Yellowstone Reports

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Driving the Big Loop

Not much going on
by Dan Hartman

Oct. 29, 2014

     With a storm coming on Sunday, Cindy, Kelly and I decided to make our annual drive of the big loop.  Silver Gate to Tower to Mammoth to Norris to Canyon to Fishing Bridge to East Gate to Cody to Silver Gate on Saturday.

     It was 27 degrees when we left our cabin in Silver Gate at first light.  A quick stop at Baronette produced two goats high in the cliffs.  Lamar Valley was quiet, save for bison.  We made the run up to Calcite to see if any black bears were still out.  ( I really didn't expect to find any.  Black bears should be at their den sites by now, probably most already underground for the winter.)  We didn't see any.

     On north, we passed by Rick parked at Hell Roaring Overlook.  At Phantom Lake, three bighorn grazed on the steep slope above.  Two bald eagles sat on the banks of the Black-tail Ponds.  Just to the north, a coyote hunted through the tall grass.

     In Mammoth, a little late season rut was still going on at the terraces.  Two mountain goats browsed the slopes above Rustic Falls.  Trumpeter swans floated on Swan Lake.  The road to Norris was quiet, probably because of the road construction.  (We had a twenty minute delay just north of Norris.)

     Norris to Canyon was uneventful, as it usually is.  At Canyon I had planned on looking for great grays, but the sky was clear and bright.  Any self-respecting owl would be tucked in some dark and shady spot by now.

     Hayden always holds promise but, the day had grown warm and sunny.  It felt more like late August than late October.  Hard to believe it's going to snow tomorrow.  We stopped at Grizzly Overlook but found nothing in our binoculars.

     At Fishing Bridge, we drove on south aways wanting to check out the lily pond south of Bridge Bay.  That was the site of my first great gray owl nest some twenty-six years ago.  When we reached the little pond, I walked around a bit, looking for sign beneath the obvious perches.  Nothing.  Some day the owls may return.  We found one a couple of years ago in a meadow to the north.  On the way back to Fishing Bridge, we took the gull point drive.  I was hoping to spot a loon and by golly, we did!  He was feeding a hundred yards out.  We watched for a time hoping he would call, but no luck so we moved on.

     Back at Fishing Bridge, we turned east.  The big gift shop was boarded up and the Visitor Center was closed for the year.  On past Sedge Bay which can be good for grizzlies and eagles, produced only geese and a grebe.  Past Cub Creek then up to Sylvan Lake and eventually Sylvan Pass.  We stopped at the Cork Screw Bridge Overlook.  Here one can still see the bridge that was constructed in 1909 then improved in 1919.  That is the bridge we're looking at now.

     Just inside the East Gate two photographers were closely watching a stand of timber.  Grizzly?  Maybe.  On past Pahaska Tepee then through the ever widening canyon to Cody.  Along the way one drives by signs that remind us of the history this area produced.  Signs like Cross Sabers Lodge, Absoroka Lodge, Shoshone Lodge, Elephant Head Lodge and Bill Cody Camp.

     At Chimney Rock, Kelly and I climbed up to check out the carved signatures.  Someday the chimney will crumble to the ground.  A bighorn clung to the cliffs across the road.  On past the reservoir and through the tunnels before arriving in the bustling city of Cody.

     It was 77 degrees in Cody.  50 degrees warmer than when we left our cabin six hours ago!  How does one dress for weather like this?   An oil change, supply stop at Walmart, stop at the lumber yard and lunch later, we were on our way home.  A couple hours later and we were pulling into our driveway.  Three turkeys raced out of the woods to greet us.  Yes our turkeys are back after being gone for five months.

     Over all, it was an uneventful trip, which I blame on the bright sun and warm weather.


View slide show

Bald Eagle At Black-tail Ponds

Coyote Hunting At Black-tail Ponds

Elk At Mammoth

Mountain Goats Above Rustic Falls

Cork-screw Bridge

Carved Signature

Chimney Rock


Peabody & Sherman

Griz North Of Gardiner