12 September 2018, Gardiner (Montana) to Canyon Village, Yellowstone Park (Wyoming): 63 miles
The day starts well: even before we leave Gardiner we see a female mule deer grazing on a tiny patch of vegetation by the side of the road, outside the little supermarket. She’s totally unconcerned by passing cars and ogling tourists, understanding instinctively that she’s safe here, in a town that owes its prosperity (and probably its continued existence) to wildlife watching.
The queues to get into the Park are surprisingly long considering we are right at the end of the ‘season,’ and Yellowstone will be pretty much closed down for the winter by the end of the month. It seems busier than ever before.
We enter the Park and are confronted by a road sign urging us to watch out for wildlife on the road. You bet we will!
Within an hour of entering the Park we’ve seen distant views of Bighorn sheep and Pronghorn, and enjoy watching elk trotting through the little village of Mammoth Springs and lounging on the lawns. It’s very crowded here so we move on quickly, but we’ll come back in a day or two to check out in more detail the elk who call this place home.
We spend the day slowly making our way towards our lodgings, and the animal sightings just get better and better. A huge male bison takes a long slow drink from a nearby pool, then wanders past our car, just feet away. He crosses the road, causing chaos as cars skid to a halt and tourists make a grab for their cameras. Meanwhile a small herd of bison loafs around in the distance, and a group of pronghorn also pass close by, the male busily herding his lady friends in front of him.
Birds are all around us. Bluebirds flit from tree to tree, massive ravens strut their stuff and a Swainson’s hawk soars above us.
The wildlife is brilliant, but Yellowstone is more than just the wildlife. The geothermal features at Mammoth Hot Springs are fascinating, the mountains majestic, the rivers wild, the colours evocative.
We’ve been here five times before, its clear that Yellowstone is as magical as ever. It’s good to be back.