A Grand Grizzly Day

On Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, I suggested that since the kids’ trip to Old Faithful with Mom and Laura the previous day had been aborted due to snow/slush/rain, I’d take the kids and make it a hydrothermal feature day including West Thumb, Old Faithful, Black Sand Basin and Firehole Lake Drive. I also planned to get Elisha and Reannan started on their Junior Ranger bear badge and Bridger started on his Junior Ranger wolf badge. Laura joined me on this mission. We got a late start into the Park after rearranging which van had which food and gear.

We headed south from Mammoth on the lookout for the griz with four cubs that had been in the area between the Hoodoos and Sheepeater Cliffs. Near miss, I’m guessing from the traffic jam in that area. Foiled again. Ah, well…

When we got to the area near the Museum of the National Park Ranger I thought we’d had another near miss. However, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that this time our timing was just right.

Marching in Sync

The kids enjoyed that trio almost as much as I did. 4GB of photos later we continued south and turned east at Norris Junction. Passing through the Hayden Valley I stopped at an overlook to see what the people set up with scopes there were looking at. Sleeping griz. Not terribly exciting but it added another griz to the day’s tally. One of the guys I visited with there during that brief stop said there’d been a griz around Steamboat Point earlier in the day.

When we got to Fishing Bridge I wrestled with indecision. That detour would take enough time that we’d be short for hitting all the thermal areas I had in mind for that day. I couldn’t resist. Good call. We enjoyed this griz for another 4GB worth of photos, sometimes as close as 25 yards from the car. The kids don’t get very excited about binocular or scope bears but bears they can actually see well with the naked eye are another matter! That brought our griz count of the day to five.

Kickin' Back

Time now being a bit short, we skipped West Thumb and proceeded directly to the Upper Geyser Basin with fingers crossed for good timing and a short wait for Old Faithful. Predicted eruption was about 40 minutes away. Laura and the kids decided to hit the OFI gift store while I went to check out Castle Geyser. I visited with a guy there who told me that Grand Geyser was at the end of its predicted eruption period. Luck had been so good thus far that day and I have, despite all my trips to Yellowstone, never had the right timing to catch a Grand eruption. Over to Grand I went and waited, and was rewarded.

Grand Geyser

Given the lateness of the day, we decided to skip Black Sand Basin. We did take Firehole Lake Drive as we headed back north to Gardiner. A bit north of Tuff Cliffs there were a few cars pulled over and people looking across the Gibbon River. The people there, an Indian family, told me a black bear had disappeared into the trees. We proceeded slowly north with eyes peeled. I spotted the bear. Black bear my butt! It was a very dark griz, but a griz nonetheless, as was apparent to me when I first spotted it, with half of it concealed by a tree. The half I could see was the rear half but clearly too big to be a black bear. When it emerged Bridger agreed with me (nice to have a 9 year old agree!). Griz. Our sixth of the day, and another “naked eye bear,” prompting Bridger to declare “We are grizzly stinkin’ rich!” I couldn’t agree more!

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