Day 4 - Today is the day that we had planned to drive the Beartooth Hwy after visiting Lamar Valley. We decided that we just weren't so interested in spending the majority of the day in the car, even with amazing scenery. We still have a long car day coming when we head to Mt Rushmore. We were up and checked out of Mammoth by 6:15 and on the road back to Lamar Valley. The drive this morning is concerning - no animals at all visible until we arrive at Lamar. Then, all we see is a herd of pronghorn. We continue to drive and up ahead my husband spots that yellow Xterra. We follow for just a short time when we spot wolves on river bed! We pull as far up as we can and off the road with me practically hanging out the window. We were able to watch two black wolves, two grey wolves and a tan wolf moving along the river bed and crossing the road in the distance. I am thrilled! I have tears in my eyes and am so very happy! Hubby asks what I want to do now. I don't care. Anything at all. My trip is complete. We decide to head back to Roosevelt for dinner again and to fill the car up before heading to Canyon. $3.99 per gallon - the same price we found it when we got back to Atlanta. After eating we had a short delay at the construction area at Tower and then made it to Tower Falls. Beautiful! We then head down the road, hoping to see bear through Dunraven Pass. Nope. We saw a couple of huge ravens that posed for us. We made it to Canyon area after many stops and opted to head to Lower Falls. Wow! The walk down to the crest had my legs shaking, and the walk back up was a strain. The falls themselves were amazing, and I am anxious to find Artist Viewpoint. We continue through the drive stopping at all the viewpoints, then on down to Upper Falls. Artist Point was easier to get to than I expected and was so beautiful. We walked through the mud volcano area and opted for lunch at the Nez Perce picnic area. It was such a beautiful place to eat, and the toilets were the nicest non-flush toilets in the park. :-) We spend a while walking along the river and enjoying the solitude. Finally we decided to go on down to Lake Yellowstone. We parked and walked around the lake for hours. Then back to Canyon. We went to the visitor center and visited with one of the rangers who was updating visitors on the fires. We had seen several smoke plumes during the day, and he told us the only one they were really fighting was the fire between Canyon and Norris in order to keep it off the power lines. We check in and head to our cabin (H-1). It is a group of 4 cabins in a spoke so that the cabins barely share a wall. I am putting my things in the cabin when hubby is calling me from the deck at the door. It seems that there is a bison trying to nap on the other side of the deck. We stand and watch him, just amazed that he is such a populated area. We opt for an early dinner at the dining room where we have a waiter from GA. Then we drive to Hayden Valley to see if we can see any wildlife. There were some bison but they were far off. As it is getting dark we head back to Canyon, planning to be up early to try again in the morning.
Day 5 - Up early and head to Hayden Valley, Still beautiful scenery and still no wildlife. We decide to drive to Cody as hubby really wants to visit the Buffalo Bill museum. On the road south of Hayden we see 4 coyote, two male elk, several female black tail deer, and some bison. As we leave the park I spot a bull moose in the distance, and as we stop to make pictures, a bald eagle flies over. Wow. We take a short detour at the Buffalo Bill Dam. It is amazing that they built this all by hand. We grab a late breakfast at McDonalds in Cody and begin our visit with Buffalo Bill. Three hours later, we finally finish the gun museum and start the others. Hubby loves the history of guns and didn't expect this sight. When we head out, we decide to grab dinner at a barbecue place - good food. At the East entrance, the ranger tells us the road is closed between Canyon and Norris. As we are back on the east entrance road, we spot five big horn sheep grazing along the roadside. They cross the road just as two bison come wandering up the middle of the road. That was an experience. They know they own the road! We make it back to Hayden Valley just as dusk falls so we park and watch. Not a thing. Man, I am so unlucky here. Maybe I need to go back to Lamar? Back to Canyon and to get me an ice cream. Oh, they have Huckleberry! The nice lady working the counter let me try it - much like blueberry to me - not something I really like so peanut butter and chocolate. Then we are off to bed. Tomorrow we check out and head towards Mt Rushmore.
Day 6 - Up early, check out, and head to Hayden again. We can see a few specks way off but nothing much. Just a few bison on the way out of the park today, and we head to SD. Devil's Tower was just huge. Mt Rushmore's lighting ceremony was moving. Both of us had tears in our eyes. We check into the holiday Inn in Custer and head to bed.
Day 7 - I want to see bear so we go to Bear Country USA. We had a blast watching the bear in the drive through portion, and I discover there are two wolf cubs there! We did the big tourist things today - a cave, a 7d game, pizza that was delicious and then the Presidential wax museum. Finally, we head back to Mt Rushmore to make pictures in the sunlight and on to Crazy Horse. We had planned to watch the light show at Crazy Horse, but the two of us were getting tired and opted for frozen yogurt in Custer instead. Bedtime and back home in the morning.
Favorite Hotel: Mammoth
Biggest Thrill: Wolves!
Biggest Disappointment: Hayden Valley (just unlucky)
Best Meal: Obsidian Dining Room
Favorite Feature: Grand Prismatic Spring
Disappointing Feature: Petrified Tree
Biggest Surprise: Seeing how isolated we were just off the beaten path.
Thank you to everyone on TA that helped me plan this vacation! We are thinking about Grand Canyon next year!