Already there…

South EntranceThe drive to Yellowstone National Park from Lizard Creek campground was over before I knew it and the unknown little critter in back of the truck didn’t have time to catch any sleep or eat more Reese’s. (See Grand Teton post.) Yellowstone is the first national park in the world created in 1872. Putting land aside to preserve national treasures is important, but I’m torn with the loss of land the Native American tribes of the Shoshone, Bannock, Nez Perce, Flathead, Crow, Blackfoot, and Cheyenne called home. As protocol I went to the visitor’s center, collected maps and spoke with  Grazing Bisonrangers to make the best use of my time in the park. You could stay for weeks or months since the 3,500 square mile park has countless different areas to explore with varying landscapes and attractions including wildlife, geysers, hot springs, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake and plenty more. Next time I’m bringing my fishing gear!

Courtesy of the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery CenterChoosing Madison campground in the northwest location of the park placed me in areas of personal interest. After setting camp I actually made my way out of the park to visit the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana since I have a passion for wolves. The wolf is an animal that keeps coming into my life without physically being present since it’s no longer a native species in New England. They’ve come as different types of gifts without asking or telling Mexican Grey Wolf-hybrid Saxonof my interest. Seeing them for the first time in the center touched my soul with their great presence. The only wolf I’ve been in contact with was a Mexican Gray Wolf-hybrid, Saxon, from the SOLO Wilderness Medicine School who moved with a purpose and unfortunately passed a few years ago. There are two wolf  packs at the center that could not survive in the wild after being bred in captivity. Not being many visitors I had uninterrupted time to observe them resting, playing and feeding. Watching the hierarchy is an incredible site and I Wolves at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Centerrecommend the documentary Wolves filmed in Yellowstone to understand their family and community structure. They are the most amazing animal I’ve watched because the way the pack “works”. I did spend time watching the grizzlies as I find bears entertaining and they sure were at feeding time. Feeling very content by closing time of the center I returned to the park to end a great day.

Old FaithfulI covered many miles the following day waking early driving to geysers and hot springs and of course seeing Old Faithful. The morning mood was eerie with a foggy sunrise from steam rising from hot springs with the morning sun giving the steam an orange glow. The ground in these areas was warm to hot with times of a light sulfur smell and my surprise was the clarity of the spring water. I waited patiently to see Old Faithful erupt which she does every 91 minutes, but after doing this millions of times I think she was a little tired for the morning effort. After a walk around the area Hot Spring to see the many springs and geysers I went to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The yellowish, whitish cliffs were different than I’ve seen at the White Cliffs of Dover in England. Yellowstone River carved its way through the canyon and the geothermal activity caused the colorful tint. Beautiful as it was I thought one day I’ll make it the real Grand Canyon! After lunch (some of you knowing myNortheastern Mountains staple of Ramen noodles and tuna) I drove to the northeastern entrance of the park seeing a combination of plains and mountains, passing pronghorn and bison as I reached the exit. Viewing open areas with a few hundred bison provided images of what the landscape looked like when over 50 million roamed the prairies. U.S. Dept. of Wildlife Rick Wilcox, Head of the wolf project in YellowstoneNoticing a crowd on a hillside when returning to camp I pulled over to see what the commotion was. People with spotting scopes were viewing wolves and I met Rick McIntyre, a wildlife-biology Ph.D. who heads the Yellowstone Wolf Project and a contributor to the first book on wolves I’ve read, The Company of Wolves. We had a short conversation and with daylight waning he invited me to return the next morning when wolves would be more active. I gladly accepted.

Up Close BisonHeading to the spotting site predawn I wasn’t expecting traffic caused by roaming bison. At a hefty 2,000 lbs. and unpredictable bison can use their head as a battering ram making for an interesting story to tell your insurance agent. By no choice I “let” Black, grey Wolfthem roam and slowly drove by. A half dozen early risers from within and outside the park go to this location to spot the Junction Butte wolf pack. The newly met friends offered their scopes and seeing a black wolf, a color variant of the gray wolf, for the first time was a special sight. Pictures through the scope were the best that could be done at the ½ mile distance with my camera and decided to post one for your viewing. Just as special was seeing a grizzly enter the field the Camp Mascotwolf pack was in. The two species went about their business like passing acquaintances which was an exciting moment to witness what could transpire. I stayed until noon returning to break camp chatting with the campground hosts who made suggestions for places to visit while traveling to Montana and South Dakota. Their recommendations were The Black Hills, Devils Tower and Badlands, two of which I visited during near future travels (and writing about in upcoming posts). For now I was making my out of the park into Gardiner, Montana to have a fresh cup of coffee for the journey to Bozeman, Montana, a place I’ve heard much about.

Up next, Montana mountains and a Belgian treat….

– Greg

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.” – Rudyard Kipling

Native American thoughts and words on the wolf:

Learning wisdom, Instinct Linked with Intelligence, Social and Family Values, Outwitting, Steadfastness, Skill in Protection of Self and Family, Taking Advantage of Change, Intuition, Guardianship, Ritual, Loyalty, Pathfinder, Psychic Energy, Teacher, Careful Study, Cunning, Ability to Pass by Dangers Invisibly, Spiritual Guidance in Dreams and Meditations, Success, Perseverance, Stability

Please consider the Adopt a Wolf Program from the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center.

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