Adventures in Yellowstone: Spring 2022

swalker

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My wife and I took a 4 week trip to Yellowstone National Park followed by a 1 week trip to Grand Teton National Park this spring. We left home in the middle of May and arrived back home last week, in the middle of June.

I drove our motorhome and my wife followed in the wheelchair van. We stayed at the Madison campground in Yellowstone and the Colter Bay campground in the Tetons.

It was a great trip, though it is the wettest trip we have experienced in that part of the world. It was also unseasonably cold.

It rained, sleeted, hailed, and snowed for the first 3 weeks of the trip while we were in Yellowstone. It continued to rain with a bit of snow mixed in while we were in the Tetons.

As many probably know, there was substantial flooding in Yellowstone. We left Yellowstone and headed to the Tetons just a few days before the big flood happened. The ground was very saturated by the time we left Yellowstone. Given the tremendous rainstorm and warm temperatures that melted part of the snowpack, I was not at all surprised there was flooding. I was surprised at the extent of the damage the flooding caused.

Our trip was filled with more adventures than we had counted on! We really did have a great time, though there were a few times we both questioned our sanity!

Here is a snapshot of our motorhome at our campsite at the Madison campground in Yellowstone.

Steve

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KevinM

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I’m always in awe at what you are still doing, Steve. This trip sounds like it really sapped you, though.

I am hoping the adventures were good adventures? Something tells me not all were happy times.
 

KimT

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Wow, Steve. I couldn't drive that in my best day.
 

NekoiStar

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I love it!

I live in Montana and Yellowstone is so beautiful! <3

It's a shame about all the flooding this year, I'm glad you were able to get out there and see it all :)
 

swalker

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Kevin, we had just enough adventures to keep us on our toes (figuratively speaking).

Kim, I would have never imagined in a million years I would be driving a motorhome like that. It handles really well and is quite easy for me to drive. I think the biggest challenge was coming to grips with the geometry of how it turns. Once I figured that out, I find it quite easy to maneuver, even in tight places.

NeikoiStar, I had noticed you are from Montana. That is certainly a beautiful state. I am envious of how close you are to some of my favorite places!

In this installment, I will describe our trip to Yellowstone.

For the first time, we had decided to take 3 days to make the roughly 10 hour trip to Yellowstone. We spent the first night in a Walmart parking lot in Craig, Colorado, which is a bit less than 3 hours away from our house. The drive to Craig is almost all on narrow, two-lane roads that wind through various gaps in the rocky mountains. The drive went well and we had no issues with the motorhome (a first for us).

The second day we drove from Craig, Colorado to an RV park just outside Boulder, Wyoming. Again, it was a pretty uneventful drive. We did get to drive for about 80 miles on interstate for this leg of the trip, which covered a total of about 275 miles. Once again, we had no issues with the motorhome.

Our third day is where things started to get more exciting. Normally, we would drive from Boulder, Wyoming through Jackson, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park, entering Yellowstone through the south entrance.

Due to construction on the road from Yellowstone's south entrance to Madison campground, we decided to take the long way around, avoiding Jackson, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park. Instead, we went through Alpine, Wyoming and Idaho Falls, Idaho and entered Yellowstone through its west entrance.

Shortly after making the turn toward Alpine, Wyoming, my wife notified me that the van's volt meter was reading low. We pulled over at a gas station in Alpine, Wyoming and used a multimeter to test the alternator's output and confirmed it was a bit low.

While we were doing this, a nice guy wandered over and suggested a repair shop in Idaho Falls, which was still about 60 miles away. Alpine, Wyoming is a very small town and there was no hope of getting our van repaired there.

So, we pressed on, with my wife keeping a close eye on the volt meter. She reported that it continued to drop. The levels were low enough that I knew we were not putting energy into the battery, only sucking energy out of it. Before long, the car would simply stop running.

While all this happening, I was trying to work out alternatives that would allow us to charge the van's battery so it could limp into Idaho Falls. I realized that I had packed a bench power supply for use with my wheelchair that uses lithium batteries. For those who don't know, a bench power supply is simply a box that takes AC electrical input and outputs DC electricity at very carefully controlled voltage and current. I usually don't take that power supply with us on trips, but had packed it "just in case".

Our motorhome has a generator that we could use to provide power to the bench power supply.

About 30 miles from Idaho Falls, I found a place wide enough to pull over both the motorhome and the van. We fired up the motorhome's generator, hooked up the bench power supply, set it to the correct voltage, and charged the van's battery for about an hour. This put about 10 amp hours worth of energy into the battery, which I figured was enough to get us the next 30 miles to Idaho Falls.

While the battery was charging, I called the repair shop that had been recommended to us. They were booked up for the next 6 weeks! However, they did recommend us to someone that might be able to fit us in. I called that shop and they said we could drop off the van that day and they would squeeze us in the next morning. So, that is what we did.

Of course, it was not that simple. We drove to Idaho Falls and promptly got separated in traffic. The shop was in a pretty obscure location and both my wife and I independently got lost several times on our way to the shop. Eventually, the shop owner drove his own vehicle to where I was lost and guided me to his shop.

He turned out to be a wonderful guy and took really good care of us.

We spent that night at an RV park in Idaho Falls. We drove from the repair shop to that RV park during rush hour. Google routed us through the old downtown of Idaho Falls, which has ridiculously narrow streets. This was the first time my wife had ever ridden in the motorhome. She kept shouting that I was going to hit things on the passenger side. I had to reassure her there was more space on the passenger side than on the driver's side. The streets were really quite narrow.

We made it to the RV park and got settled in. Once again, we had no issues with the motorhome.

Our two cats accompanied us on the trip and they really liked that RV park. I have attached a picture of them peering out the motorhome's door.

Our van was ready the next morning. The repair shop did outstanding work, going above and beyond to replace our failed alternator. I can't say enough good things about it.

We ignored google's advice about how to get from the RV park to the repair shop and drove a much better route without any issues. We picked up the van and proceed to the Madison campground in Yellowstone.

So, our 3 day trip to Yellowstone turned into a 4 day trip. There was a little excitement with the van, but nothing that could not be handled with the equipment we had with us. We were very fortunate to find such a wonderful repair shop.

Steve


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Hal

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Heading out to the Tetons in a few weeks .... will be spending most of our time in between Victor ID and Jackson WY ... just something about being out there that frees one from all of their worries!
 

swalker

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It takes me awhile to recover from driving to Yellowstone, so the first few days were mostly spent at the campground. It was wet, with cold temperatures. The lows were well below freezing for our first few nights, which is not unusual that time of year.

Due to all the rain, we spent most of our days driving around the park seeing the beautiful scenery and looking at wildlife. The wildlife was pretty abundant, but most of it was too distant for good photography.

We spent a lot of time driving to and from the Lamar Valley, which is in the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park. We would typically see a variety of birds (bald eagle, trumpeter swans, redtail hawks, osprey, and many others), along with deer, elk, pronghorn (antelope), buffalo, black bears, grizzly bears, foxes, coyotes, wolves, and occasionally bighorn sheep and mountain goats. It was just wonderful.

Of particular interest to me were the newly-born buffalos. They were just so wonderful to watch. We came across some near enough to the road for me to get a few shots. Here is a picture to try to show a bit of how cute they are.

Steve
 

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ShiftKicker

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Absolutely outstanding photo, as usual, Steve. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures.
 

swalker

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I had some trouble putting pictures in the previous post. Here is another attempt at sharing some pictures of the cute baby buffalos.

Steve
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KimT

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Beautiful photo, Steve.
 

swalker

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For anyone that wants to see the full resolution version of the pictures I am posting in this thread, you can checkout my photo website at:


That is a non-commercial web site. You can navigate around that website and see and download (for non-commercial use) full resolution pictures from various trips over the last 10 years or so.

Steve
 

swalker

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We learned that there was a courting pair of grizzly bears near the Roaring Mountain area of Yellowstone National Park. That is the area where a female bear (a sow) called the Obsidian sow hangs out. Obsidian creek runs through her territory and that is how she received her informal name.

I have photographed that bear several times of the years and seen her with various batches of cubs many times. So, we kept a very close watch as we travelled through that area in the hopes that we might see her with her new boyfriend.

One morning, as we were on our way to the Lamar valley, we saw a large number of cars pulled over on the side of the road in that area. We caught a quick glimpse of two grizzly bears, but could not positively identify them. There was absolutely no place to pull the wheelchair van over, so we continued on to the Lamar valley.

The next evening, as we were returning from the Lamar valley we came upon one grizzly bear in that area. This time, there was a perfect place to pull the wheelchair van over, so we stopped and spent quite a bit of time observing. There was a wildlife office there, who filled us in on the details of what happened the day before. It was a sad story.

Grizzly bear mothers usually stay with their cubs for 2 or 3 seasons. Then, they kick the cubs out and will court with a male bear, starting the cycle all over again. The obsidian sow had kicked out her 2 three year old cubs and was courting with a big male bear (a boar).

Unfortunately, the Obsidian sow's three year old daughter was still hanging around, a bit too close. The mother attempted to run her daughter off, quite aggressively. Much more unfortunately, the boar attacked and mortally injured the subadult, 3 year old, female bear.

The male sibling of the mortally injured bear is the one that we came upon the next day. That poor bear looked like it was in complete shock, wondering just what had happened the day before. I was able to take a few pictures, even though the light and position of the bear were less than desirable. I will share a couple in this post.

It was a sad story, but it is part of nature. On this trip to Yellowstone, Grizzly boars killed not only that subadult female grizzly bear, but also two other sets of three cubs. A total of 7 grizzly bears killed by boars in just a 3 weeks.

Steve



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swalker

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I saw more wolves than usual on this trip. There were some den sites in the Lamar valley, and one of those was visible from a place I could pull off the wheelchair van. The den was pretty far from where I could get to, but I was able to observe them with a spotting scope. It was just spectacular.

On many occasions, there was nothing to see. On one visit to the den site, I saw one adult, then two, then 5. It was just tremendous. And then the little pups popped out of the den and started playing around. There were 11 pups that I saw and they were very cute.

The wolves were too far away for pictures, but while I was watching them, a beautiful male pronghorn (antelope) wandered into view. The light was great, so I snapped a few shots and have attached a couple here.

I returned to the den site over the next several days, but did not see anything. I learned that the wolves had moved from that den site to another. I was very fortunate to have seen them when I did.

A couple of days later, I returned to the Lamar valley and looked at the magnificent herds of buffalo. I looked across the valley and thought I spotted some movement. I looked more closely and discovered it was a wolf. Then 2 more popped into view and then 4 more, for a total of 7. This was a hunting party moving to the east, up the Lamar valley. They would periodically stop and harass a few buffalo, but they were intent on trekking further east. I watched them until they were out of view and then followed their direction of travel to an available pullout and looked for them again.

After a bit, I saw them and found there were now 9 visible. They continued their journey to the east, so I once again followed them in my car. I was once again able to find a place for the wheelchair van and started looking for them again. I had guessed their course well enough that I was able to see the entire group, and could now make out 11 adult wolves.

They eventually came to a small group of buffalo cows and attacked one. It was spectacular to watch! The buffalo formed a circle with the heads (and horns) pointing out. One wolf limped away. The attack was unsuccessful. I know wolves need to eat, but I prefer not to watch them bring down their prey.

We had a couple of other wolf sightings, but none as thrilling as those two. In all, I counted seeing over 30 wolves on our trip.

Here are the pictures of the beautiful antelope I described above.

Steve

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KevinM

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Simply magnificent, Steve. Thank you so much. As someone who spent a 30 year career protecting special places, your love of nature that I also share is particularly meaningfully to me on a personal level. We have much in common. Best, Kevin
 
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