We are very fortunate to live only two hours away from the oldest national park in the United States. Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872. Richard and I have been married for 15 years, and our goal is to visit the park twice a year, in the summer and fall or winter. We’ve been snowmobiling in the winter, which is an entirely unique experience compared to driving through the park the rest of the year.
The majority of the time, we enter the park
through the North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana. Gardiner is where President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone for the Roosevelt Arch. At the top of the arch is inscribed “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.” And I am so very appreciative; we just love Yellowstone.
One Saturday morning late in June this year, Richard woke me and asked if I wanted to go. “Sure,” I said. It would be our first trip of the year, the weather was cool, and I knew it would be a pleasant drive. Seriously, the entire drive from Billings to Yellowstone is spectacular – landscape like you’ve never seen. It’s big, wide open, bright blue skies, mountains, rivers, fields. And there are different routes to get to Gardiner, so the vistas change depending on which route we choose and they can be dramatic. I never tire of the trip. With our dog, Auggie, in tow, off we went.
Even though the drive through Yellowstone remains the same, there are always new surprises. Spring flowers were in bloom. But the most special part of this trip was the number of baby animals we saw. There are always sightings of animals, most often buffalo, but I’ve never encountered a group of big horn sheep. These were on a hillside just before Mammoth Hot Springs. I’m posting quite a few pictures of the sheep, just because it was so unusual to come across them. I sighted a male once, on my first Yellowstone visit as we were leaving the park, but not again.
Big horn sheep in the Rockies give birth to their young between February and April. I guessed these lambs were fairly young, because they we just beginning to grow their horns, but all were pretty sure footed. Ewes have straight horns, usually between eight and ten inches in length. The males have those beautiful curved horns.
If you ever come to Yellowstone or have been here, the sure sign of animal sightings is the traffic jam that quickly forms. Most of the time, the animals are in full view, like this buffalo with her calves. They were grazing on the grassy side of turn off by the Firehole River. I jumped out of the van and started taking pictures. I moved in closer and closer, until an onlooker warned me that I was getting too close. “What on earth is he talking about?” I thought. Then I took the camera away from my face just as the Momma buffalo was moving around between me and her baby, her eyes giving me that look. OK – guess I was a little close . . .
We figured these two calves weren’t from the same mother, because one is visibly larger than the other. The calf on the left was having a little trouble on its feet, so we’re thinking it is pretty young.
This picture demonstrates perspective – how big you can see. Yellowstone is 3500 square miles, and this is one section looking into the park from south of Mammoth Hot Springs. Now, you know that bridge in the center of the picture is huge – look at how far you can see off into the distance!
Our trip was a lesson in contrasts. Look to the north and all you can see are clear blue skies. Look to the southwest and there are storm clouds and rain.
Can you see the elk hiding in between the trees? Elk are very big, and fast on their feet, so I stayed back.
We only covered half the park that day – begrudgingly we left for home after an eight-hour visit. Richard and I plan to return in the fall when the elk begin to “bugle” during mating season.
I understand it’s quite a sound.
Of course, we did visit Old Faithful. I have some pictures to post later, hopefully, a video made from stills that I took from the beginning to the end of the show.