From Bozeman, our next official stop was Colorado, and fortuitously our route took us through possibly the most awesome national park, Yellowstone. We’d both spent time here in this amazing place, but few things are as exciting as entering through the Roosevelt Arch and preparing for some inevitable wildlife encounters. Our plan was to enter through the north entrance, wind down the eastern route, and exit out the south gate, stopping along the way to gaze at animals and natural wonders. First stop was at Mammoth Springs visitor center to get the obligatory national park stamp in our dorky passport. As an added plus, the area around the visitors center was surrounded with elk grazing in the grass. The taxidermy wildlife exhibit there is fascinating, and another room held beautiful old black-and-white photos of early Yellowstone explorers. After the short visit, we moved on.
We anxiously peered out the car windows as we drove through the wilderness to our next big stop, Yellowstone Falls, seeing a few lone bison, but not much else. We parked and walked out to Artist Point, one of the best vistas to peep the tremendous waterfall, but it was getting late in the day, and the sun was lowering on the horizon just beyond the falls, obscuring the view in shadow. That was fine by us, because it made for a stunning photo anyway! Looking the opposite direction (with, rather than into, the sunlight) we marveled at the canyon walls’ dozens of layers of colorful sediments.
Back on the road, we saw a swarm of people with telescopic cameras and high-powered binoculars all looking in one direction. Our first thought: grizzly! We swung the car around and double-parked, eager to catch a glimpse. Loren asked a guy nearby, “What’s everybody looking at?” to which we learned, “Apparently there’s a wolf over there.” We took aim by lining up our telephoto lens and binoculars with somebody else’s equipment, and eventually identified a tiny black blob, laying in the grass just outside the forest, about 3/4 mile away. The usual wildlife-obsessed nerds were at full force, and we overheard one of them say, “Shh! I think it’s howling!”
Just a few minutes further down the road, we noticed one or two cars pulling over to the shoulder, so we acted fast and followed suit. We jumped out and stood watching a beautiful, calm coyote walking slowly through the tall grass, no more than 50 yards away. Wildlife... can’t beat it.
This Yellowstone drive didn’t include any bear sightings, but we managed to see several herds of buffalo, some very close up, before it was all over.
At this point, it was getting late, and we didn’t think we could get much further towards Colorado, so we decided to camp in Yellowstone for the night. We easily found a site at the southernmost campground, Lewis Lake, enjoyed an enchanting campfire, and turned in for what would be the coldest tent-camping night of the whole trip (bottoming out around 30 degrees Fahrenheit!).
The next morning, we made our way out of the park, winding through the southern stretches which were coated in thick fog. Like nowhere else.