Thursday July 12th (con't)
From the Norris Junction, I head back towards Canyon Village so as to continue my counterclockwise loop that would eventually land me back at Roosevelt Lodge and my cabin for the night. When I arrived in the area, it was really too early to check-in and go to the cabin so I figured I'd head up towards to NE Entrance at Silver Gate. Since the Lamar Valley is one of the better known wildlife viewing areas and there had been a black bear with two cubs seen in the area, it seemed like a decent way to spend a couple of hours.
I wasn't five miles from the Roosevelt Junction when I came upon a large back-up of cars complete with a couple of park ranger vehicles. I knew immediately the black bear momma and cubs were in the area. Unfortunately, it was next to impossible to find a safe pullout spot especially since the rangers were strictly enforcing the "100 yards" rule for being near bears. I continued further down the road and found a second turnout with space enough to pull in. I was far enough away from the action, however, that watching the bears munch on the sagebrush required the binoculars. The good news was that they were moving in my direction. The bad news would be that once within the 100 yards, I would be chased out of the turnout.
They continued to feed, often in areas not visible due to the thick brush or large rocks. At one point, it appeared as though they would be making a turn back away from where I was parked but then she stopped and reversed again. She did come within the distance that the rangers were concerned about those of us in the turnout, so they came down and had us move. Ironically, by having me move out, it required that I drive towards the bear activity. Better yet, it seemed momma wanted to cross the road, requiring that all traffic stop to give her right away.
Once she was across the road, her two cubs followed her, between the cars and everything. It was amazing that none of the bear family seemed too concerned with the throng of vehicles and people surrounding them. I was fortunate in that I had a great vantage point to snap several photos during their movement across the road. It was very exciting, especially since the first year cubs were still pretty small.
After all of that excitement I continued on up to the NE Entrance Area. I did see a small group of pronghorn just before getting to Lamar Valley. I stopped in the large parking area overlooking the valley, but didn't see much. Even the wolf watchers reported not seeing anything through their scopes.
I continued on stopping at a small turnout alongside a rushing creek to fix a sandwich. In this area, the bugs (mosquitoes and biting flies) were pretty bad so for the first time I had to spray OFF on my exposed legs and arms to avoid them.
The drive on up to Silver Creek was uneventful so once through the gates I continued into the small town and turned around. At the park entrance I asked about bear sightings that day and he said there had been a grizzly seen in the area but no further reports for several hours. I kept my eyes open, scanning for the illusive grizzly, but to no avail.
The time from the NE Entrance back to Roosevelt Junction was about 75 minutes. Since it was close to 6:00pm I figured I may as well check-in. In the parking lot, I was met by my TA friend and roommate for the next two nights. I've "known" Nanc from the Alaska Forums on Trip Advisor, so meeting her in person and spending some time with her in Yellowstone was especially exciting!
Once settled into our Roughriders Cabin, I took a shower. At 6:30pm we decided to head back out to Lamar in hopes of seeing more wildlife, especially the resident wolf pack. Nanc had camped the night before at Pebble Creek CG and said that there had been a grizzly bear on the hillside just outside of the camp. She drove first to that area and sure enough, there he was! It was my first grizzly viewing (and photo). It was a great experience, even if it was too far away to get a really good photo. I saw him with my own two eyes and did get this photo, which has been zoomed and cropped in order to see him.
Other than a bison jam and more pronghorn, there was not much else happening in the Lamar Valley, so we headed back to our cabin and called it a night. It had been a long day, and I was ready for sleep! The cabin was comfortable as we had a triple bed room and was just across from the bathroom and showers. There was also an ice machine with free ice, so I got my little cooler and put some diet cokes on ice overnight. I think we said our good nights and went to sleep around 9:00pm.