We left the magic of the howling wolves and continued south on the Grand Loop Road toward the Fishing Bridge and Yellowstone Lake. I don't remember now why we went down that way, and where we ended up. Perhaps Lake Village? There was a small store and camping or cabins or some such thing. Anyway, we did a little shopping and then started back north towards Mt. Washburn. Along the way we stopped for a little bison viewing.
Gotta love the little ones. Not sure what they were looking at, none of the adults seemed to notice anything out of the ordinary.
Farther along the road we spotted this bull elk wading in the Yellowstone River. Not as mature as some of the others we'd seen, but striking none the less.
They seem so huge until you put them in the perspective of their surroundings.
We made it to Mt. Washburn around noon, the day already hot and dry. We had decided to hike to the trail here as part of our quest to see every non-human inhabitant of Yellowstone--we'd read there were bighorn sheep in these thar parts.
There are three ways to get to the top of Mt Washburn. One can park at the southern side, at Dunraven Pass, and take a fairly switch-backy 3.1 mile hike to the northeast. Or, one can park on the northern side and hike south about 2.5 miles along a fairly straight trail. Either way you are gaining about 1300 feet in elevation. Or, for the more adventurous, one can start out at the Lower Falls and hike about nine miles along Mt Washburn trail that follows the eastern spur of the mountain.
We opted for Dunraven Pass, possibly because the parking area was closer to where we were coming from. We packed our lunches and water bottles, grabbed camera and hiking poles, and started the climb.
There were, of course, gorgeous views from the mountain side.
The bright sun made for some great contrast but also for some sweaty hiking.
There were butterflies all over the place, sipping nectar from thistles, like this sulphur.
This Edwards' Fritillary and Western White are playing nicely together.
The trail seemed to go on forever. There were a fair number of people on the mountain, some struggling up, some rolling down, some zipping past us. We kept a steady pace, trying not to over exert in the heat and higher elevation. Even so, Lisa got a little woozy towards the top. But finally, the summit was visible, capped by a Forest Service fire watch station.
The view from the peak was a disappointment to say the least. The fires that raged on in Idaho made visibility horrible. On really clear days the Teton range is visible 100 miles to the south. Not on this day, however. This image looks west.
Not only were the views non-existent, but we hadn't seen any sheep either. In addition the black flies, the only ones we'd encountered the whole trip, were just voracious, the top of the mountain was barren and had been paved over with asphalt, and the bathrooms stank. We sat on the rock ledge eating our lunch wishing we'd picked a different hike.
Then we overheard two women who were part of a youth group outing talking about the bighorn sheep. My ears perked up--sheep?!? Where? Apparently, they had hiked up from the other side of Mt Washburn, from the northern parking area. Lisa and I looked at each other. I really wanted to see and photograph sheep. But we couldn't hike down the north side since the car was on the south side, five or six miles back down the road. The only solution was to split up. I'd go down the north side to look for the sheep, Lisa would head back south to the car, then drive around and pick me up.
I took the obligatory photo of Lisa with the sign, we filled up our water bottles, and went our separate ways.
I would not be disappointed.
Next: Bighorn sheep and the descent down Mt Washburn.