I’ve been thinking about Yellowstone and missing it terribly. Missing it so much we are thinking of returning this summer. Either to the NPS at Lewis Lake or a BLM campground, not sure yet. And you know how that goes with making plans-they change at the drop of a hat. So for now I’ll just dream about the places in Yellowstone that we visited.
We had such a memorable weekend off when we decided to drive from Lewis Lake to Slough Creek and camp for a few days. Our original plan was to leave at 3am so we could be there for the sunrise and look for wolves. Well, remember what I said about plans. We got a late start, by the time we got a little north of Bridge Bay campground the sun was already rising. Of course I was making my sweetie stop at just about every pullout for sunrise shots. It was one of the most beautiful mornings we experienced in Yellowstone and there was no one around.
By the time we reached LeHardy Rapids I was in photo heaven with all the opportunities-the Autumn colors were breathtaking. And as we hiked along the shoreline we spotted a bald eagle in the tree looking for his breakfast. We hung around, hiding behind bushes , hoping he would swoop down to the water for his breakfast giving me a fabulous shot, but I guess he wasn’t hungry. He did strike a few poses for me and that made me very happy.
I was feeling so grateful and happy with my shots so far and then as we approached the area in the Hayden Valley near Mud Volcano, the fog, the mist and the sunrise just took my breath away. Blues, pinks and a golden tone from the sunrise will always knock my socks off. That’s one of the things I love about photography, it truely puts me in the moment-I don’t think about anything else but what I’m looking at immediately in front of me and surrounding me.
I especially loved how the steam and fog were rising up from the river. It reminded me of little ghost dancers. I should have taken a video so you could see the movement, but alas, I was too mesmerized myself-maybe next time.
I had just settled down in my seat when we left the Hayden Valley. As we rounded a curve this magnificent elk was in an open field drawing a crowd of people. The road was so jammed packed with no place to park. I barely jumped out, took a shot , and jumped back in the van since we were blocking traffic along with about 20 other vehicles !
Since we knew we were too late to spot wolves in the Lamar Valley we decided to take a detour along the incredibly beautiful Blacktail Plateau Drive. The trees were in their full Autumn dress-so many shades of gold,green,orange and red. I took literally hundreds of shots along this 6 mile drive. It’s a dirt road, one way from the time you enter it, so you don’t have to worry about oncoming traffic. I’m glad we had the van because RVs, buses and trailers aren’t permitted on this trail. If you’re lucky you can spot the elk, bison, and bears that frequent the area. We found lots of elk tracks, lots of bison patties and some bear tracks but no animals. After many curves and bends, this road will begin to descend as you get closer to Tower Junction where it meets back up with the Grand Loop Road near Petrified Tree. RVs, buses, and trailers are not permitted on this road. It didn’t matter, it was such a perfect day-warm sun on our faces, wind blowing gently and stunning sights everywhere we looked. That 6 mile drive took us about 3 hours and I would do it again and again. If we return to Yellowstone, I will return to the Blacktail Plateau.
Once we reached Tower Junction I think 1/2 of Yellowstone was stopping at the roadside rest stop ! Thank goodness for our onboard bathroom-no waiting in lines. We did take a quick run up to the Lamar Buffalo Ranch just in case some wolves were still hanging around on the hillside. But they weren’t , so we turned around and headed towards Slough Creek Campground. We had 3 different sites booked for our 3 days there. Because we didn’t have a chance to make advance reservations we pieced together what we could find at Rec.gov and lucked out with 3 different sites for this trip. Camping in the Revel made it easy. We picked up our welcome mat and moved to the next site, lay down the welcome mat and ta da all done.
We kept stopping at pullouts while heading up the dirt road that takes you to the Slough Creek Campground-why? Because Slough Creek is where the Junction Butte wolf pack dens up-or so we’ve been told. Not everyone knows where the den is and those who do know, don’t share. I don’t mind because it really protects the wolves. At our last pull out this gorgeous coyote was sniffing around in the weeds and grasses. He looked like he may have sniffed out some type of meal for himself. We quietly watched from a good distance until he spotted me hanging out the passenger door with my lens on top of the door edge. He seemed interested, had a little head raise to sniff the air , then went back about his business. We decided to leave him in his quiet time so as not to attract other folks headed down the road.
One thing you can always count on seeing in the Lamar Valley are the bison and the road into Slough Creek has a beautiful area where the river runs through the grassy valley and the bison seem to love it there. It’s so pretty and so peaceful.
I had one of the nicest surprises while camped at Slough Creek. Amy, who was my supervisor when I worked at the Victoria Clipper in Seattle, was working at Lake Yellowstone Hotel as the concierge. We had touched base by messaging a few times and were working on trying to align our schedules to meet up. So far unsuccessfully. We were sitting around the campfire one night and a car pulled right into our campsite. Hmm, what’s going on. I was bowled over when Amy got out of the car and greeted us. One of the most wonderful surprises ever. She had seen my post on Facebook and knew we were heading to Slough Creek so she drove up and surprised us. Best night around a campfire. We sat around for a few hours, laughed a lot, caught up on the good old days and just enjoyed each other’s company. After she left to return to the Hotel ,Jim and I couldn’t get over that she had taken the time to drive up to Slough Creek to spend time with us-awesome !
Slough Creek Campground is a beauty. Buffalo Creeks runs into Slough Creek and Slough Creek weaves its way along side the campground. Our first spot to camp was site #10, just beautiful with trees changing colors surrounding us and a short hike to the stream. Then the next day we moved to site #3, then site #4, both of which were on a small cliff overlooking the creek. We watched buffalo come down from the hills and cross the creek and disappear into the woods. This campground is one of the most perfect places to relax and be in the moment. It’s fairly quiet, campers seem to value the beauty of the campground and know how difficult it is to get a site, so they respect the quiet and enjoy their surroundings. We didn’t want to leave after three days. We talked to the camp host thinking this would be one of our top choices to camp host. She gently warned us that her boss has a list about 2 pages long with names of folks who are interested in camphosting. Maybe, if we return to Yellowstone in 2022 , we will add our names to that list. In the meantime our hearts our filled with gratitude that we can even have that dream . I hope you enjoyed our journey to Slough Creek, and I hope someday you have a chance to visit this incredible spot.
Good night Lamar Valley, we hope to see you soon. Happy trails my friends, safe travels.
“Wilderness is not a luxury but necessity of the human spirit.”
— Edward Abbey