Day 6. Part 2. Lamar Valley & West Yellowstone.
June 7, 2022.
After spending over 2 hours with Rick McIntyre, my friend and I figured that we should head over to our first hike and eat some breakfast as it was approaching 8:30am. We said our goodbyes to Rick and the rest of the wolf watching crew that was around before heading down to our car. We sat in the car and just looked at each other, surprised that we had actually met Rick and had that experience. It is something that I will never forget!
I drove us down to Slough Creek Campground so that we could hike the Slough Creek Trailhead. This hike had been recommended to me by Dan (in our lab!) so I figured that we had to do it. We ate some breakfast down in the parking lot and packed up some lunch as we weren’t sure how hungry we would get on the hike since we had been up since the wee hours of the morning. While we were in the parking lot we met some really nice folks who were also planning on doing the hike. This was a relief knowing that other people would be in the area since otherwise we were the only people here. Another older woman drove up and asked if we had seen the cinnamon bear. I looked at her with complete shock as I had no idea what she meant. She said there was a cinnamon colored black bear that frequented the field by the parking lot. I said no and she assured me that he typically roamed around in the evening time. But this comment had put me on alert.
We started off the hike, and at pretty much every trailhead there are signs noting that bears frequent the area. Literally 2 minutes into the hike I looked up into the aspens and spotted a bear–the cinnamon bear that the woman was mentioning. I paused right in the path to see if the bear spotted us. I pulled my bear spray out and I had a bear bell on. I stood there and watched the bear for a little as he walked around and was foraging. I was still making noise so he knew I was there and after he glanced up at us I decided it would be best to back away and let the bear move through the area. I backed away slowly and kept my eyes on the bear to see if it would come after us. After making some noise and waiting about 5 minutes I moved up slowly and saw that the bear had cleared the area. For the rest of this hike I knew that we should be on high alert and make sure to make noise. I know that the bear bell wouldn’t save me but it did give me peace of mind that if I was walking uphill and couldn’t talk in that moment that there was still some noise being emitted from me.
The hike was a pretty big uphill but the incline allowed for beautiful views of the Lamar Valley. We made it about 0.75 miles into the hike before I turned a corner and saw some bison laying directly across the trail. We did not feel comfortable bushwhacking around the bison as I could not tell if there were any more up on the hill or down below. We waited a few minutes before realizing that the bison were not going to move. We decided the best plan of action would be to go to another trailhead and try a different hike.
We drove back down to the Lamar Valley River Trail and hiked here. Again the views were immaculate. You get to walk through the Lamar Valley in the large open fields. I found this sooooo fascinating as you had so much visibility out here and could take in everything around you. We figured we would head over towards the river and finish our hike once we made it to the Lamar River. Before we made it to the river (probably about 0.25 miles from it), we hit another bison road block. There were hundreds of bison in this field and we did not feel comfortable crossing the trail with them so close.
We turned back and headed back towards the car so we could figure out our plans for the rest of the day. It was approaching noon and we wanted to slowly head back towards our campground in West Yellowstone. As we headed back to the car we were stopped by this couple that showed us that there was a grizzly bear with her cubs up on the way top of the mountains. It was amazing watching them walk around! After we viewed them for a bit we headed back to the car.
We made some stops on the way back towards West Yellowstone where our first stop was the Petrified Tree. It was raining when we pulled up so we just viewed the tree from the car. On the way out the rain cleared up and we spotted a black bear roaming around and foraging fairly close to the road. We had not spotted 3 bears this morning and it was only around noon. We stopped at Wraith Falls (possibly could have been Undine Falls, I didn’t write it down) which was just a pull off but again it was beautiful. The views in Yellowstone had been incredible and had so much variation.
Since the day before we had tried to get ice cream but all of the shops were closed we decided that we should stop and get some ice cream as a reward for a day well done! We stopped at the Mammoth Hot Springs and got ice cream and sat and watched the elk. We sat outside with out ice cream but it ended up getting breezy and cold so we headed to the car. I had the ice cream called ‘Stuck in a Rut’ which was a vanilla ice cream with caramel cups and Sam had the Huckleberry ice cream!
We still were headed back towards West Yellowstone but figured we would stop and walk around at Norris Geyser Basin. The steamboat Geyser was really cool here. After checking out the geysers we headed towards town to walk around the shops in West Yellowstone. We grabbed some local beer from Big Sky Brewing Company called Huck It which was a huckleberry blonde ale. We grabbed some firewood and headed back to the campground.
For dinner we had soup and some backpackers lasagna. A big dinner for us and it was needed. We attempted to start our campfire but it was SOOOO windy so headed to the other campground to ask if they sold or had firestarters. Unfortunately they did not, BUT we did get to see a mama moose with her two calves and watch them here. We enjoyed the beer around the campfire we attempted to start. We had a quiet night with an early bedtime as we were exhausted from the long day. We stayed at Cabin Creek Campground again for the night (same spot).
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