After five days of biking, we ended up back in Bozeman. A couple of us went out to dinner, and I made plans to start back for home. But I was in no real hurry, so I decided to take an extra day and drive back through Yellowstone, specifically through the Lamar Valley area, then out through Cody, a visit to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (I've been to Rushmore and the South Dakota badlands, but not Little Bighorn).
The Lamar Valley was worth the visit, for sure. Here's some of what I saw.
This bison pair was sauntering up the road, and I took the picture out my car window, being very glad that I was IN my car and not on a bike. You really get a sense of how huge bison are when they walk by so closely. And this is a female with calf. The males are way bigger.
For this one, you'll have to right click to embiggen, and look at the grey dot in the center. I stopped on the side of the road, and then some other folks stopped near me. I saw a coyote. They apparently saw a wolf. And they seemed very excited about it, too. The thing is, I really wanted to see a wolf, and thought for the first instant that it was. Then I got my binoculars on it, and saw the ears. But still, I've longed since reading Farley Mowat to see a wolf. And yet, I've only ever seen three coyotes, including this one, and they're absolutely wonderful in their own way, so I was still celebrating seeing the coyote. Being able to get a picture made it all the more special, somehow. (See The Daily Coyote for GREAT coyote pictures!)
It was across a field, and stopped to look our way for an instant before trotting on.
For those who live on the coasts, Pelicans aren't that hard to see these days, I suppose. But when I was a kid, we were excited to see them. I gather their populations have recovered a fair bit, but it's still a treat to see them this far inland. This one was having lunch; while I watched, s/he snagged something. Yum!
As you drive through Yellowstone, sometimes you'll see a whole crowd of cars stopped, so you can see that folks are looking at something. Then you stop and add to the crowd to see what there is to see. The funny thing is that there was a small cluster of folks with high powered telescopic looking setups on tripods looking out to the left, and about 50 feet to the right of them was this bighorn sheep, wandering slowly towards them. They were, I gather, looking at a Mountain Bluebird (which I only saw when it flew). I saw several Mountain Bluebirds on the trip, usually while I was slowly biking along, close enough to get a really good look, but not able to get out a camera and get a picture. Still, it's really thrilling to see the MBs AND a bighorn!
At another crowded area, I got to see my first badger ever. When I was an undergrad and took a mammology course, our lab had a variety of skulls and such that we were supposed to learn to identify for exams. We had a badger skull and a wolverine skull. While a skilled biologist could tell the difference by looking at teeth and structures, I could tell because the wolverine skull had a big bullet hole through it. No wonder my zoology career left something to be desired.
There was a badger den/hole, with baby badgers around, but I couldn't get a clear picture of them, alas. Here's my best try, though. You might find it helpful to right click, and look just to the right of what looks like a clump of dirt. The clump is the den area, and to the right are a couple of badger kids.
You'll definitely need to right click on this, and then look at the tiny black dot in the center. There, there, is the star of my Yellowstone visit, a wolf. You can tell quickly that the coyote is a coyote when you see the wolf; the coyote is all ears and fluff in comparison, and slim and svelte, while the wolf is totally different. This one was way across the valley, but with binoculars, I could see it fairly well. That sight totally made my trip. It was wonderful before, but the wolf was just great!
You can just imagine this little guy saying "what's this water stuff?" can't you? He's all fluffy and cute. And not far away, Mom's trying to get a bite to eat and wishing she could hire a babysitter so she could get a moment of peace without wondering where the kid is wandering off to.
And here's Mom, looking a bit scruffy. A lot of the big herbivores looked pretty scruffy, so I'm guessing there's spring molting of winter coats going on. I wouldn't want to be between her and the calf, though, because she's absolutely HUGE. In height, she makes the bison look modest.
That ends the pictures from the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone. That entrance to Yellowstone is pretty tiny feeling compared to the others I saw. I left Yellowstone at about 3pm. But the adventure continues tomorrow!