Yellowstone Trip Reports
In September 1998 I visited Yellowstone National Park for the first time and have returned every year since. A few years later, my husband Tim Springer joined me, and we began posting our trip reports and photographs of the Park’s abundant wildlife and natural wonders.
Previous trip reports from May 2004 through May 2016 can be found at Yellowstone Experiences ->.
Yellowstone is gradually settling into fall. As the light changes and the temperature falls, mountain slopes and valleys slowly turn golden even as snow dusts the peaks of the Absaroka range. The Junction Butte Pack has moved into Lamar Valley.
There is still light over the mountains and a dusting of snow shines in the fading light. It is almost 10 p.m. I took a brief walk after dinner, gazing up at the tall lodge pines and the crescent moon. Soda Butte Creek rushes past our little cabin. When we arrived yesterday, it began to snow; fat, wet flakes that quickly melted on the deck and under the pines.
The grass has turned golden. Spring accented by vibrant wildflowers has faded, but its muted colors are a striking contrast against the deep green of fir trees. October begins tomorrow, but the aspen here are still undergoing their metamorphosis to fiery yellow. Their leaves shimmer in the sunlight.
The Yellowstone River is running high and fast and muddy with snowmelt and the Bridger Mountains are still capped with snow. A few river rafts filled with brave souls bob up and down in the rushing water. A golden eagle flaps his wings high above Dome Mountain Ranch.
Yesterday, the first day of fall, it snowed 14 inches in the northern range of Yellowstone. We expected cold weather and snow, but not a foot or more. The road from Mammoth to Norris was closed and though Dunraven Pass was reopened, it could easily be closed again by another snow shower. If we drove to Gardiner and couldn’t get over the pass to Canyon where we are staying, we would wind up going back around anyway.
The Junction Butte Pack has moved to Lamar Valley. Seven wolves, five black and two grays, including 907F, were bedded in the sage on the south side of Lamar River. Earlier this morning they tested bison, no doubt looking for calves, weaving in and out of the sage, or lying bedded, still watching the bison.
When Congress passed a law in February 2010 that allowed firearms to be carried into national parks, I worried about the impact that would have on Yellowstone’s wildlife.
Yellowstone is having a cold winter. Snow is everywhere - deep snow, with moose and elk up to their bellies in pure white powder. Floating Island Lake is frozen solid allowing bison to walk across without falling in. The thermometer dives below zero daily, reaching -40 at least once. We should have guessed it would be like this during that first week of October, a time the Park usually basks in Indian summer. Instead temperatures rarely rose above 45 and it rained and/or snowed each day until one drizzly day slid into the next snowy one. In the end it was one cold, wet week.
It’s raining; a cold rain that drenches you in minutes and suddenly stops. We are holed up in the map room in the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, sitting at a table at the far end of the room watching passing traffic – human and ungulate – from the floor to ceiling window. This morning it was almost clear as we drove across the Gardiner Bridge, passing a bald eagle perched on a rock, looking for his next meal. The road curves through forests of leafed-out aspen, cottonwoods, and pine trees. A black bear ambles across a clearing in the woods near Lava Creek. Not far down the road, two young bull elk, their antlers still covered in velvet, bed in tall grass on the steep slopes.
Leaving Bozeman, deep green conifers spread across rolling hills and mountains. Aspen and cottonwoods have peaked, their brilliant gold leaves fading. Muted yellows, reds and greens blend forming Yellowstone’s autumn. A large herd of elk graze the pastures of Paradise Valley while not far down the road, antelope forage in grass. Their migration out of the Park has begun.
Just around the bend from Yankee Jim Canyon a chubby black and white border collie perches on top of a tall round boulder, a sentry greeting an SUV at the gate. Horses graze in pastures far from the road: paints, duns, blacks, grey, sun bleached to almost white.
We have a large number of other trip reports on our website Yellowstone Experiences. Reports on trips to Yellowstone, Glacier, Olympic, and Jasper Parks with discussion about hiking, wildlife viewing and helpful tips to make visits to the parks more enjoyable.