That girl and I drove home from Yellowstone Park yesterday. My work schedule afforded us the entire day for travel. We were not able to return by driving through the interior of the park because the snow plow crew didn’t begin began clearing park roadways until the day we arrived. We were told the snow removal crew managed to plow only sixteen miles into the park from Mammoth Hot Springs on the first day.
The park roadway from Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City-Silver Gate, Montana, however, is open year-round. We opted to drive partway to Cooke City-Silver Gate so we could see a bit of Yellowstone Park and then turn around and drive back home from there. This road loops through Lamar Valley. Lamar is famous for the wildlife. Wolves are most commonly sighted there.
The drive did not disappoint. We saw expansive herds of bison and elk. At one point, we had to slow the car and allow a coyote to cross the road near a group of people parked at a pullout. I actually came to a full stop and grabbed my camera. Only then, did I realize that the people at the pullout were watching a grizzly bear—fresh from its winter den—feeding on the carcass of what appeared to be an elk.
I managed a few quick photographs from the middle of the road.
After spending an hour or so in the park, that girl and I returned home by way of the Paradise Valley. As we entered that valley, the clouds quickly parted, allowing sunshine to wash against the high peaks of the Absaroka Mountains and ranchlands along the valley floor. We stopped at several locations near the Yellowstone River to capture more photographs.
“I took this same picture last year,” that girl remarked when I stopped at one of the fishing access points.
“I did, too,” I said. “But here in Montana, the sun paints with a different brush every day.”