This was my 4th road trip vacation to Yellowstone National Park over the past six years. Usually I car camp in one of the park's campgrounds, but this year being so early in the spring, I wasn't able to work out the CG situation to my desires . . . so I did a cabin at the Old Faithful Lodge for my four night stay.
When camping, I prefer to be in the Canyon or Roosevelt area, either in a campsite or one of their cabins. My interests are primarily wildlife viewing/photography rather than the geothermal features, hence my preferred location inside the park. So being at Old Faithful was definitely not to my liking. Add to that, the continued road construction between Norris & Mammoth made for very long trips in that direction, or even longer loops over the Dunraven Pass between Canyon & Tower. All in all, however, I got by and enjoyed my time in the park!
I entered the park via the east entrance from Cody . . . and ended up exiting the same entrance because the Beartooth Pass (Hwy 212) via the NE entrance was not open as of 5/24/18 (it was scheduled to be cleared & open the following day).
As for wildlife viewing, there were a lot of elk, bison and pronghorn to be seen . . . especially up on the northern end of the park, as well as the western (Madison River) side. Only the bison herds along the Madison River had calves, however.
Bear viewing was possible, although at great lengths from the road and turnouts. I was only able to get marginal photos using my Olympus DSLR equipment and a 70-300mm lens. The bears were viewed in the following locations:
Sunday 5/20 on the east entrance road before the Sylvan Pass - 2 grizzly/brown bears (both appeared to be young, sub adults) as I was entering the park mid morning.
The afternoon also had lots of black bear sightings (three of them!) between Tower Falls & Mammoth . . . . the first was just before the Roosevelt Corral (as you move east to west) . . . a Mom with 3 COY (cubs of the year/first year cubs). Beyond that near the Petrified Tree turnout . . . and again just a little further down the road towards Mammoth, there were two solo black bears of decent size. It was speculated they were both males, but who knows.
Monday 5/21 late morning, as I returned to the park from West Yellowstone, there was a grizzly bear sow, with what appeared to be two larger cubs, second year according to the park ranger onsite at the bear jam/viewing turnout.
Tuesday 5/22 mid afternoon, there was a black bear deep in the woods just around the Continental Divide sign driving towards Old Faithful, from West Thumb. Photos were barely possible due to the distance and thick forest.
No other bears were viewed, including in Grand Teton NP on Tuesday 5/22. Reports of #399 having a pair of COY however have been documented and there were plenty of people hanging out around Pilgrim Creek Road to catch a glimpse of them . . . I hung out and had an extended picnic lunch in the area, but no bears came into view.
About West Yellowstone . . . I found that town to be VERY convenient to where I was staying in the Old Faithful area. It took about 45 minutes (without delays or stops) . . . and actually became one of my more favorite wildlife viewing areas. It was nice to have my mobile carrier (T-Mobile) in the town, so making at least a daily trip out that way became my game plan.
I would have liked to have taken in the museum there (Yellowstone Historic Center) but I learned they didn't open until 11am . . . and the one afternoon I thought I'd stop in late in the day, I got hung up with a work crisis. I should have not checked work email until AFTER my museum visit!
So with the museum visit not happening, I did have a nice steak dinner in town at the Old Town Cafe. It was a bit overpriced . . . $27 for a 14 oz t-bone . . . but I was on vacation and it was the only splurged dinner out that I did during my trip.
I was treated to a nice spring snow storm which added some excitement to driving over the Dunraven Pass. The snow was a heavy wet snow, sticking to the trees and making the ground beautiful throughout the mountains and valleys. It continued to snow all the way down to the West Thumb area.
Daytime temps during my visit were generally in the high 40's/low 50's. Night temps were in the mid/high 30's to low 40's. Most mornings there was a pretty thick fog . . . and we did have some overnight thunderstorms on two of the four nights I spent in the park. I was happy to be in a cabin and not car camping!
Even though I was in the park during the shoulder season, just before Memorial Day, I was surprised at the number of tour buses in the parks (both Yellowstone & Grand Teton). Tourists doing the self-drive thing were as obnoxious as ever in terms of stopping (or parking) their cars right in the roadway to go walk off to view/photograph bears & bison.
Too many stupid people just frustrates me.
It was sad to see them widening the east entrance road right as you approach Fishing Bridge. They are taking down hundreds of tall pines.
All in all however, it was a nice experience in the park!
For anyone interested in seeing more of my photos . . . I have a "public" album on Facebook which is where I'm posting for others to see them. ( https:/… )
P.S. By way of explanation regarding the thermal features (which are truly amazing) . . . with my asthma & mobility issues, along with my recently diagnosed heart condition, I opted to take a much more passive approach to this trip. The sulfur smells in some of the areas are simply overwhelming for me; sometimes just driving through them takes my breath away. So they are avoided.