 20 minutes.”  That was a very peaceful 20 minutes, let me tell you.

So not seeing any wildlife, we started up the car and began to make our way back.  We saw a few wolf-watchers sitting up on the hill near the confluence, but when we looked out over the valley we couldn’t see anything.  I later read that the pack was way out in the distance feeding on a recent kill, but they were way out beyond the reach of cameras.

Continuing back, I spotted this scene off in the distance and decided to pull over.  It reminded me of an old western painting of a frontier landscape with the bison crossing the river and the others up above the cliff.  Again, a very peaceful scene to add to the day.

If nothing else, this was certainly bison day.  As I approached a blind curve, a small gathering of bison decided they needed to go around the curve in my lane.  So, I let them.  They moved very slowly with me, and now 5 other vehicles behind, followed.  Once around the curve, they turned off on another road and allowed the rest of us to continue on.

I wanted to take one more pass over the Blacktail Plateau trail, hoping for one last glimpse of something exciting.  While there were no big mammals to be seen, I did catch a glimpse of this mountain bluebird.  He caught me by surprise so much that I didn’t really get a chance to focus on him before he flew off.  But one more bird to add to my list that I have seen.

Making it back to Mammoth, the elk are still the stars of the show.  You can expect to find them pretty much any time, and they are always happy to pose for your photographs.  Nothing like shooting wildlife “in town.”

And then, the saddest shot of all.  Our last sight of the “Leaving Yellowstone” sign.  It has been a wonderful trip and one we won’t soon forget.  Especially with the abundance of photos that we took.

God created some wonderful things for us to enjoy in this world and I can’t wait to see what He shows us next!   Until then, keep the batteries in those cameras charged.  You never know when a photographic opportunity will present itself to you!

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