Spring Returns to Yellowstone

It’s that time again. It’s time for the snow to finally melt, bison calves to be born, grizzlies and wolves to scavenge for winter carcasses being thawed from the melting of the deep snow, and time to enjoy all that Yellowstone has to offer. The west entrance gate to Yellowstone just opened on April 19th to vehicles and people were very excited to drive into the park that day. There was actually a line all the way to Canyon street waiting for the time to turn to eight o’clock, which is when the gates would officially open. I’m sure the fact that it was a holiday weekend and the sun was shining and it was forecasted to be a balmy 58 degrees that day played a big part on the excitement to get back into Yellowstone. Arrick and I were not part of the waiting line, but we did drive in that afternoon all the way to Old Faithful, which has become one of our spring traditions. We spent the afternoon taking our time driving the road looking at the rivers, looking for wildlife, and just enjoying the fact that we can once again explore Yellowstone on our own terms.

It’s nice to be in Yellowstone again looking for the wildlife and visiting the old familiar places that are special to us that are more like old friends than locations. There is something so wonderful about reconnecting to Yellowstone after not being able to enjoy it for the winter, for us it’s like regaining a piece of our own solace, maybe even reconnecting to a piece of our own soul. Isn’t that what wilderness adventures do for all of us? Whether your choice of adventure is fishing, hiking, geyser gazing, or wildlife watching, or any other outdoor sojourn for that matter, it all connects us to something larger than ourselves. The special part of that isn’t just the reconnection that happens but what it does for us. Being in the wilderness doing any of those activities gives us another gift. The gift of being in the present moment. When we are out there enjoying those activities, we are focused on them and our mind is mostly occupied only of them. We need to be focused on the task at hand while we are in nature and we need to be aware of our surroundings so all of our attention is on those things. This gives our mind a much needed break from work, problems, stress, and the day to day strife’s that plague our minds almost constantly. So yes, it’s nice to be in Yellowstone again.

Yellowstone was full of wildlife spottings for the first day back into the park from the west entrance gate. We saw several different herds of bison and a lazy cow elk laying along the Madison River. We also took the time to watch a coyote couple mousing in one of the meadows near the Madison River and another along the Gibbon River. The bison calves are being born and people have been seeing them in many areas of the park now. Keep an eye out for the herds, as maybe you will have an opportunity to see a calf being born. We have yet to be there to see a calf being born, but others have shared their experience with us and how amazing it is to be a witness! The bison are on the move and many in our neck of the woods make their yearly migration outside the western boundary of Yellowstone to have their babies out on Horse Butte. So be careful driving the highway 191 especially at night as their eyes don’t reflect and you can’t see them until your almost right on top of them. Also, there have been many spotted randomly here and there on the park roads so keep a look out for them.

As for the bears and wolves? Well, we didn’t see any yet, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t nearby. If you’re wanting to see them the best place to have your best chance for spotting them is in Hayden and Lamar Valleys. Be sure to go early in the morning soon after the sun rises or later in the evening to up your chances for catching a glimpse. Also, be sure to have binoculars or spotting scopes with you as well as warm clothing as it is cold in the mornings and evenings.

For those of you interested in the smaller things in nature that are found either higher or lower, like birds and flowers, the birds have returned too! Actually, some showed up a while ago. We were seeing Robins in the beginning of April and about two weeks ago in the north area of Yellowstone they saw the first mountain bluebirds of spring. In our area we’ve seen the grosbeaks, goldfinches, Cassin finches, crossbills, and the mountain bluebird so far. The crossbills and grosbeaks appeared here and there through the winter, but the others definitely announce that spring is here. Other announcers of spring in Yellowstone are the wildflowers and my personal favorite is the shooting star. They are tiny delicate flowers of bright purple or magenta like color and can be easily missed or stepped on if you’re not looking for them. So, don’t forget to look above and below you for some of the less noticed gifts of Yellowstone.

Well, it is another warm day here for us, in the high 50’s as I write this, and the sun has broken through the clouds. This would be a good evening to go travel the roads of Yellowstone and look for wildlife. So, I think Arrick and I will grab our binoculars, spotting scope, and some snacks and take a drive into the park. After all, it’s been a busy day working and there’s no better place to go rejuvenate than Yellowstone.