Yellowstone, Wildlife and Slough Creek May 23 to 26th

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Jon Carbaugh

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Jul 8, 2015
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My wife and I have made it an annual tradition to take an early trip to Yellowstone in May. This year we were planning to spend 2 or 3 nights up Slough Creek with @Joey if we could. However, with the weather forecast calling for a winter storm for the northern part of the park from the Gardiner area over to the Beartooths, we knew we would have to see about the conditions before deciding on what to do. As this is our favorite place, we would be content just driving around doing day hikes and looking for wildlife.

Wednesday 5/22, We left work early and were on the road around 1:30 and met up with Joey around 6:30 at the Norris campground where he had gotten a campsite for our first night. We drove out to the Canyon and down to Hayden Valley looking for wildlife, then came back to camp and sat around the fire, had diner and some beers and called it a night. No pics worth posting.

On Thursday morning we woke, had coffee and breakfast around the fire, packed up and headed out. Very shortly after getting on the road north towards Mammoth, we came across our first wildlife traffic jam...

This beautiful grizzly sow with 2 large yearling cubs was in a small meadow very close to the road grazing and foraging. We stopped for about 20 minutes and took photos and video as they were completely ignoring the hoards people watching them. What an epic start!
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After much enjoyment with the grizzly encounter, we drove up to Mammoth to have lunch, see about the weather forecast and check availability of campsites up Slough Creek. We picked up a permit for 1 night in campsite 2S1, the one I has hoping to get as it is right on the creek.

On the way over towards the Lamar Valley we stopped and took the short hike out to the overlook where the Hellroaring trail starts descending to the Yellowstone River.
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Once we got over to the Lamar Valley, a little past the Slough Creek campground road, the 2 or 3 cars in front of us suddenly stopped, we looked over across the river and saw a lone wolf trotting up on a high bank. We stopped and I quickly grabbed the camera, jumped out and started shooting. In the rush, I didn't think to increase the ISO so the few shots that were decent were still blurry. I also captured her on video swimming across the Lamar River.
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I have to apologize to her... I hate to be insensitive and post this photo, but... When I took this, I first thought she was taking a dump in the river. Only after getting home and seeing it on a larger screen did I realize she was peeing. This shot is hand held, zoomed in 250 mm and also cropped another 50% or so, not much detail left.
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We couldn't believe our luck... the grizzly's so close, and now a wolf! The epicness continues!!

We stopped at the 2 Lamar River trail head's where groups of people were using spotting scopes and binoculars to watch a carcass in the valley. They said wolves had been on it earlier but had left. We never saw anything other than an eagle, lots of ravens and some magpies on it.

We decided to head out of the park, past Cooke City and grab a free campsite along the Beartooth Highway. Shortly before getting out of the park we spotted a very healthy black bear foraging not far from the road. No... I still have not increased the ISO... :confused:
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We found a great campsite next to Lake Creek. We left Joey's truck at the campsite and went back into Cooke City for diner and drinks. We got back to camp and set up near dark, had a nice fire and called it a night hoping for good weather on Friday so we could hike in.
We awoke to a very light dusting of snow at our campsite and some more significant snow on the mountain. We were not sure what the conditions were in the park overnight, but still held out hope.
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We packed up and headed back towards the park. Just before reaching Colter Pass it started snowing on us pretty good.
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Once back inside the park, we hit rain bands off and on for a couple of hours so we hung out in the hopes of seeing more wildlife, and an improvement in the weather!

The clouds did start to thin out a little after noon, so we headed over to the Slough Creek trail head. By the time we arrived we were seeing some blue skies and sunlight breaking through so we decided to get our packs on a get on the trail about 1:30.

By the time we got to the top of the hill a little less than a mile in it was starting to clear nicely and we promptly stared shedding layers.
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Our view from the bottom of the hill where the meadows start.
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The clouds were a little ticker on this side, but nothing that looked ominous.
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We ran into a friend of @scatman who seemed to want to use the trail more than we did, so we skirted around as he moseyed on by...
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After another couple of miles, we hit the spur trail to our campsite. Beautiful meadows on our way towards the creek!
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The fire pit at the campsite.
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We set up the tents and started gathering firewood for the night.
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Our tents with the creek, which seemed more like a river, behind.
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A little bit of sun peeking through before sunset.
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Slough Creek
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We settled in and started a fire a little before dark and enjoyed a beautiful evening! We cooked bratwurst over the fire for diner.
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I awoke the next morning to the sounds of something big grunting close to our tents. I confirmed the location of my bear spray and unzipped the tent, poked my head out and found 3 big male bison about 50 feet away on the small rise between us and the river. They seemed surprised to see me and when I got out of the tent to answer the call of nature... they headed down the other side away from our tent. A short time after I had gotten back in the tent, Joey had gotten up and out of his tent and was over by the fire pit when he turned around and saw all 3 bison were just on the other side of the log to the right side of our tent. At about the same time I had heard their grunting very close and had called to Joey to ask how close they were. He said my talking spooked one of them who quickly came towards the tent, then stopped. Luckily all 3 continued on past and eventually crossed the creek.
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The morning was quite pleasant and we hung out and enjoyed it as much as we could before we had to head out.
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One last look on our way back to the trail
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Once back to the cars we relaxed and talked to many of the people that were coming and going. As it was Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, we doubted we would be able to find a campsite in the park this late in the day, so we decided to hang out in the Lamar Valley and go back to our previous campsite from Thursday night.

The Lamar Valley from the west side.
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Sunday morning started out pretty much clear and sunny! And I finally took a photo of our campsite on the Beartooth Highway.
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The creek right next to our campsite.
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We drove back into the park and stopped a few more times on the way back towards the Tower area. We saw another mother grizzly with 2 yearling cubs high up on the side of a mountain out of range for my camera. Then it was time to say goodbye to Joey and head back home. Cheers Joey!
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They had opened Dunraven Pass the day before so we decided to head back through Jackson. It took longer but was a beautiful drive through the south part of the park and passing the Tetons. There was still lots of snow on Mt. Washburn!
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A still very frozen Lewis Lake...
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An absolutely awesome trip with great company!

Cheers!
 

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Bob

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Never stopped in my place..
 

Miya

Because I am able.
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Fantastic! The frozen lake is very cool!
Exciting you got to see so much wildlife!
Good to see the wolf peeing in the water haha, no matter how clean you think water is, gotta use those filters!
I think I would have been crying when I got out of my tent to see what large animal was hanging around my tent haha.
 

b.stark

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Enjoyed the report but I'm starting to have mountain withdrawal symptoms... not sure I'll make it to the greater Yellowstone area this year.

Would like to camp at that site on slough creek someday. Hiked by it last year while fishing. Nice spot.
 

Jon Carbaugh

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Never stopped in my place..
[/QUOTE
Shoot me your address Bob, we'll stop by next time we head up there. ;) Are you finished with your cabin in Island Park?
 

Jon Carbaugh

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Enjoyed the report but I'm starting to have mountain withdrawal symptoms... not sure I'll make it to the greater Yellowstone area this year.

Would like to camp at that site on slough creek someday. Hiked by it last year while fishing. Nice spot.
Thanks! It was as nice as I had hoped. I was wanting to get another night so we could head further in and check out the other campsites up there. The next few are supposed to be real nice as well. They are up a little higher so you have a view of the valley and mountains to the north. :thumbsup:

Hope you get your mountain fix soon!
 

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Jon Carbaugh

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Fantastic! The frozen lake is very cool!
Exciting you got to see so much wildlife!
Good to see the wolf peeing in the water haha, no matter how clean you think water is, gotta use those filters!
I think I would have been crying when I got out of my tent to see what large animal was hanging around my tent haha.
LOL... yea, I figured it was a bison... but it's impossible around there not to have "GRIZZLY" in your head when deciding to peak your head out...
 

Bob

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Hehe... Told Joey you guys could stop in if got to snowy or cold...
 

Jackson

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Killer report from a killer trip, Jon! That was awesome. Great views and so many good wildlife sightings.

You've got me pining for a good GYE trip now.
 

Jon Carbaugh

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Killer report from a killer trip, Jon! That was awesome. Great views and so many good wildlife sightings.

You've got me pining for a good GYE trip now.
Thanks Jackson! Any time spent up there is time well spent! :thumbsup:
 

ramblinman

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Cool trip, thanks for sharing. I was in Yellowstone at the same time and saw those same Grizzly bears. I only had my cell phone for a camera so I appreciate the pictures!
 

scatman

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Thanks Hugh! Wish we had you to move the bison out of our way... the big guys didn't budge for us like they do for you! :oops:
Just head straight through them @Jon Carbaugh. You know the routine. :D Keep an eye out that their tails aren't straight up in the air, or they are not pawing at the ground and you'll be just fine. :) Of course different rules apply if it is rut season. :scatman:
 

Jon Carbaugh

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Awesome report. My first ever backpacking trip was to Slough Creek with my older brother. What a great place!
Thanks! It is an awesome place! Yellowstone is my favorite park and that whole northern section is especially incredible!
 

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