Note: When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}. Comments NOT in the original emails will be in red.

Day 11. Saturday Sep 19, 2009. Huge Day. Northeast Yellowstone. Lamar Valley.

Our route today from Fishing Bridge tto Cooke City and beyond, is shown in the map below.

Click to see larger map.

It's a gorgeous day, blue sky, and I can see my breath. We're off about 9am. We're headed for Mt. Washburn (We've already been past it once in an earlier report, but not by name. It was the bit about Dunraven Pass and the black bear).

We've never stopped at Sulphur Caldron, though it comes up quickly on the right side of the road, when we go north like this, so we decide to stop. Jerry catches this mom and two little ones crossing the area. I'll bet she loves the smell of sulfur in the morning.

The whole area seems to be sending up steam. OK, we got Sulphur Caldron. Let's go.

We pull over at the Dunraven Pass pullout and ask what people are looking at. "Nothing here, but keep going and you'll come to a big gathering of cars beside the road. You can't miss it. They had a grizzly a few minutes ago." We zoom off.

We see a huge number of cars up the Mt. Washburn road a ways. We head up the road, but most people seem to be talking with each other - not looking. I pull over. A ranger is walking back to where our truck is, and we check with 00020000016400000415 15E,her. She says everybody up here missed the bear. Disappointed, we head back down, pulling into a combined scenic lookout/rest room area. Sharon locates a guy who knows the whole story. A bear came up from the "scenic view" area, walked right past the rest room, crossed the road, and proceeded to go up Mt. Washington, disappearing over a ridge.

Continuing on our planned route, we are hoping that maybe the bear will show up for us. But there are no cigars. We give up and continue north, stopping at the Tower Fall area, to get photos. So here's what we came up with:

 

Then we turn east, heading for the Lamar Valley, Cooke City and the high country of Montana. {Bob had downloaded an itinerary of a tour that goes through this area and spoke of animals and birds and where they might see them. So we are following their route to see what we can get. You can check that itinerary out if you want, at http://www.heatherlea.co.uk/birdwatching-holidays/overseas/yellowstone.htm}

At one stop, there were a number of other cars pulled over, and saw a woman with a Missouri University sweat shirt on. "Go Tigers," I say to her, "Where are you from?" She says she is from Columbia. She's here with her family. I ask which direction they are coming from and after she tells me Cooke City, I ask if they saw any mountain goats. "Yes, check at Barronette pullout," she says. We talk a little more, enjoying the buffalo herd here, then we head out again.

Soda Butte dormant geyser.

We come to Barronette, and it's a super massive mountain on our left. It's just HUGE!

We scan the mountain, using the scope also. Other people are scanning, and I'm keeping in contact with them. One group claims to see one. I get directions and there it is, perched on a little peak, but it immediately drops down out of sight and will NOT come back out. So I'm the only one in our group to see it.

Meantime, Sharon and Jerry have spotted one or two. I get the video camera on one and there's a teeny tiny little snow white minimal (that's a mini animal) jumping around up there. Pretty cool.

After watching a bit more, we take off, bound for Cooke City and beyond. About 1:30 we come to a sign that says Welcome to Silver Gate, Montana. Cooke City is 12 miles ahead.

On the way, a rest room stop is requested, and here's what we come up with. It's bright and airy and welcomed by Sharon and Shirley. And Jerry. And me. {It had the best acoustics of anyplace I have been in. I started singing and sounded like I was in Caregie Hall. Dreams of sounding as good as you think you sound when you have the headphones on. Great fun!}

It's about 2 pm, and I'm wondering if we can get up the mountain to the tundra and back down in daylight.

We drive through the little village of Cooke City, then begin rising quickly on the other side. Up, up, steadily up we go. My GPS finally reaches 9900 feet, then changes to 10.0, indicated thousands of feet.

Still up we continue, stopping to admire a little lake at about 10.2 thousand feet.

Huge trucks are going up and coming down. There is some kind of construction project going on above us. We intend to find out what it is.

We continue on, reaching 11.0 thousand, and then we begin to slowly drop in altitude when we come to a little unofficial rest area. There are a number of cars here, and we get out to check for wildlife. It's extremely windy. Some folks have a dog, and the dog is digging under a big rock, and comiing out with bones.

We are hoping for rosy-finches, but get none. Sharon does pick up a few American Pipits though, another high mountain bird.

We turn around to head back down now. It's about 3:45 in the afternoon. On the way down, I see what looks like IT could be an unofficial rest area, and I pull off there. After poking and walking, I suddenly see a little pica pop over a rock and down the other side.

Pica. From the Internet

Pica Habitat.

I call everybody and we all get at least one of the little mouse-like, high altitude animals.

We continue on, shooting another lake also.

We stop at the same rest room we stopped at on the way in. It's just as refreshing as it was before. {Some enchanted evening...}

Finally, we come to Cooke City again. We refuel, and I try to hook up with wireless, but both motels that have it tell me I have to be staying there for them to give me the password. Friendly-like.

We stop at a place that's supposed to have ice cream, but it's not by the scoop. It's pre-packaged, frozen, pretty standard fare. We pass on that, but it turns out that it's the next to last day of the season, and for a quarter, the guy gives me all his remaining mini-tootsie rolls, probably about $5 worth. Woohoo.

Sharon and Shirley see a face in this mountain and want me to get a closeup.

So here's the closeup, with the mountain rotated 90 degrees.

About an hour later, we come upon these immature or female Bighorn Sheep, beside the road. I want to call them Littlehorn Sheep.

We make several more stops in the Lamar Valley, scanning for grizzlies or wolves, but see neither. Dangit. Always leave something to come back for.

Finally, we come to Cooke City again. We refuel, and I try to hook up with wireless, but both motels that have it tell me I have to be staying there for them to give me the password. Friendly-like.

Sharon and Shirley, meantime, have gone through an antique shop. We connect back up, load up and head out, looking for ice cream. We stop at the Sun Dog Trading Company, which advertises ice cream. It turns out that it's their next to last day of being open. The guy gives me all of the rest of his mini-tootsie rolls for a quarter. Woohoo.

They do an interesting thing here. There is this heater gadget. You put an empty bottle in it, like a bottle of booze or a coke (with all the liquid gone). It semi-melts the bottle, then flattens it. Very interesting. Woohoo. Then we're off again.

We re-enter Yellowstone, I show the ranger my pass, and we continue. We stop every once in a while, scanning for wolves or grizzlies but get neither never. Double dangit. I'm racing to try and get to the black bear place before it gets dark.

At 7:30 we stop at the black bear place (Dunraven Pass) and see the Arkansas-accented guy just pulling out and away. Other people are here though, and we ask them what's up. They say there was a black bear a few minutes ago, but it's gone now. We look for it but there's no avail to be had.

We arrive back home a little afer 8 pm. We have a light dinner, and look at the video and slide show of the day's handiwork, ooing and aahing. We're too pooped for games, and so we just ease into bed, each in their own time, and then it's log-sawing time.

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