Ah, how time passes by when life gets in the way…..I haven’t been to Yellowstone National Park since May of 1989 when I finished law school in Colorado.  That year, Jack and I drove back via Yellowstone and the May weather was  snow on the ground, and much of the park landscape was burned out trees due to a series of forest fires the year before.  Lots of elk could be observed at or near the hot springs, geysers, and meadows.  This year, there wasn’t much evidence of the fire remaining, and we saw much fewer elk.

Of the four national parks we visited (Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde), Yellowstone National Park was the most spectacular.  Hard to compete with geysers, mud pots, and fumerols.   The park was established by Congress in 1872  and is considered to be the first national park in the WORLD.  Beauty everywhere.

But first, we stayed the night at a Forest Service campground on the west side of Yellowstone.  We hadn’t made any campground reservations for the park (possible oversight on our part), but they do have some first-come, first-serve campgrounds available.  But more on that in a moment.

The Forest Service campground was small and we lucked out by getting a site along the lake.  The lake was a popular spot for Canada Geese, with an American White Pelican thrown in for contrast.  The campground had some good birds too, including several Yellow Warblers with young.  On the way into the campground we spotted a Sandhill Crane pair.   We’ve been surprised at how many Sandhill Cranes we’ve seen on our trip.


We spotted this Swainson’s Hawk on a post on the way into the campground.


Watched this Yellow Warbler feeding a hatchling.

We left the Forest Service campground early the next day so we could drive to the Norris Campground in the park (one of those first come, first serve campgrounds) to try our luck at getting a spot for the night.  A few others had the same idea.  We came up empty handed, but was able to jettison (Thanks NPS) most of our recycling – including plastics 1-7.  We were impressed.  The campground was built on a hillside and good for tents or if you liked sleeping on a slope, but since we don’t we weren’t too heartbroken at not having found a spot for the night.

So undeterred by no place to sleep, we headed off to see the sights  and what beautiful and fascinating sights we did see – one has to imagine the beauty of solitude since we shared the park with about 10,000 other people too, or so it seemed.  This is one popular park.


The park

Our first stop was the Artists Paintpots:


One of the pots


A bird’s eye view


White-crowned Sparrows could be found foraging near the paintpots. We also saw a Spotted Sandpiper on the boardwalk going to the paintpots.

Our next stop was Gibbons Falls.  Jack loves waterfalls so we made a quick stop here and hiked a short distance for a good view of the falls.


Gibbon Falls


Jack at the falls


Me too

We then drove on to Fountain Paintpot – part of the Lower Geyser Basin.



One of the hot spring pools


The masses


Chipping Sparrow just off the trail.



Grand Prismatic Spring was pretty impressive:


Loved the textures, patterns, and colors


Lone Bison keeping watch


Hot, hot hot


Lots of people seeing the same sense of wonder

Of all the places we visited in Yellowstone National Park the one I like the best is Biscuit Basin.  Such variety, a bountiful number of colors and textures.

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Next stop – Old Faithful.  Now when we talk the masses Old Faithful viewing takes the cake.  We think the parking lot holds at least 1000 cars and we had to circle a couple times to find a spot.  We then waited about a hour for the next eruption.


Visitors waiting for Old Faithful eruption – and this was not all of them.


This pool was ‘cool’ (or rather hot) in that the crust hung over the pool several inches. Wouldn’t want to step on it.


A false eruption or maybe a precursor to the big event.


There she blows….

I think it took us longer to exit the Old Faithful parking lot than to find a parking spot.  Crazy busy at Old Faithful.  We then drove on to Canyon Village.  Needed to check out the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  Along the way we stopped to view a large herd of plains bison along the Yellowstone River.  This too is a favorite area.  I love the open plains and rolling hills.  A sight to behold.  Apparently a good area to spot wolves as people were there with spotting scopes.


Yellowstone River Valley – ah I could just stare at this scene for hours


Plains Bison

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is beautiful, but does not rival “The Grand Canyon”.  We did hike along the rim to get better views of the Canyon.


Yellowstone River coursing its way through the Canyon


Grand Canyon Falls


Can you spot the Osprey nest?


How about now?


Osprey on the nest. You can see two small hatchlings to the left of the parent.


On the way out of the park via the eastern entrance we had to go by the bison herd again, only this time the herd was trying to cross the road at a leisurely pace.  What do you get when the bison crosses the road?  A traffic jam.


Everyone wants to stop and get a photo. Some people (idiots) get out of their cars and approach the Bison to get better photos.


Luckily while we are waiting for the traffic there were some spots with ponds near the road and we could observe waterfowl.

We spent the night at a forest service campground just outside the park.  We were happy to be able to find a spot to spend the night.  When I woke up in the morning I saw an interesting camper in the adjacent campsite- it certainly met the campground rule.  The campground only allows ‘hard-sided’ campers – no tents or pop up trailers due to bear problems.


Homemade Camper


Love the campsite signs. Do you think there are bear sightings in this campground?


There was a Western Tanager family near our campsite. The parents were busy feeding at least one hatchling.

The next day we broke camp and headed south toward Colorado via Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge encountering some interesting wildlife along the way, including a couple of moose that made us do a double take as they were nearly black in color unlike the tawny Alaska moose that wander through our yard .


Small lake outside Cody Wyoming. There were several American Avocets and at least a hundred Wilson’s Phalaropes on the shoreline.


Wilson’s Phalarope


American Avocet – my favorite shorebird


Wyoming Moose – note the color


Greater Sandhill Crane


Mountain Bluebird


Lots of Pronghorn in Wyoming (and Colorado)


Sage Thrasher


Love this sign. Maybe we should have something similar for moose.


Progressive Wyoming


Male Brewer’s Blackbird

Next stop – Rocky Mountain National Park.  Until then – It’s A Great Day to Bird