Monday, June 8 was our last vacation day in the national parks. Full of stark ups and downs. Alarm off at 4 am and we were leaving Jackson behind just after 5. There were lots of bison and elk either on or near the roads in Grand Tetons, which made me grateful they hadn't been around Saturday when I made the same drive around the same time and it was quite foggy.
The weather started getting worse around the time we entered Yellowstone. First bit of fun was spotting a coyote standing by the road in the vicinity of Grant Village. Second treat was on the northwestern side of Yellowstone Lake, when I spotted a black bear right beside the road and rudely woke up my mom by slamming on the brakes. We 'chased' the bear with the car into a pullout trying to get photos, but no luck. My only shot is so streaked and blurry it wouldn't look like a bear to anyone else. But what a neat encounter!
After that, it was snow, and thicker snow, coming down in buckets by the time we reached Canyon Village. We'd wanted to see the falls again and do a steep walk or two, but the near-freezing temps and slippery ground killed that idea. Found out there that both Dunraven Pass and Beartooth Highway were closed due to the snow, which meant our only choice was to leave the park via the East entrance. (I'd mapped out both routes in advance.)
So we retraced our path to Yellowstone Lake, getting to see more bison calves in Hayden Valley as a result. Then eastward along roads I hadn't driven before, which gave me the amusing sight of four pelicans bobbing in unison at Fishing Bridge, and gorgeous views in Sylvan Pass, as well as the amazement of Sylvan Lake--still quite frozen over in early June!
It was before noon when we left Yellowstone Park for the long drive to Billings, but the splendor and neat animal encounters weren't done yet. First, there was the crowd along the highway, alerting us to a moose browsing the willows nearby (he was embarrassed by all the attention and left fairly quickly ;) Later, though I'd only seen one mule deer my entire time in the parks, alongside the highway in the Shoshone National Forest we got to see a small herd of them--and a kind passerby pointed out bighorn sheep on the opposite side of the road, high on a cliff.
Beautiful views of rugged land as we headed east toward Cody, Wyoming, and only the fairly heavy rain kept us from stopping at the dam of the Buffalo Bill reservoir; the tunnels and canyon beyond were magnificent (but no pullouts). Because of the weather keeping us from any out-of-the-car sightseeing, we got into Billings much earlier than expected, packed and got ready for leaving, and enjoyed dinner using the gift card Christi gave me last year at the nearby Cracker Barrel. Watched a little 'Sense and Sensibility' on the huge flat-screen tv in our hotel room, and tried to get to bed early, as we'd set the alarm for 3:30 am for our early flight Tuesday morning.
And that was it! It would have been a lot more fun with less rain and gloominess, but we had a great time regardless. =)
(All of the pictures, and a few not linked from the posts, can be seen starting here)