Saturday July 14th (con't)
Earlier in the week, I met a couple from Portage, Wisconsin. In talking about the wildlife we'd seen, I was envious that he had seen moose. He told me that he had been told of a marsh area just beyond Colter Bay down the Pilgrim Creek Road. Sure enough, when I made the left-hand turn, I could see a number of cars pulled to the shoulder, and several people out walking into the willows. There was also a tour company with guests watching. Their driver/guide was explaining to folks about the moose habitat and that the bull moose in this area were getting ready for rut season next month.
From the vantage point that I had, I could barely see the moose they were talking about. One man had hiked deep into the willow to get his photos with what appeared to be a 600mm lens. He was shooting without a tripod. All I could think was "good luck with that" as I have my challenges with my 70-300 lens at roughly a third of the weight. As the two large bull moose continued to eat, they worked their way into a small clearing. They didn't seem to be bothered much by the group of 10 or 12 people observing them. Surprisingly, there were only a couple of us interested in or trying to photograph the animals.
After spending some time with the moose and getting a nice selection of photos, I felt amazingly fulfilled in terms of my desired wildlife photography. I decided to make the drive further into GTNP for what I hoped would be some interesting photos of the mountains and lake, and then I would head back to Yellowstone.
I enjoyed my drive through GTNP to include the Jenny Lake area. With more people now awake, and it being a Saturday morning, the roads seemed quite crowded with people, cars and bicycles. It should be noted that if you enjoy bike riding out in the wild, this park is a great place to do that! There are numerous trails and bike paths; many of which are are relatively flat terrain. I did take the drive up to the Signal Mountain Summit, which had a nice view from the top. I was surprised to see so many cyclists heading to the top of what was a rather lengthy, winding road.
So back in Yellowstone, my plan was to exit the park through the East Entrance towards Cody. That drive would have me passing by the Mud Volcano area again, so I also stopped there to get some photos (and video) of one of the more active gushing hot springs. I also made a brief stop at the Sulfur Caldron, another very stinky area that I had previously passed before the sun was up.
As I exited Yellowstone NP, it was 4:00pm. I wondered about how far I would be able to make it before having to stop for the night. I considered the National Forest campgrounds just outside of the park, but realized that would have me stopping for the night before 6:00pm which seemed like a waste. I pushed on, enjoying the views as I passed through areas known for their bear population. I didn't see any, however, but I did stop along the way to photograph some of the lovely waterfalls that were seen coming out of the side of the mountains along the roadside.
Around 4:45pm I was approaching the Buffalo Bill Reservoir and Dam. I stopped in for a quick visit at the NPS Visitor Center, as they were getting ready to close at 5:00pm. This is a National Historic Site and open to the public seven days a week and is free. I wish I had more time to explore and take the self-guided tour.
Moving on, the town of Cody, Wyoming was just minutes away. I first saw the infamous Buffalo Bill Cody Stampede Rodeo Grounds and considered over-nighting in Cody in order to take in the evening's show. But since it was only 5:30pm and the show wasn't until 8:00pm, I didn't want to just hang around, especially since as I drove through town, it was apparent the other attractions were already closed for the day. Looking back at it as I write this a week later, I'm sorta sorry I didn't stay and experience a real western rodeo.
In Cody I did make a call home to David to let him know I was on the road and heading home. I thought it might be possible to make it back to the nice KOA in Buffalo, Wyoming and that was my plan. I did some quick calculating, figuring that if I could make it that far, that would leave me with around 18 hours of driving to get home sometime on Monday.
During my drive on through Wyoming, it was nice to be taking a different route east. This routing not only took me through Cody, but it also avoided all of the construction that I drove through going west. I also got to see a lot of free range livestock including cattle and sheep near Graybull. It was still very hot, with temperatures still in the high 90's at 6:30pm.
I jumped on I90 at Sheridan and was able to make the rest of the drive to the Buffalo KOA. I checked in just before the office closed at 9:00pm. Completed zonked from the 500+ miles driven today, I was ready for bed. I did try to access the free WiFi from my campsite but being on the far backside of the property, the signal was too weak to connect.
I feel asleep to the DJ spinning wedding music at the hotel next door. Yep that's right . . . there was an outdoor wedding reception next door with music blasting into the Wyoming night. Ah how I already miss the sounds of nature in Yellowstone!