Friday, July 4, 2014 Happy Birthday, America!! It was a beautiful sunny morning on this 4th of July. The temp is climbing into the 90’s today and it will be great. We were making another road trip into Yellowstone and left by 9:00 with our lunch packed. The road we planned on taking today takes you through the middle of the park from Tower-Roosevelt to Canyon Village. I just call it the “Wildlife and Waterfall Road”. The park newpaper has come in very handy so far, as well as a magazine called Yellowstone Journal that we got at a KOA campground. Both explain where to see wildlife and today we hit the jackpot! Just outside the city of Gardiner, we saw an elk near the highway.
From a distance, the Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance to the park really stands out against the landscape. It looms high above everything else.
As we passed through Gardiner, the cowboy statue in town was holding an American flag. How appropriate for the 4th of July!
More elk were seen grazing on the high school football field.
Traffic was busy at the entrance to the park where everyone wants their picture taken at the sign. Today the sign that designates the 45th parallel–1/2 way between the North Pole and the Equator–was free of tourists. I could finally get my picture.
Passing through Mammoth Hot Springs, the elk herd had moved to a new location, but we were able to find them. They seem to hang around Mammoth Hot Springs every day.
Today the highway took us across a narrow 2-lane over the Gardner River. It was a little scary to look down and there was no shoulder along the side of the road.
Along this road are many falls and the first one we stopped at was Undine Falls. It was a 3 ledge cascading falls where the Gardner River blends with Lava Creek.
We saw many buffalo today–by the side of the road, bedded down on the hillsides, and even one in front of our truck in the parking lot when we returned from a hike.
Bob suggested we take a side dirt road off the main highway in hopes of seeing some wildlife. It was Blacktail Plateau Drive and is a one lane, one-way road for good reason.
We didn’t see a ton of wildlife, but enough to make it interesting and the road took us through a very scenic area !
We saw this lone antelope on a hillside. The hillsides were covered in sagebrush and wildflowers. Just beautiful!
We caught up to these guys who were seriously on the lookout for wildlife.
The road took us through open meadows, pine forests, and above the tree line.
Bob called this hillside the “telephone pole graveyard”.
There were more buffalo and beautiful rock formations.
It was about 6 miles of very interesting terrain. Once it brought us back to the main highway, our next stop was to see the Petrified Tree.
From there, we made a stop to take the short walk to see Tower Fall (132 ft.)
It was a busy place due to the campground and restaurant nearby. The view of the canyon was spectacular!
The road was cut through this amazing rock.
We came upon a large congested area only to discover everyone had stopped to view a mama black bear and her 2 cubs. One cub was a light brown color and the other was darker. They were so cute. They were very close to the side of the road.
The Rangers were directing traffic in case mama bear decided to cross the road and they wanted to protect the bears and keep the people back. We were lucky to see the bears. The road climbed into the mountains and we could see snow on top of Mt. Washburn (10,243 ft.)
There was still snow in the upper elevations along the road.
We seemed to find buffalo just hanging out in the meadows.
We finally reached Canyon Village where we followed the road to “The Brink of the Upper Falls.” This and the Lower Falls are what we had come for.
The Upper Falls cascades 109 ft. to the canyon floor and rejoins the Yellowstone River.
The roar of the thousands of gallons of water plummeting over the rocks was deafening. The next stop was the Lower Falls–380 ft. of sheer awesomeness! We took the 3/4 mile walk down at least 20 switchbacks to the top of the falls and stood at the top of the falls.
Looking across the canyon, we could see the descending staircase as part of the South Rim Trail.
We did that hike the last time we were here, but not this time. There was so much water going over the cliff. All we could say was “WOW”!
This river has so much power as it cuts its way through the canyon wall. When we got back to the truck, there was a buffalo grazing in front of it. This was the closest I am ever going to get to one of these amazing beasts.
We continued on the road that parallels the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We stopped at Lookout Point which gave us a fantastic view of the Upper Falls. We stood on that observation deck on the right side of the picture.
From Lookout Point, someone pointed out this osprey’s nest sitting on top of a spire along the canyon wall. There were 2 chicks in the nest. They also said that an osprey has been occupying that nest since 1970. Wow!
The walls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone were so colorful.
These 2 knuckleheads were taking “selfies” out on this cliff edge. They were fearless.
This view was so perfect, it looked like a painting. What an end to a great day!
The ride home along the same road we came on, gave us the opportunity to look for more wildlife and we did see more buffalo, a whole herd of elk bedding down for the night, and a herd of mountain goats eating along the road. We also got a second opportunity to see mama bear and her two cubs again. By this time they had crossed the road and were drawing a bigger crowd.
We some unusual things on our ride back too–a stage coach tour heading out and a group of people leading llamas with packs. Hmmm!
As we approached Mammoth Hot Springs, it looked very cool from a distance. The white mineral deposits were very bright against the background terrain.
In town, the herd of elk were gathering on the town square for the night. How appropriate that I caught this elk under the flag for the 4th of July. This was definitely a Waterfall and Wildlife day! I am in awe of the beauty of this country! Happy Birthday, America!
No fireworks for us tonight. The closest fireworks were 30 miles away. Rain showers moved in around 7:00, but we stayed dry and hung out at the campground. After the rain, Auggie got his walk and entertained the rest of the campers with his holiday spirit!
P.S. My pineapple was finally ready to be picked. We have dragged that plant around with us since we left Florida and it decided to ripen in Montana. It will be yummy!