Male bison walking next to a gravel dirt road in Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – American Road Trip (pt20)

Sept 4-6, 2015.     Days 26-28 of my American Road Trip.

 

I’ve seen some amazing places in my life, but Yellowstone takes the prize.  Especially my up close encounter with the most chill bison in Yellowstone, Earl.  The park is an amazing mix of wildlife, beautiful landscapes, and geographic wonders.  Most people probably already know this, but I didn’t before I stopped for a couple of days. Now I’m a true believer and can’t wait to go back.

The pictures of my first two hours in the park shows why Yellowstone is so amazing. (Sorry Dan)

6:44 am – Elk grazing along the road at the North Entrance.
7:09 am – Herd of elk grazing in a field.
7:15 am – Big boy elk sauntering across the road.  Not a worry in the world.
7:18 am – First bison (buffalo) encounter.
7:47 am – First Earl encounter, most chill bison in Yellowstone.
8:35 am – Another solo roadside bison with a herd in the background.  The roadside grass must be the best.

 

In less than two hours, I had encountered enough wildlife scenes and animals to make my Yellowstone visit successful.  Maybe this is normal, but I thought I hit the animal jackpot early.  And I had another two days to go.  I honestly couldn’t believe all the animals I Forest Gump’d upon the first two hours.  It was like I’d called ahead and made an appointment.

Earl, the friendly bison, was by far the coolest animal encounter I had on my whole trip and probably my whole life.  An icon of the American West walked up next to my car and just sauntered down the road eating and allowing me to follow along like a small child following Santa Claus.  Surreal.

And I have no idea where the name Earl came from.  I just randomly named him when I posted it on Instagram/Facebook during my trip.  I like it, so it stays.

 

 

I put more Earl videos at the end of the post for those just as intrigued by these animals as I am. For now, I’ll just add one video.

 

 

National Parks have never interested me.  For some reason, I always associated them with camping and long boring weekends.  I have plenty of friends that have gone and loved them but I never got the spark until Yellowstone, Grand Teton and my national park run through Utah.  Wow, what a life changer seeing these amazing U.S. National Parks and especially the beautiful animals in their natural habitat.


Now back to the American Road Trip story.

 

After my Glacier National Park visit, I drove down to Gardiner, Montana and the North Entrance to Yellowstone.  I arrived late in the afternoon to the scenes below.

 

 

The next day I was up early and headed into the park before the sun came up. In addition to seeing all the animals above in my first two hours, I stopped and saw Mammoth Hot Springs.  I can distinctly remember the sulfur smell just looking at the picture.

 

 

Yellowstone’s road system is shaped like a large figure “8” with the North Entrance obviously at the top. After Mammoth Hot Springs, I decided to hit the eastern part of the 8 on day one and the western part day two.

So, I made my way east towards the Grand Canyon of The Yellowstone and stopped by the Tower Fall waterfall along the way.  Tower Fall was nice, but Lower Falls definitely won the waterfall prize.  The video below just doesn’t show the enormity of it.

 

 

After the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, I made my way toward the bottom of the, 8 and eventually swung west to see the Old Faithful geyser.  Along the way, I managed to see more bison.  Like everyone else, I just had to stop, gawk and take pictures.

 

 

The drive through the southern portion of the park was very pleasant and relaxing.   I arrived at Old Faithful in the early afternoon along with the masses.  And I believe I managed to take the worst picture of Old Faithful on the interwebs.  Just Old Faithful steaming…

But after fighting all the people to park and grab something to eat, I just didn’t have it in me to wait 40 minutes for the next eruption.  After Old Faithful, I threw in the towel for the day and headed back to my lodge in Gardiner.

 

 

One very cool thing that I saw on the way out of the park was all the elk grazing in and around the offices and lodges in Mammoth Hot Springs.  In the morning and evening, they come out to graze.  And chill.  And people watch.  Very cool sight to see.

 

 

Day one at Yellowstone was definitely animal day.  Day two ended up being the geological day with all the geysers, hot springs, mud pits, etc.  I worked my way through the western half of the park, or at least the parts that didn’t have a half mile long line to get into the parking lots.  I skipped those.

 

 

By far, the Silex Springs in the Lower Geyser Basin was the most intriguing geological part of the park for me.  Not as cool as Earl, but close.

 

 

The landscapes and geological sites throughout the park were also an eye opener for me since I didn’t know much about Yellowstone going in.  I missed many of the more famous spots because there were just too many people.  I was ok with that as I was much more interested watching the animals.  To each their own.

I ended my time in Yellowstone parked just watching a herd of bison as well as one bison rolling around in the dirt, just like a dog.  Hard to see in the picture but very entertaining to see in person.

 


Rogers Yellowstone Advice

Now that you’ve seen the pictures, I’ll give you some semi-grumpy old man advice.

  • Avoid holiday weekends if you can.  Unless you really like sitting in traffic, waiting for parking and my favorite, a large number of people only interested in themselves.
  • If you want to see animals, get into the park before the sun comes up.  The animals most active periods are early morning and late evening feeding/grazing.
  • If you want to enjoy the park before massive crowds arrive, get in the park before sunrise (noticing a theme?).
  • Bear Spray: get it if you plan on spending any time on trails, hiking or picnicking.  I didn’t know it existed until I visited Glacier National Park.
  • DON’T RUN UP TO WILD ANIMALS.  This sounds common but the things I saw grown people doing near 500+ lb (225kg) elk and 200+ lb (90kg) black bears during my national park visits was truly amazing.  The giddy factor goes from 0 to 100 in a heartbeat and people put themselves in very unsafe situations so they can get a picture or selfie.  The signs are posted for a reason.  SEE PICTURE BELOW.  It was my Darwin pic of the trip.

 

Two women stand 100 yards past a sign that says the area is closed due to bear management.

Darwin picture. Two women standing in the closed area with many signs warning them not to enter.

 

Thanks for reading. And sorry for the delay in between posts.  Computer problems are a little harder to take care of in Italy than the U.S.  I’m back up and running now and will get this American Road Show finished soon enough.

-Chris

Last Stop: Glacier National Park, Montana  
Next stop:  Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming