Part IV: Shooting Idaho and West Yellowstone - September 16 - 23
The road closure turned out to be blessing in disguise. The scenery through Idaho was fantastic, and Upper Mesa Falls along Idaho Route 47 were absolutely gorgeous. After stopping numerous times to take photo along the way, we arrived in West Yellowstone near dark and checked into our motel (Best Western). Most of the businesses in West Yellowstone were getting ready to close for the winter; however, they were still open for the few days we would be there. We had dinner at a different place each night and were not disappointed with any of them. We had originally planned for this part of our trip to be devoted primarily to photographing scenery; however, it turned out to be the best for wildlife too.
First day we drove along the Madison River to Madison, and then turned south towards Old Faithful. We followed the Firehole River, stopping to photograph along Fountain Flat Drive, Lower Geyser Basin, and finally Old Faithful. After lunch we returned the same route and continued north past Madison towards Norris as far as Gibbon Falls. We returned to the motel early that day because some wanted to get some laundry done; but I went back into the park about an hour before sunset. I got some great shots of elk and bison along the Madison River, and decided we should concentrate on that and Fountain Flat Drive the following morning.
Next morning we cruised very slowly along the Madison, taking the drive that edges the Madison River and stopping at other pullouts. Our rewards were some great shots of the bison and elk in a light fog that had developed overnight. From there we proceeded to the Flats and again got some great shots of bison in the fog. My wife, Mary, got one that everyone is envious of. One bison rolling in the dirt, while two others looked on, and a third coming through the fog to see what all the excitement was. The rest of the day was spent walking around the Upper Geyser Basin, photographing the geysers.
Third morning we again headed south towards Old Faithful, and were fortunate to catch a coyote along the road for some great photos. We then turned around and headed north towards Norris and photographed they geysers in Norris Geyser Basin. After lunch we drove from Norris to Canyon stopping to shoot the Virginia Cascades. From there we drove down to Yellowstone Lake for some great eagle shots and more scenery then slowly back to the motel, getting some great shots of elk at the junction of the Madison, Firehole, and Gibbon Rivers.
Fourth morning we drove to Madison getting great shots of Elk along the way, then up to Norris and over to Canyon. From Canyon we turned north and drove back up to Mammoth Hot Springs to photograph the terraces, retracing our route back towards the hotel after lunch. Again, along the Madison we found a huge, frustrated bull elk attempting to control his harem. We got some of the best shots of the trip there. Finally back to the hotel to prepare for our departure the next morning. A drive back through Lamar Valley, Beartooth Highway, and back to Billings. We allowed for two nights in Billings to get our gear shipped back to our homes, and caught our flight out the next day.