A Beautiful Start

Friday night  through Tuesday evening I enjoyed my first solo camping trip to Yellowstone National Park.  I had a wonderful time!

I drove through the Roosevelt Arch around 10:00 on Friday night, headed for the Indian Creek Campground, having received a kind and well-timed message from Dave Shumway that there were open campsites to be found there.  Indian Creek CG also had the advantage of being a short drive in from Gardiner and also smack dab between two promising bear areas — the territory of the grizzly sow with four cubs of the Swan Lake area and the grizzly sow with two cubs of the Norris area. I found the campground 2/3 empty (while the others in the Park were full).  I made camp in the dark under the very dim light of a sputtering Coleman lantern and climbed into the tent where I enjoyed the lullaby of romantic frogs.

Following the late night arrival I didn’t get a super early start, but early enough (around 7:30am) to enjoy morning light at Swan Lake Flats.

Beautiful Start

And if that view weren’t enough, I was also privileged with my first look of the family of five as the mama griz and her four youngsters were briefly visible before they dropped over the ridge down into Gardiner’s Hole. At 78x with Dad’s PF-100ED and variable eyepiece, I was able to enjoy a good look. The day and trip was off to a GREAT start!

After the bear family dropped out of sight I headed east toward Tower. Between Roosevelt and Rainy Lake I saw a black bear immediately next to the road. It was in a high contrast sun/shade poor light spot and there was no where to park so I continued onward and headed up Dunraven. Had I lingered there at the black bear I would have missed my next grizzly family of the day, a sow with two cubs on Dunraven Pass.


I drove through the Hayden Valley and then turned east at Fishing Bridge and went as far as Sylvan Lake before turning around to head for the Lamar Valley and then Trout Lake.

As I rounded the bend approaching the bridge over the Yellowstone River (across from ‘Wrecker’), I ran into a small collection of cars parked off the road and people with cameras and binoculars trained on the hillside to the north. The object of their attention: a fox sitting still as a statue with eyes trained on a marmot sunning itself on a flat-topped boulder. I joined the audience. After a few moments the fox made a move on the marmot. I was not surprised to see that endeavor fail. However, the fox immediately grabbed a consolation prize.

The Provider

The fox carried its Columbian ground squirrel take out across the road and down into the gulch on the other side after some misadventure with a jerk with Ontario plates who tried to prevent it from crossing the road by blocking its path with his moving vehicle, angering the fox’s audience and prompting me to shout out “Hey! Ontario! KNOCK IT OFF!!!” which earned me a finger out the window. Oh, well…

I enjoyed a pretty, but uneventful drive through the Lamar Valley to the Trout Lake trail head. I packed up the backpack with water, snacks and rain gear and headed up the trail. I planned, originally, to wait up to an hour for otters. However, I found the lake so peaceful and was adequately entertained by Audubon’s yellow-rumped warblers, tree swallows, rough-winged swallows and muskrats that I sat in the light rain and just enjoyed the peace for three and a half hours.

Coy Boy

All In A Row

Dressed For Spring Saturday Night

I was hanging out near the inlet and the ‘dining log’ from which vantage I had watched an otter fish in the area, swim alongside the log (teasing me), and have a roll and a poo about 50 yards from me. What a tease! When she did catch a fish, she ate it partially under the roots of a tree on the east bank. Between the dark clouds, the rain and the shade of that hollow, she couldn’t have picked a tougher spot for photo light. Okay, maybe she could have, but it was bad enough. ISO 1600 makes noisey photos.


After finishing her dinner, she swam across to the west shore where she slid up on a grass covered log, rubbed her belly, took a look around, then slid back into the water.


I took that as my cue to leave. I got back to the car and started my drive back west to Indian Creek. Shortly thereafter I discovered that my cell phone was missing and that checking in with family and friends for the next three days was going to be sketchy.

I arrived back at camp just before dark and enjoyed a burger and a couple beers at my campfire before turning in for the night.

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